Writing can be such a lonely profession. We’re not seeking sympathy, however, for many of us prefer it that way. But, then comes the day when we actually have to reach out as a writer (face to face, that is!)–to our readers, to our target market to sell our book,  or perhaps even to other writers for help.

I used to find this entire process quite intimidating and draining, but I’ve learned some things over my writing life that have really helped me connect with others in a way that’s not too daunting for introverts like myself. And, I have to say, the benefits have paid off handsomely.

Here are some tips I’ve discovered for connecting with…

1. Readers: One thing that really helps when connecting with readers is to make sure that you call the shots as to where you will be speaking to or meeting with them. If you don’t like speaking to large crowds, then arrange for a smaller group in a more intimate setting, like a library, bookstore, or coffee shop. I find speaking with small groups and being able to do Q&A is actually a lot of fun, and it helps your readers to get to know you better than if you were hundreds of feet away at a podium.

Get creative and develop some form of activities, crafts, games, and so forth that may work with your book’s theme. If none of these ideas would be appropriate, then design a time where you can do a couple of readings from your book, along with a discussion session or even workshop. This takes some of the pressure off you to “perform” and gets your readers more involved with your book.

2. Target market: It’s easy to “hide” behind the internet nowadays when it comes to book or self-promotion. I’m not knocking this, because blogging and promoting through various other online venues can be quite effective. All I’m saying is, don’t stop there! A great way to connect with your target market is through book signings, on-site promotional events, or, again, workshops. And, these can be as low-key or extravagant as your personality dictates.

I would not do well in a huge arena trying to sell my book to everyone who passes by. But having a book signing where my target market gathers or teaming up with a local radio station to do on-site promos is perfect for me. You may not reach the masses this way, but again, people have a chance to talk to you, get to know you a little, and through this you have a better chance of selling them on your book.

3. Other writers: Most writers attend writers conferences to talk with publishers or agents, but I’ve found it quite helpful to use these opportunities to get to know other writers as well. To make the most out of this experience, however, you probably need to step out of your comfort zone a little. If you’ve noticed at conferences, many people tend to sit at the exact same tables in the cafe meal after meal after meal. Your job is to not do this. Purposely sit in a different spot each time, seeking out people you don’t know.

Also, be sure to come with a ton of business cards. Sure, give them out to potential publishers or agents, but also hand them out to other writers. You never know when you’re going to need to pick someone’s brain over something, and it’s nice to be able to break the ice with “I met you at Writers R Us conference last year…” As you talk with writers, ask what genre they write, who they write for if they’ve been published, and how they got their big break. You’ll be amazed at the chain of networking that can come just from asking the right questions. Definitely don’t spend your whole conversation talking about yourself!

Other great places to network with other writers are, of course, writers groups, critique groups, local author events (libraries often hold these), and local writing workshops and seminars. But keep in mind, your main goal is not only to make friends, which will naturally be a byproduct of your efforts, but also to find writers who can walk with you on your journey. Some of these writers will be more experienced, which will be wonderful, because perhaps they will be willing to help mentor you. Others may not be as experienced as you, in which case you can be the one offering helpful tips and encouragement. And some may be exactly where you are, which is also good because you can navigate the waters together.

And, believe it not, like it or not, this is something we as writers need. There are times when it’s good to be holed up in your office pounding on the keyboard. But, there are also times when we need to poke our heads out and find others to connect with. I hope some of these ideas help in knowing where and how to make these vital connections.