The most impactful thing you can do for your writing (besides finishing what you start) is join a community of writers. No one understands a writer like another writer. We have quirks, tremendous self-doubts, huge highs, and a lot of anxiety about an industry that can be maddeningly unpredictable. A community will provide you the support you need.
Where can you meet other writers?
Blogs, social media, fan groups, conferences, and retreats are a few places to start. Target groups that write your same age group or in your genre. Be brave and introduce yourself. Pass along a business card. Ask them questions about themselves. Befriend them on social media. Whatever you do, think of reaching out as making friends and not as networking.
How do I find beta readers?
The same people you meet through blogging, social media, fan groups, conferences, and retreats are good options. Ask to swap manuscripts. If you ask someone to spend their time reading your manuscript, the best way to repay them is to do the same. Another option is to find or form a critique group. You may find one through your library or local chapter of SCBWI, SFWA, RWA, or any other reputable writing organization. Contribute to the groups you join, and only commit if you intend to be reliable and active.
What do I stand to gain from socializing with other writers?
The benefits are endless no matter where you are in your career.
For those of you who aren’t published, writers love to talk about books, so be ready for a lot of book recommendations. Some of these recommendations may become a comp title for your own work. Associating with other writers may lead to them asking you to participate in conferences, critique groups, book clubs, and book events. Socializing provides you the opportunity to receive feedback on worthwhile time investments, balancing home and work life, writing and working full-time, recommendations on agents, insight into how to query, what questions to ask when you get The Call from an agent, and so on. Publishing thrives on the whisper network. Most of what you learn will be from speaking directly to other writers.
If you’re published or under contract, you need a community too. You can get advice from others on cover art, social media platforms, building your newsletter list or website, and swag. You may want to know if, when, or how to part ways with your agent, which conferences are worth your time, advice on maximizing book bloggers, how to cope with bad reviews, what to do if your agent retires or your editor moves houses, how to sell on synopsis, and the list goes on and on. Join a debut group. Actively seek out relationships with authors, agents, editors, and bloggers. Maintain those relationships the best you can.
At no point in your career will you be better off without a community. Benefits come from creating reciprocal relationships with your colleagues. This is not “networking” per se. Initially your intentions may be to meet critique partners or gain social media followers. But as you engage with other writers, friendships will form. The same person you introduce yourself to at a conference could be the author you ask a blurb from one day or they may ask you. Interact with the spirit of giving. Don’t take anything without the intent to give back. Show up, be friendly, bravely ask questions, and contribute to building a community where all writers feel welcome.