Still buzzing from attending Kingston University's excellent conference at the end of March, organised by Dr Alison Baverstock, ALLi's Author Advice blog editor Debbie Young enthuses about the advantages of real-life meetings to keep you informed and motivated in your self-publishing journey.
With so much happening online, it’s all too easy to forget the marketing value of meeting people face-to-face, whether they're readers or fellow authors.
The advantages of online forums and meetups are all very well. The ALLi Facebook forum is about the best an indie author can get, and the imminent IndieReCon, the free online conference bringing us together online all around the world, is going to be fabulous. But it's not quite the same as meeting in real life over a cup of real coffee.
If you're thinking “Yes, but I can't spare the time away from my writing desk,” think again about the time you spend online, and log it for a bit on a timesheet. I bet you'll find each day there's a chunk of time that you haven't used to best advantage.
What's more, if you plan your meetups wisely, you'll return from each coffee date fired up with enthusiasm and energy for your writing – and it won't be the caffeine speaking.
Making the Most of Conferences & Fairs
Being an outgoing, sociable type, as a writer working from home, I miss the banter of office life.
Although I have a great relationship with the core team running ALLi on a daily basis, and with the hundreds of members who are on our Facebook forum, the global nature of the organisation rules out casual water-cooler conversations.
To avoid conversational dependency on my desk-loving cat Dorothy, who in any case never laughs at my jokes, I need to get out of the house. For writerly conversation, I reach out beyond my busy schedule of family and community activities to people with a connection or interest in to self-publishing.
This includes attending conferences and events for indie authors, whether as a delegate, as a guest speaker (for which I have a growing programme of commitments), or representing ALLi at events. I always make the most of my ticket by engaging in informal chat with other delegates and speakers. No matter how great the formal programme, one of the best things about such events are the informal networking opportunities in between sessions or at post-event drinks receptions (which almost always seem to be sponsored by Kobo – cheers, Kobo!)
At the Indie Author Fair 2014 in Chorleywood, it wasn't the opportunity to sell books that mattered as much as sharing conversation with fellow authors and cementing longstanding online friendships by meeting in the flesh. I'm really looking forward to the next one, IAF 2015 on Friday 17th April in Foyles' beautiful London flagship store – what a coup for the indie author community, too!
But conferences and other formal events are hardly everyday occasions, so that's where my coffee date strategy comes in.
Coffee + Authors = Friendship
When I went freelance a few years ago, I decided to aim for an average of one coffee date per week with a fellow author. Not the same one (!), but with author clients (I do a bit of private consulting on book marketing for authors) and also just whoever I come across who seems interesting and within a half-hour's drive time.
How do I find these people? Twitter is always a good source. I've been on Twitter since 2009, most of my followers are writing-related, and quite a few live reasonably close by. If we get chatting and seem to hit it off online, meeting for coffee is an obvious next step. I've made some super writing friends and allies this way (and also recruited quite a few new ALLi members). I also get a few approaching me, via the columns I write for two local magazines.
At first it felt a bit odd to be meeting a stranger in a coffee shop. I'm rubbish at recognising people, to add to the tension. But I soon realised the benefits of this strategy. Not only is it refreshing to talk to someone who is living the same writing life as me, but it has also led to other mutually advantageous opportunities, from guesting on each other's blogs to finding beta readers and helping with each other's events. But best of all, it's been fun and energising, and it feels good to have helped and be helping a fellow author.
Local ALLI Meetups
Now the challenge is getting easier, because we've recently launched a local ALLi meetup group, running in Bristol, 20 miles away. We're meeting at least once a month in the local branch of the fabulous Bristol branch of Foyles.
If you have an ALLi meetup group near you, I strongly advise you to take the plunge and join it. If not, why not start one up? We have guidelines available for anyone interested in doing this, so please just ask if you'd like some help.Why indie #authors ought to share #coffee more often by @DebbieYoungBN Click To Tweet
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