Networking, especially for new authors, is a very difficult thing. Even more so if you are (perhaps like me) more the retiring, quiet, prefer-to-stay-at-home-and-write kind of person instead of the go-getter needed to get out there and get their face known.
Well, the internet is here to help and it is a lovely thing. Face-to-face networking should absolutely not be discounted, and in fact I recommend that you go to as many writing conferences that you can, notebook clenched in sweaty fist and your cards in your other hand, to meet as many people as possible, to get your face and books known.
But where do we start, those among us who are rather terrified of pushing to the front of the crowd and actually speaking up instead of hanging in the back and letting others do the talking?
Start by beginning a blog of your own. "But I have nothing to say!" you wail. Nonsense. Everyone has something to say. Everyone starts somewhere. What are some obstacles you've overcome in learning to write, to write well, in learning how to draft the best query letter possible? (Mine is on submit to the Evil Editor right now, and let me tell you, my palms, they are a-sweatin'.)
Write about these things. Share them with an audience that maybe you don't have yet. Don't feel stupid that you only have one follower on your blog and it's your mom. If you write it (and write it well) they will come.
At the same time, you start finding literary blogs that you like. Blogs by agents, by publishing houses, by aspiring writers and published writers. Anything in the literary world that might have something to do with you, start reading their blogs. There is a list to the right of some of the blogs I follow. I'm adding to it all the time, and yes, I do visit all of them at least daily.
Then, (and this is important) start commenting on their posts, especially when the author invites comments. Jump in! Give your opinion! (Politely, please. No need to be a jerk.) Give constructive criticism if it's requested. Be a part of the community.
Also, go to writing forums. This is a time-suck, I'm warning you now. When I set foot in www.absolutewrite.com, I have been known to look up three hours later, blinking and rubbing my eyes, my children unwashed, unfed, and hanging from the chandeliers. So please, clear your schedule before you attempt this.
But AbsoluteWrite is a great place to share your work and get some incredibly helpful critiquing on it. Another I like is Scribophile. There, you will find that sometimes you have to give to receive. If you help crit others' works, then others will crit yours. Win/win. But both places have always been very professional and helpful to me and I've learned an astounding amount through them.
Another kindly provided me by the Goblin (who I'm sure is MUCH prettier than the little green namesake above) Critique Circle . This one looks great and I'm not familiar with it. I can't wait to sign up for *more* humiliation! (No seriously, I can't.)
So to sum up: first get yourself ready. Have some nice, professional business cards printed (they don't have to be expensive, but please don't use cardstock and a sharpie in your kitchen, okay?). Start your blog. Link to others' websites and ask them to link to yours. And start getting yourself known out there in the virtual world of booklovers.
Because after all, that's why we're all here. Our love of books. That common ground may be just what you need to get going.
(And check out the links to the right - a bunch of awesome people there with a truly boggling amount of wisdom between them.)