There is a game called Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. The game is simple. You are given random names of actors and must link those actors back to Kevin Bacon in as few steps as possible. Kevin Bacon himself is a 0. Anyone who acted in a film with Kevin Bacon is a one. Anyone who acted in a film with someone who has acted in a film with Kevin Bacon is a two. Anyone who is connected to a level 2 becomes a level 3. Anyone connected to them becomes a level 3. And so the game goes.
The point of the game is this: network with enough people and you will find you are never more than six connections away from someone you want to meet or talk to or need to get the attention of in order to accomplish your goals. That is the value of a network.
The Network Advantage
Imagine you are about to conduct an interview to hire some people. There are six candidates, all equally qualified based on their resume alone. One of them, though, is a friend of a friend of yours. You trust your friend. They tell you the qualifications of their friend and more about them. They provide what is known as 3rd party verification. You are more likely to hire that one person who comes with the recommendation of someone you trust than you are to hire the other 5 who are complete strangers to you.
It works that way in the book business, too. If you want to get a publisher or an agent or just to sell more books, you need to grow your network. People buy more often from people they know and like than they do from total strangers. Quite often, people buy a book as much because of the connection they have to the author or because of the recommendation of someone else who has read that author’s work as they do on the content of the book itself.
Creating Win-Win Partnerships
The idea of a network is to partner up with people and to add value to one another. It’s not about latching onto someone else for the advantages you can gain from them, but about building win-win partnerships where you both benefit from the relationship and you both get things you want out of it.
In order to create those win-win partnerships, though, you have to get to know the people in your network. You need to understand them, know their needs and their gaps, and what you have that you can offer them. And that requires listening to them, paying attention to the things they tell you, and remembering the details. It requires always being on the lookout for a way to add value to their lives.
A good network is one in which everyone pitches in to support each other. If you are strong in one area where I am weak, and I am strong in an area where you are weak, we exchange support services so that we both get what we need and are both able to make progress in achieving our goals.
A good network expands your opportunities. You share information that is helpful to the people in your network and they share information with you. This is another reason it’s important to get to know the people in your network. They need to know you in order to know what information they should be listening for in order to funnel it your direction, and you need to know them well enough to know the same kind of thing.
Keeping your eyes and ears open for information is one really smart way to start adding value to those network connections. It doesn’t cost you anything, and it is absolutely invaluable to the person who receives it. Become known for that kind of thing, and you will find you have no trouble gaining a welcome at any networking function.
Working Toward Common Goals
A network is filled with people who are on the same journey you are, headed toward common goals. It’s a huge help to be surrounded by people who can empathize with you when you’re struggling and encourage you when you’re ready to give up. The right network can help you accomplish what you might never be able to accomplish alone.
Exchanging Tips and Suggestions
Another way that a network can benefit you is that you can get free tips and suggestions from others who are facing hurdles you haven’t faced yet or who have tackled a situation similar to the one you are facing now. Their advice and tips can help you make giant leaps forward in your progress toward getting what you want.
Don’t hesitate to offer your own tips and suggestions in exchange. Don’t be intimidated by the apparent level of success they’ve attained. You never know that you might have encountered and overcome challenges they’ve never even thought of yet and what you say may spark an idea or give them insight into a problem they are facing currently by providing a different perspective.
Ready to Network? Let’s Talk About a Writer’s Retreat!
I’m considering hosting a writer’s retreat around New Year’s of 2016 so we can start 2017 ready to write. If that is something you’d possibly be interested in attending, let me know where you think would be a great place to host that retreat and what you would want to be included in the retreat.
Post your comments and suggestions below or join our free 40 Day Writers Facebook group and let’s talk about it there.