The Blog

All Posts in Category: Networking

Why You Should Meet New People

The publishing business is based on relationships. It’s much easier to sign with an agent if the agent has met you or one of her clients refers you. Contacts are important — and just as important is having friends who know what it’s like to get three rejection letters in one day.

Attending writing workshops and conferences can increase your writing skills, put you in touch with agents and editor who might be able to do you good, help you understand the ins and outs of publishing, and teach you how to succeed. Plus, you may meet some friends you’ll put on speed dial.

  • Professional writers are always looking for experts to interview or work with. If you’re an expert, they’ll be interested in knowing about your subject and your book.
  • Learn about the publishing business in a hands-on, question-and-answer way.
  • Skip the conferences meant for beginners. You won’t meet established, professional writers there.
  • Conferences are a great place to meet potential editors and agents. Some conferences have times specifically set aside for you to meet with editors and agents to tell them about your book and find out if they’d be interested in it.
  • Go with an open mind. You may not meet the Hollywood producer who can change your life, but you may meet a lifelong friend – and that will also change your life!

Networking for Writers 101

In any profession, having contacts can help you succeed. Yet most of us don’t start off knowing anyone who can help us get published. I’ve often said, “It isn’t who you know, it’s who you get to know.”

We read books and blogs, join writers’ groups, attend conferences, and somehow eventually connect with the people who can make a difference in our careers.   What I mean when I say you can get to know the people you need to know is just that: with attention and effort, you can connect with that editor who likes your style or that agent who falls in love with your novel.

But what does “with attention and effort” mean, exactly? What I’m getting at is this: use the opportunities that arise in your life and your work to connect with members of the community of writers, editors, and agents.  That’s all.  One of the simplest ways to do this is by pitch (query) letter. I sold something like my first 17 books to publishers without having an agent.  All of the editors I sold to had never heard of me before.  (Once they’d acquired one of my books, though, we had a relationship, and they were more easily persuaded to publish another of my books.)

The publishing world has changed since I started writing books, but the mundane pitch letter is still worth a lot more than most writers realize.  The pitch letter is the cornerstone of a lot of relationships.   If your pitch letter ends up yielding a request for pages and eventually an offer, yay you.  More often, though, you get a form rejection, which is just discouraging.  But sometimes you spark an editor’s (or agent’s) interest, it’s just that this book isn’t the one.

That is a tremendous opportunity for you.  An editor who says, “not this book but maybe the next one” is one you need to treasure — and to send the next book to.  The agent who says, “this doesn’t quite work for me, but if you revise, I will look again,” is a treasure, too.  Don’t underestimate these kinds of exchanges.  Editors and agents don’t say these things lightly. It’s way easier to say, “thanks, but no thanks” and then not have any further hassle.

So I’m always amazed at the number of people I make encouraging noises at who then fall off the face of the earth. Now, not everyone who queries me is going to want to sign with me even if I make an offer,  and not everyone is going to want to revise the way I think their work needs to be revised, and so on.  But here’s the thing:  Someone who is interested in your work is a colleague to be cultivated, not ignored.  So don’t ignore signs of interest.  Build on them.

Conferences are a good way of meeting editors and agents face-to-face, though it’s important to realize that most of the time you’re not going to get a publishing or representation offer from one of these events.  I also like good, professional writers’ groups (which may be more affordable than flying off to conferences), especially local chapters of well-established organizations.  You’re not necessarily going to meet an editor this way, but you’ll meet other writers, and maybe they’ll connect you with their editors, or let you know that a certain agent they know is looking for new clients, or what have you. Some of these groups are online, and that makes them even easier to join and “attend.”

Remember that the world of publishing is fluid: I’ve been a writer, an agent, and now I’m an acquisitions editor. This happens all the time: editors become agents, writers become editors, etc.  You never know what the next step of someone’s career will be.  Being friendly and helpful with colleagues pays off not only in a warm fuzzy feeling, but it may actually boost your career.

Just as important as any of that, though, is being out there in the world, hanging out with writers and other creative types.  If you’re on Twitter, follow editors and agents.  Comment on agent’s blogs. Start a blog of your own.  Have a website.  Make it easy for people to find out about you and make an effort to find out about them.