For many writers the thought of networking can feel like a nightmare. They’re happy when they’re immersed in the creative process, but when it comes to trying to sell their work they would much rather put it in a drawer and think about it later than actually ask someone to read it.
I personally think networking is essential if you’re serious about selling your writing, so we should all invest a lot of time and effort into this. But when should we start?
The short answer is not until you have a great sample script to show people. If you start speaking to people too soon, the agent/producer/publisher will probably have forgotten all about you by the time you send them your work, they might have moved on, or they may no longer be taking on writers.
There’s also a fair chance you will have lost their details and forgotten about them yourself, unless you’re super organised, with a great system in place (which we’ll get onto later). It also puts pressure on you to write your story fast, and that might trick you into cutting corners and sending something before it’s ready. So really, don’t worry yourself with networking until you have something to share.
If, on the other hand, you’re someone who writes 10 drafts but still doesn’t think your sample is good enough, you have a problem! Stop editing, bite the bullet and start reaching out to people right now! (We’ll look at fighting your inner critic in more depth in another article.)
So let’s say you have a sample script that you’ve written a few drafts of, you’ve got feedback, you’ve made essential revisions and at last you’re happy with it. It won’t be perfect, because let’s be honest, when is our writing ever perfect? But it’s good enough to send out into the big wide world. So what next?
There are two main ways of networking – online and in person – both are really useful and effective, but today, I’m going to focus on online networking as for the introverted writer, this is a great way to start.
Two excellent social networking platforms to try are Twitter and Linkedin. If you use both of these platforms well, you can find lots of useful people to connect with, and they in turn will lead you to other useful people to connect with.
If you haven’t already done this, start by writing a great bio for each platform. Take your time to get this just right. If at all possible, make sure that your profile is just about your writing. If you mix it in with your day job or with your multiple creative side-lines, it won’t be nearly as effective. Your bio should be telling people that you are a writer, and this is your particular area of interest – whatever that might be.
Once you’ve nailed your bio, make sure the tweets you like, write and retweet are aligned with your writer persona in some way, as that will help you attract the right sort of connections.
If you are an author or aspiring author, Twitter is a great place to connect to other authors as well as their agents and publishers too. Look for authors writing in your medium and genre and follow them; Twitter will then suggest other similar people for you to follow. Go through their followers as well as the people they are following, and you will be sure to find even more suitable writers, agents and publishers. Read the tweets of writers carefully and see if they mention who their agent is, and if they do, research the agent. Most literary agency websites include very clear information about what each agent is looking for, whether they are accepting submissions and if so what to submit. Screenwriting agents have much less of this information on their websites, however, so you’ll probably have to be more determined in your research into them.
You will find lots of screenwriters, producers and directors on Linkedin and many of them will be quite happy to connect with you, even if you’re a total stranger, as long as your profile looks interesting. That’s why it’s really important to take the time to write a good profile. And once you’re connected you can then send them a message. As with Twitter, you can look through their list of connections (unless they keep it private) and get ideas about other people to connect with.
If you don’t have an agent or a big profile as a writer yourself, feel free to connect with a really wide range of people, however, when you’re approaching potential collaborators, start with people who are at your level, or a little bit further up the ladder. Reaching out to huge, well known producers and production companies probably won’t get you very far.
The important thing when you’re starting out is to build relationships, get your work read and hopefully get it produced too. You want to work with people that you admire, respect and trust, but that doesn’t mean they need to be at the top of the food chain yet.
Keep in mind that most of the people you contact won’t get back to you, so it’s a numbers game. When you’re networking online it’s fairly easy to build up hundreds of potential connections, but remember, the only reason you’re doing this is to start interacting with people and asking for their help. So don’t get bogged down with building up hundreds of connections just for the sake of it. Instead, immediately start trying to engage with people. Draft a concise message and tweak it according to who you are approaching.
When you send a note, keep it brief at first, polite, friendly and clear. Briefly tell them about yourself, let them know what you’ve been writing – see if they are interested in that sort of work and if so, would they like to take a look?
When sending work, try to start with something short. Even if you ultimately want to write feature films, for example, start making connections with short film makers and have a short film script up your sleeve. Producers and directors often start out making shorts, and if you collaborate with them while they’re still baby producers and directors, you can move up the ladder together.
If you really don’t want to start with shorts, then make sure you send them a short document – an outline or treatment – something that they can read quickly and get back to you about quickly. If you send them a full length feature film they will likely take weeks or months to read it, if at all, by which time you’ll either have done another draft or forgotten all about them and therefore never bother to chase it up.
Your aim is to get them to read something, get their interest and get a meeting. It almost doesn’t matter whether or not they want to produce your script, the most important thing is the build relationships with like-minded creatives and keep in touch.
If you hate the idea of trying to sell your work and are easily demoralised by the first sign of rejection, set yourself a specific target, for example to research and approach 10 new producers or agents per month, and monitor your progress.
Create a system so that you can easily keep track of who you have contacted and when; set yourself a date to follow up with them. An excel spreadsheet works well for this. This simple process helps you teach your brain that you are taking your writing seriously and approaching it like a professional.
Have you tried networking online? If so, I’d love to know what’s worked for you.