Imagine, if you will, a virtual pub, filled with writers from around the world. Now log on to Twitter, type #pubwrite into the search box at the top, and voila! There you are. It is, as you might expect, a vibrant if somewhat confusing community. To the best of my ability to tell, there are about 50-60 people currently involved. It works like this: start tweeting with and searching the hashtag #pubwrite, follow people who are involved, get followed back, and receive an instant boost to your platform and networking activities.
Seriously. I've now been using #pubwrite for about a week, and in that time, I've gained 40 followers on Twitter, and more are still pouring in. I've even quadrupled the number of people following this blog (this may or may not be saying much ¬_¬). I've certainly made some great new friends and discovered some great new blogs. It's not instant overnight success, but it's definitely progress.
By the by, 'Clicking Tags and Taking Names' is what I've decided to call my series on networking for authors. There's some debate about how important networking is for authors, but it certainly can help sales, so I see no reason not to give it a try. I don't know a lot about networking, and I know I have some instincts which run counter to actually succeeding at networking, so this series is probably going to be mainly about lessons learned the hard way, but at least if I learn the lessons the hard way, you don't have to.
So, #pubwrite. Be prepared for some strangeness, but join the community now, while it's still possible to catch up on all the injokes (hint: try saying 'Gabriel!').
I'm not saying that doing things like #pubwrite is important because of the number of new followers it can bring you, of course; if you consider the number of friends or followers you have on a social networking site as a barometer of success, you're probably going to die poor and alone. It's what you do with (or to!) those followers which really counts.
I'm of the opinion that networking with writers shouldn't be considered, strictly speaking, marketing. While it's true that no-one buys more novels than a writer, I could sell copies of both the novels I'm planning on publishing to all 40 of the people following me as a result of #pubwrite and not even scrape the sides of my (pretty low) target for first-year sales. Never mind that not everyone on #pubwrite is a sci-fi writer - which is not a bad thing, because it keeps the levels of nerdly procrastination under control.
The main reason I'm so keen on networking with writers is for advice. Different writers have expertise in different things; some are very good at the technical aspects of writing which I know I need to learn; some are fluent in the seventeen kajillion different ebook formats and retailers; some can put me in touch with pro editors or cover artists. If nothing else, other writers will be familiar with the frustrations of balancing writing with work, writers block and all those other special kinds of angst reserved for weary warriors of the pen, and will be sympathetic to my whining. Writers tend to be good people to have as friends, at least over Twitter-type distances.
It's also worth noting that purely from a research point of view, the more people you know, the more likely you are to know someone who knows something about something you need to know for your novel. For example, 'The Earth Trembles' is set largely in New York (it couldn't really be anywhere else), a city in which I've spent a grand total of three and a half very jet-lagged days. I fell in love instantly, but I can in no way afford to fly to the city for research purposes; if I do need to know something, it's entirely possible I now know a number of writers who live or have lived there who may be able to answer a quick question.
Of course, there are opportunities even within #pubwrite to do promotion and marketing; blog swaps and tours, cross-promotions and review trading, for example. I'm not planning to pass those up as and when they become available, but I see it as secondary to the other things just mentioned.
So, go ahead and #pubwrite. I'll see you there! (Gabriel!)