Using the Internet to Network

» Posted on Apr 12, 2011 in Articles | Comments Off on Using the Internet to Network

For several years now I have been on the Internet connecting with readers and writers, promoting my books. I sometimes wonder what it would be like without the Internet. It certainly has changed things for the writer from researching to promoting to networking. I know of some writers who aren’t on the Internet, but the vast majority of the authors I know used the Internet, some extensively. Who you know matters. Networking is important in any job you do and writing is no different. The Internet can be fast and convenient, fitting into today’s world. However, using the Internet to network has its pros and cons.

There are many advantages to using the Internet to help you connect with other writers as well as readers. I think the most important pro is that you can connect with lots of different people from all over the world. This was something that wasn’t easily done before the advent of the Internet. I’ve been in contact with people as far away as Australia and as close as my hometown. Through email you can form friendships and even have critique partners. This is great for the writer who doesn’t have anyone near where she lives.

I belong to several writer groups that mostly function through the Internet. Several of the RWA chapters I am a member of have loops that have offered me support, encouragement and friendship. With these loops I control how active I will be. If I’m under a deadline, I can go no mail and return when I’m through with the book which leads to another advantage. You control the level of your involvement in the groups you belong to. You control when and how, all from the comfort of your own home at your desk. You can be short or long winded.

Mir Schultz discussed the idea of being able to bump into kindred spirits. That doesn’t always happen with the groups you belong to in your area. Her local RWA chapter has a few writers interested in writing inspirational romances. But on the Internet she has found a whole bunch of writers with the same interests. She has a chance to share her experiences and concerns with others who understand where she is coming from.

Another big advantage to the Internet is doing promotions on it. It has opened up a new avenue to the writer as far as publicizing her books. Several wonderful tools for promotion are participating in chats, loops, or board discussions and having your own web site to promote your writing. Through the Internet an author can develop a nice mailing list of email addresses as well as regular addresses. This can be used to send updates to readers and newsletters to tell them when a new book is hitting the stores.

Another advantage is that some people are shut-ins and the Internet has opened up a whole new world to them. Also, when you want to research something, the Internet is a good place to start. You can often come into contact with an expert who can give you great information you might not find otherwise. Places like Amazon and other bookstores online are a good site to promote yourself. There are tools on these sites that can help an author in publicizing her books (example making lists on Amazon, posting reviews of books). Lastly, readers often will plug your book for you, especially when they get to know you personally through the Internet.

But with the good comes the bad. There are some disadvantages that I think a writer needs to be aware of. One of the disadvantages is the number of viruses you can easily pick up the more you are on the Internet. This can cost you in time and money, depending on how severe the virus is.

Another one is being approachable to readers can sometimes backfire. Someone might save a post to use against you because it can be hard to get your point across accurately without the body language and facial expressions you depend on when talking to someone in person. You can burn bridges more easily because of this. And let’s face it, people lie. It’s hard to know for sure whether the person emailing you or the loop is telling the truth. We have been warned by stories of people who are in prison going online and posing as someone they aren’t.

The last disadvantage is the amount of time it takes to participate in loops and boards on the Internet, not to mention individual emails. This time is taken away from your writing. It’s easy to get caught up in the Internet and neglect your writing. Wading through the large amount of emails everyday can take an hour or more–an hour you can write four, five, six pages on your manuscript.

As you can see, you have to weigh the pros and cons and make a sound decision for what is best for you in your career. There may be times when you can be on the Internet more than other times. Thank goodness a lot of loops have no mail for those times.