Thursday, October 19, 2006

8. Networking is Essential

Before you get to the point where you have submitted anything for perusal, you should really take a step back and ask yourself if you are the right person to be doing the graphic design for your cover and/or marketing materials. Unless you have a talent for artwork, chances are that you should probably let a professional do some of that work for you.

Granted, you probably don’t have the money to pay a high-end professional, but that’s okay. You probably know a professional (or a talented amateur) who would be willing to work at a discount. But how do you know if you have this skill set among your friends?

There’s a really easy way to find out. Ask them.

Among my immediate circle of friends (that is, the people whom I associate with on a more-or-less monthly basis), there are DJs, writers, actors, musicians, illustrators, photographers, models, web designers, lighting designers, cooks and marketing professionals. I know because I talk to them about their lives and interests.

And when the time came to design my book cover, I asked my friend the photographer to give me a hand. She came back with a series of photos, one of which I felt was the best image possible for the cover. Her husband took the head shot that became my author photo on the back cover. My friend the writing professor did the final polish on my novel and wrote the introduction. My wife the marketing professional helped me write my back cover blurb and press release. My friend the web designer built my website and marketing fliers.

I wrote the book, but in some ways, that’s all I did. Everything else was a collaborative process, one where I relied on the skills and abilities of the people around me to help me release the best product I could release. You can do it alone, but if you are surrounded with other talented people, why bother?

Your friends may or may not expect money from you (I only paid the web designer, but even then, she cut me a really good deal), but if they are really your friends, they will be happy to help you out. And when the work is released, they will help you promote it, because it shows off the work that they did as well.

Networking is essential and is something you should have been doing all along. In fact, there is every chance that you have been doing it all along, but just didn’t realize that’s what you were doing. Those peers who give you constructive criticism in your writer’s circle? Those are people in your network. Turn your perspective around and look at everyone else in your life from that direction. Chances are that you will discover some unlooked-for talent that might help you produce a finished product.

Important safety tip: your friends are not infinite resources. They are your friends, first and foremost. If you start treating them like employees, they will stop being your friends, very very quickly. Always ask for their help in a polite and respectful manner, which means that you do not ask a second time when they tell you no. Remember: you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar (although dead squirrels work the best).