Tuesday’s post on the importance of avoiding the slush pile in the first place elicited quite the strong response. Some people pointed out that other agents are on the record stating that they find most of their clients through the slush pile (true – for them), some people expressed reservations about calling in favors (more on that later), some people wanted to know how in the heck you’re supposed to network when you live in Antarctica, USA (more on that too)…. and then we started talking about sports and that was that (the Kings’ offseason has been so bad it makes me want to talk about soccer).
So I thought I would revisit the post and reiterate some things that were said in the comments section and generally make an attempt to keep this conversation going because 1) I think it’s advice that perhaps some people may not want to hear, and 2) because that comments thread was interesting and people had lots of differing opinions. 3) Have you noticed how I like to number things?
First, on the matter of networking. There used to be a time when a lack of networking could be chalked up to living in Wyoming, not knowing the right people, not being familiar enough with the industry… any number of things. There really was no hope unless you lived in New York. And in fact, aspiring writers would move to New York just so they could run in the same circles as the publishing industry. This was a quaint time when writers wore berets and were not expected to be savvy self-promoters and when there was no such thing as a “platform” and blogs.
At the risk of getting all “the future is now” on you, well, the future is now. That time is no more. And that is because of the Internet. But also because berets are lame.
Physical proximity to the industry doesn’t matter anymore, or at least not nearly as much, and there’s not a whole lot standing in the way of someone becoming a well-connected writer with a strong network and industry connections. You can do plenty of networking from your living room if you have a computer (and if you’re reading this, well, I assume you at least have access to one). So ultimately (and this is where people may get mad) there’s no excuse for not being at least somewhat connected anymore. Unless, of course, you just don’t have the time (and who does?).
And it’s not just demanding agents like me who expect this — publishers increasingly expect even fiction writers to have a platform to draw upon, to be savvy self-promoters, to be capable with the media, to be able to draw upon a network. We live in a time when there are endless distractions competing for a reader’s attention, when publicity budgets are tight, and when there are a whoooooole lot of books beings published. Most (caveat: not all) bestselling writers are magnificent at promotion in addition to being great writers, and the two things go together like glass noodles and roasted pork (mmm… leftovers).
Now — will I pass on a prospective client with an amazing book who doesn’t have any connections, doesn’t have a network, and lives on the moon? No, I will not. A great book trumps all. But I will at least hope that the author is receptive to building a network and making some game attempts at self-promotion.
I know that a lot of writers are introverts, that knocking down doors and asking favors and talking to booksellers and trying to meet writers and doing a lot of non-writing grunt work is not most writers’ idea of a good time (and, tellingly, isn’t really a part of most people’s fantasy of what it’s like to make a living as a writer). Some people are wary of asking favors, of seeming unseemly, and find the whole thing generally distasteful. But. It is so important at every stage of the publishing process. Some people don’t like that a writer is now also expected to be a publicity machine, and deep down they want to just write good books and retreat back to their den and be showered with bestsellerdom. Good books do trump all, but people have to be convinced to buy them first. And that’s where networking and promotion come in.
So. What can you do about it?
Kaytie M. Lee posted a great summary of things you can do to network in the comments section of Tuesday’s post, and J.A. Konrath just happens to have given a fantastic rundown of things you can do to promote a book on A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing.
But specifically with regard to networking, the best way to network is to find other people who want to network. As I mentioned Tuesday, J.D. Salinger is probably not going to blurb your paranormal urban fantasy novel. But there are plenty of authors positively desperate to meet other readers and writers, who put themselves out there on the Internet specifically to meet people, and who are willing to invest time and energy in the less-fortunate writers out there. If they are out there on the Internet, posting comments on other blogs and maintaining a blog of their own, chances are they want to meet you. Why? They want more readers and to spread the word about their book, and they need your help. Read their books, comment on their blogs, help them spread the word about their books, keep paying it forward, and they’ll be happy to pay you back and help you out. It’s like rhinos and those birds that sit on rhinos and eat ticks — everybody wins.
I feel like I know a lot of the regular commenters here and would give their queries extra attention and try and help them out — not because I’m so flattered they read my blog, but because anyone who is reading industry blogs every day and investing their time in them is serious about writing, serious about the business of writing, serious about creating a network, and those qualities bode well for an aspiring author.
That’s how connections are made. And you’ll need every one of them you can get. Please share more networking suggestions and ideas (and disagreements) in the comments section!
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It might be interesting to link to Jonathan Lyons blog as he has a guest blogger, Agent Edward Necarsulmer IV, the director of the Children’s Department of McIntosh & Otis, Inc, who just posted this great story of finding his client in the slush pile. Although he calls his the “discovery pile.”
Maureen McGowan says
I’ve met so many writers through blogging. Plus, it gives me a bit of an internet presence, such that links actually related to me now come up when my fairly common name is googled.
I actually blogged about the benefit of reading agent’s blogs a while ago if anyone’s interested. link, I hope
As a longtime technical writer, maybe I can answer your question.
I started as a tech editor/tech writer at Atari, right out of college. At the time, I thought it would be temporary until I was able to make money as a “real” writer.
That was 19 years ago.
After feeling a bit like I’d sold out, I soon started feeling lucky to be making a living as a writer, even if it wasn’t exactly what I’d always dreamed of writing. And after a few years, it became a pretty good income.
The last part of your question is most interesting. How has it helped?
Well, it’s helped me develop a professional attitude toward writing. It proved to me I could finish long, difficult writing projects.
It also got me used to working with (and even being an) editors, which is really important. If somebody makes suggestions, I’ve learned that it’s nothing personal and that the editor is working WITH me to make my work the best it can be. I’ve also learned how, on those rare occasions when I disagree with the editor enough to argue my side, to discuss it and make my case in a professional way without getting defensive, and how to give in when it turns out the editor is right after all.
There are downsides to a corporate writing profession, as well. The biggest is probably that sometimes, after spending the day writing dry techie stuff, the last thing I want to do is sit down and write some more. Usually, though, writing what I really want to write is a nice way to purge and unwind.
You can also get so used to corporate style guides that they start to affect the way you write your fiction. With practice and work, and by being aware and paying attention, you can get past that. (Although I still have trouble remembering sometimes that contractions are OK in fiction. Right, Josh?)
The biggest thing is, I think going into tech writing slowed my fiction efforts. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The things I’ve learned as a tech writer have been a big help since I got back into the fiction world several years ago .
Hope that answers your questions somewhat. We can chat more if you;d like.
(Hey! Did I just network?)
I love the topic of networking. It is what I stress to writers when I meet them in social settings and try selling them on becoming members of a writers club.
/insert shameless plug for the California Writers Club http://www.calwriters.org the oldest professional writers club in the nation open to writers of all genres /end shameless plug
Writing is by definition an isolating experience. You need to block out distractions to craft the perfect phrase to encapsulate the various sentiments rocketing around your brain.
Non-writers just don’t understand the obsession that writers have for the written word. That’s why it is important to meet with other writers if for no other reason than for emotional support.
Other benefits include learning from one another, mentoring/being mentored, and introducing people to one another.
I love going to writers conferences because it expands my circle of contacts as well as my knowledge base. I’ve met and befriended many writers over the years. I’ve done my best to brainstorm with them over ways to help their careers. Some of those ideas have proven to be helpful, and their success makes me happy. It helps me know that my own success in this industry is possible as well.
I love being in a community of writers. It feeds my creative soul.
I also agree with you wholeheartedly on the aspect of authors having to adapt to the new realities of the publishing industry which includes establishing and cultivating their own fanbase outside of the traditional “platform” expertise.
It’s not just what you know, but how many “who you knows” who are willing to buy your books that is important.
Many of the veteran members of my writers club are fabulous sources of information on the craft of writing, but it is some of the newest members who have helped provide ideas and energy on the marketing side. Put those things together and you have something greater than the sum of the individual parts.
Synergy if you will, although since that scientific term has been co-opted by marketing/management types — it has lost its appeal to me as a word.
Kylie asked a question that I don’t think was specifically answered by anyone else in this comment trail. She asked “Does anyone have tips on how to stand out to an author, as being a networking-unpublished-author versus just another fan?”
Yes, make thoughtful posts. Do not just post to have something in a comment trail. Make your posts worthwhile, or don’t post at all.
Read them through before you hit send to avoid syntax errors or misspellings, and try your best to make sure they have a positive and professional tone.
I know that if a post intrigues me, I will click through to see the person’s blog. That has helped to fill my Google Reader with all kinds of helpful agent and author blogs to help me learn more about the craft of writing and the business of publishing.
I am new to posting on this blog, and I just wanted to to put my two cents in. I for one am glad that the “future is now” Due to my situation I don’t get out much, take vacations or anything. So all of my networking is done online. Through writers forums and Myspace I have meet a lot of writers, published and unpublished this way. I also have meet people that work in the business, thats how I found Mr. Bransford’s blog. He was even kind enough to answer my question on the AW Water cooler, thanks.
I also belong to a Yahoo group that I joined when I took an online writing course. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I agree with Mr. Bransford, that the internet makes networking a lot easier for most of us.
I think many writers attempt to network, but feel they’ve failed, because they don’t realize that it is an ongoing process. I started blogging almost three years ago. I don’t write every day, but it’s steady and has built up a nice following. I have a pool of steady readers, and many of them have purchased my books. But there is a point of diminishing return with a single outlet. So I expanded. I built Squidoo lenses, and a MySpace page. (JA Konrath swears by his) I’m on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. All of these other social networking outlets expose new readers to me, and leads them back to my books.
Yes, it is time consuming. But I saw other authors who were finding the time to promote themselves this way, and they were seeing positive results from it. They gave up a TV show or some other hour of their day, and put that time to networking on the Internet. They testified to the positive benefit, and I agree. It is worth it,
Best wishes to you, Nathan, and to all of the readers and commenters here. May success bless you!
Susan Helene Gottfried says
Dude. A whole bunch of people — writers, artists, reviewers, bloggers — have put up a graphic (if not an entire post) about me and my project. THAT is a network and I’m darn proud to be part of it.
Susan Flemming says
I’ve enjoyed reading through all the comments… so much good advice here. I especially like katie’s avatar idea and am going to work on creating one for myself.
I think the key to building a network is by growing friendships not simply for networking possibilities but out of genuine interest in that person as an individual. And then as a friend, do what you can to help that person to achieve their publishing goals. And so it becomes friend helping friend and your network, no matter how small it starts out, will expand from there.
Be willing to read fellow writer’s work as part of both on-line and real life writers’ groups. If there is someone(s) from the group you really connect with, nurture that relationship.
Offer to help promote and link to their blogs and websites on your blog/website.
If someone in your network of friends has a book coming out, offer to read and review it.
Put yourself out there, first to help others and then when you’re time comes, they will be there to help you. At least that has been my experience.
jenny gardiner says
Ahhhh…the power of networking. See, Kim Stagliano posted your blog link on networking on the Chick Lit loop and recommended we check it out and here I am. And you are SO on the money. There are a lot of writers deluding themselves if they think “all” you have to do is write a good book. You have to write a good book, sure, but you have to market the hell out of yourself. At the Backspace conference (fabulous organization if you want to meet a lot of terrific up and coming authors) Michael Cader, founder of Publisher’s Marketplace, reinforced the importance in this day and age of tapping into the internet to expand your ability to publicize yourself through networking. It’s right there at your fingertips and actually gives a writer some control in the process. The internet, he said, is the great equalizer, and we’re lucky we have the opportunity to tap into it. That said, it sure does take away from writing time! Thanks for the post!
Thank you, that answered quite a lot!
I did actually have some concerns about that selling out feeling, and also losing track of my own writing–but, as it is, sometimes I get home from my job now and I just can’t switch gears at all. (I think just being able to write on a regular basis–and this is probably true of other writers–if we don’t get our fix, we end up with a rather empty sense of self.)
The added benefit of getting a professional writing mentality is probably what I’m after the most.
Thank you again, it really has helped clear up some doubts.
Kim Stagliano says
Miss Snark had a commenter who said it best in a song sung to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”: About writers: “We have a lot of friends although we never leave the house.” Amen to that. Networking is sort of easy today given the Net.
I believe I read on Bella Stander’s fabulous blog readingunderthecovers.blogspot.com that while networking is important, the QUALITY is even moreso. (That spelling looks wrong, feel free to correct me.) If you build a blog JUST to sell a book people will feel that salesmanship and be less than cool with it. If you build a blog to develop relationships, show people you’re a real live human being, have some fun and generate a more “viral” (pardon the ick factor) base of networks friends, your books will “sell themselves.” Networking needs to be genuine for people to feel comfortable. I think it also helps if you’re already part of a community.
I met my agent at Backspace, having heard of Backspace from Jenny Gardiner, having heard of Jenny Gardiner from the ChickLit list having found the ChickLit list in a simple Yahoo search for writing lists.
I was talking to a guy I know who has kept an online journal for the past 12 years. I mentioned my own blog and he told me that although he knew it sounded terrible, he didn’t read other peoples blogs at all. He seemed abashed by the admission, to be fair. I hadn’t really noticed before this conversation but the online journal that he does also doesn’t have an option for commenting.
Really, I couldn’t help but that he’d missed the point: here was this great chance to engage in conversations with people, both from his past and new people interested in him. On his site and by reading theirs. Instead, he was treating it like an old-fashioned journal … the equivalent of leaving a notebook out for other people to look at. No interaction. This just screamed wasted opportunity to me, especially when he’s put in the effort to write every day and link peoples names for context and create a good user interface for his readers. He must WANT readers — but maybe only readers, not writers? Who knows.
It made me realise how some things can seem so obvious and still not be…
Nguyen Manh says
fether felt flat