Nathan Bransford, Author


Thursday, August 23, 2007

More About That Slush Pile (and the importance of networking)

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!






64 comments:

David said...

So my posting this comment constitutes networking?

Cool! I'd much rather be strolling around San Francisco, but this is quicker, cheaper, and doesn't use up vacation time.

Nathan Bransford said...

David-

Don't you just feel more networked already?

C.J. said...

thanks again N8 (i'm dubbing this your 'the hills' name, to go with your 'the hills' posts, and dare i say? - your new 'the hills' profile picture.) for this whole slush pile convo.
the only piece of networking advice i have is to have a website and to offer more than just your own writing - offer something cool and free and link to wikipedia.
i'm curious, as long as we're talking about networking advice, are there are other sites besides the ones on the side of N8's blog that the posters on this site find valuable in terms of networking?

Kaytie M. Lee said...

My repeated comment from MySpace:

Thanks for the shout-out, Nathan! I hope other writers find those possibilities as useful as I have so far. If any of them are too vague or unclear or whatever I'm happy to elucidate. Only, my parents are flying in as I type this so I may not get to it right away.

And it's worth mentioning that everything I learned I learned from other writers, as if in an old-fashioned apprenticeship.

Scott said...

When it comes to networking, I don't think the importance of blogs like this one should be ignored. For several reasons.

For one, as Nathan said, he recognizes regular posters, and that gives us an edge in querying him. That edge is important.

Second, these blogs are conversation starters for some of the writers I know. For example, some members of my critique group start just about every meeting by discussing something one of us saw on one of the blogs.

Next (sorry, I have trouble with these higher numbers), these blogs aren't just read by hopeful writers. One thing I've seen on several of the blogs I read (and occasionally participate on)over the past several months is that many of these bloggers read each other's blogs. That means, if you post something brilliant on Nathan's blog, you might get noticed by somebody else--a good reason not to post anonymously.

I'm not sure what number comes after next, so that's probably enough.

As for the other stuff Nathan got into in his long post--What he said.

Other Lisa said...

I've always had a tough time with the self promotion (and I used to have a band, so what does that tell you?), but I learned some interesting lessons about this recently. I participated in a novel contest held by a social networking site. On the bad side, the contest administrators didn't have a handle on what they were doing, so the whole thing got pretty ugly with cheating and technical glitches. I wouldn't participate in a contest like that one again.

But it was a good experience for me in a couple of ways in that it forced me outside of my comfort zone. I went out and really hustled to get comments and votes, asked all kinds of people I'd never dream of asking to help me, and guess what - almost all of them did.

I also posted a few articles about my experiences, about the good stuff I'd read as well as more generalized ranting about the contest. These articles got hundreds of comments when the average article there struggles to break 20.

Out of that, a group of writers and readers came together, which is still growing, people from all over the country who care about writing and who support each others' efforts. It's a nice little cyber-community, and one that I think will come through if/when one of us is published.

A small thing in some ways, but a good lesson in how you can work those internets. ..

Kristen said...

You just inspired me to make a list of "Buy at amazon" book-links on my blog. Thanks! Not only do I get cha-ching if someone buys them (like, .01 cents per click), but they look purdy.

Kylie said...

I finally got an account so I don't have to be anonymous anymore. My first step in networking, probably.

I have a question for anyone, Nathan or otherwise, who can come up with an answer. Does anyone have tips on how to stand out to an author, as being a networking-unpublished-author versus just another fan?

Liz said...

As in most businesses, it is all about who you know and building relationships. Why would publishing be any different? I'm in no way a networking expert, but here's a few off the cuff suggestions on some easy ways to build a network. None of these will get you an agent or a contract, but I think they are pieces in the larger puzzle.

Volunteer in some organization. I met a retired newspaper editor that way and he offered to be a beta reader for me.

Get to know your local librarians. They buy books, they talk books, they recommend books all day long.

Tell people that you are writing a book. Talk to them about it, this is your passion, right? I had a person tell me years ago that if you don't say it you can't claim it.

The thing is, you just never know who you will meet and who they will know. Be ready.

Christa M. Miller said...

Well, what's good etiquette in asking a favor? I'm a member of Crimespace. (And I actually did have someone offer a favor based on a question I asked on that forum, which was awesome.) So this is the thing. Many of the authors I like to read don't spend a lot of time online. Of those that do, why on earth would they recommend me to their agents? How do they know whether we'd be a good fit without knowing me past a few comments (let's face it, a relationship via comments can take years to build, especially if you have limited time with which to comment)? Are they supposed to take the time to read pages of my novel? Or are the short stories I have listed on my website good enough indicators of my work? In short - how do your clients come to recommend new authors to you?

Graham said...

Is there ANY tactful way to put in a query that you'd be willing to kill your introverted self, knock down every door in San Fran, and otherwise do what it took to be successful? Is there even a way to mention that you read blogs, etc., without appearing like an ass? I mean, other than writing a good query. I recently got cold-shouldered by an agent. She said I had a fantastic query, but before she read any pages, wanted to know if I'd had my work professionally edited and/or if I'd ever been published before. No on both counts...and I've been ignored by her since.

Ello said...

I have a recommendation, although I'm embarrassed to offer it as a newbie, but here goes...

I've taken several writing courses over at the wonderful Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD near Washington, DC. In my last fiction course, I had the pleasure of having a wonderful instructor who was also a published author. At the release of her third novel, she invited all her old students to come to a reading. It was a tremendous networking night for all of us because students from 3 season's of her class came and among the group were 2 of her students whom she had mentored and nurtured who were now awaiting the release of their debut novels. Not only do I have published author who is a wonderful mentor, but also someone who believes in networking and introducing her vast network to her students. And while I don't think every instructor is like this, I do think that if you meet and click with other published writers, whether by taking classes with them or going to conferences, etc, everyone has a chance to make a meaningful connection.

As Nathan said in his post, other authors are eager to promote their own books and are looking to network for new avenues of readership. As new writers, it becomes so important to support each other. Buy each others books, review them, introduce them to your network of friends and in turn, they will do the same for you when it is our time to wait with breathless anticipation for the release of our novels. Here's hoping I still have all my own teeth when it happens!

Brandi. said...

The comments section has been having quite a fierce debate. (That'll teach me for aggravating your RSS dilemma and only reading your posts in my feed viewer.)

I think the hardest thing for writers to remember is that success breeds success. All it takes is a little bit of success to get that ball rolling. It's easy to sit behind our keyboards and just write. It's harder to take our work for a spin. Or meet other writers.

Things that work for me:

-A strong writing group. My writer friends introduce me to their writer friends. Thus, I meet more writers. (When there wasn't one I could find, I originally put an ad in an artsy newspaper.)
-Admiration letters. I write letters to writers that I love. Not only does it make me feel happy, but sometimes they also write me back. (Sometimes sometimes, they write me back and give me advice/help.)
-Read, read, read. Blogs, journals, books. (And, if you love something, write to the author.)
-Don't be afraid to go to readings. (And talk to people there.)
-Don't be afraid to participate. I did a reading that led to a conversation starter that will lead to another reading. I created a project that led to a conversation that led to a regular gig.

My best advice: Write, write, write. Read, read, read. Talk, talk, talk.

PS- I am of Nathan’s opinion when it comes to the “it doesn’t hurt to ask” school of thought. You can ask a writer friend that you admire how she got started, what it takes to make it in the business, and if she would introduce you to people in the industry without sounding like a complete neophyte. If you’ve done your homework and present yourself well, at the very most you’ll look like a minor boob in the moment. (A friend worth his salt will forgive any tiny lapses of good taste.)

Anonymous said...

Do most magazines require a query letter for submission? Many do not explicitly mention it but should I assume they want one anyway? Full disclosure: I am referring to a veritable wish list of magazines: Paris Review, New Yorker, Kenyon Review, etc..

Jenny said...

Lisa posted about her networking experiences and because she's too modest to do it herself, I'm going to add one point.

Lisa was able to get a lot out of networking because she'd already done the work. She showed up with some polished, unusually interesting writing and everything she posted interactively showed intelligence and an ability to write.

That kind of presentation encourages other people to chime in and help.

Tammie said...

Great post. The recent Writer's Digest magazine had a great piece about authors networking with their own websites and how to make them work for you and yep it's all about networking.

As for the slush pile - don't get too hung up on it - if you want to making writing your career then I think you'll spend some time in the pile but still plug along to make that special connection.

On a side note - the post you did on books that stayed with you - I'm reading The Road based on recommendations from this group - I'm really glad I picked it up! Thanks!

Katie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Other Lisa said...

Jenny, thanks for that - and here's one example of said networking! (we "met" during the contest)

I'd also add that if you take the time to read other peoples' work and comment on it in a constructive way, you will get a lot of good will in return.

Katie said...

If I can offer a tip...

If you click on my name, above, to see my profile... or you go to make a comment so you can see the avatars for those who leave comments, you'll see a sword in my avatar photo. I wish Blogger attached them to comments like myspace and other forums do, but anyway... that claymore follows me around the Internet. It's my avatar on MySpace, my Amazon.com photo, my avatar of some forums that belong to my favorite authors and on writing forums.

What does this have to do with networking? Well, that sword attracts everyone who's interested in medieval/Scottish novels, both authors and potential readers. When I "friend" another Scottish medieval writer on myspace, I get personal comments back in return, because it draws their interest more than just another myspace friend. When a potential reader comes across it, they follow it to my website (which has the full version of the claymore) and they're offered an excerpt, character quotes, and the opportunity to sign up for my mailing list. It's my online "image" and it helps people remember me. I've had people sign up to be notified when my book is released (after it's sold, of course), and they found me through a review I wrote on Amazon for another author in the same genre!

Hope this helps give people some ideas!

Katie said...

I guess you CAN see the avatars if you click to see the comments... but you can't if you are viewing just one day's post and the comments are on the main page...

Michele Lee said...

Okay then, so what happens who by some freak chance you run afoul of one of the few "old boys networks" out there. Or if the other writers you try to help seem to just be trying to ride your coat tails? I'm not saying everyone is like that (certainly not) but one cannot deny that writers can be vicious, defensive, destructive people. Sure those types often don't rise very far, but how to you learn to recognize and avoid the people who just want praise, who only want to tear others down, or who only want to use use use and never return even an inkling of the effort? How do you not let the dark side of dealing with other people turn you into a bitter old recluse hiding behind a surface smile and an internet presence?

Other Lisa said...

Michele, you judge people by their actions over time - by what they actually do, not by who they claim to be.

The one time I will ever positively quote Ronald Reagan is for situations like this: "Trust, yet verify."

I've had some bad experiences out here on the internets, but the majority have been really positive.

Oh, and use a pseudonym! ;)

liquidambar said...

Introverts who feel overwhelmed by the idea of networking and promotional work may enjoy this blog, designed especially for "shrinking violets":

http://shrinkingvioletpromotions.blogspot.com/

It's not my blog, but I read it regularly.

J M Peltier said...

One of the best ways I've found to do some face-to-face networking is to attend writing conferences. Pay attention in panels. After the panel talk to the panelists. If there's someone you want to get to know better (read: network with) find out what that person's meal plans (or between-meal-snack plans) are and arrange to meet (frequently I'll invite them on my dime) them for the next convenient meal.

Then just get to know them. Ask questions about work, etc. but resist the urge to pitch (that can come later). When you see them later, you are more than a strange person they just met, you're their new acquantance who bought them food.

The quickest route to nigh on anyone's heart is through their stomach.

David said...

Nathan,

Yes! Yes, I do feel more networked already! It feels, kinda, um ... Borgy. Assimilated into the network!

No, wait. That's the wrong image. Must work on it.

Christa M. Miller said...

I struggle with networking because I can't afford conferences and I don't live somewhere that I can easily get to a writers' group. As I mentioned, I'm active on Crimespace, but it doesn't *totally* make up for the lack of face-to-face contact.

Another issue is that of authors promoting to authors, which has come up a few times in the crime fiction community. I definitely think it's a start, and certainly for those of us looking to break into being published. But I think such a community can become dangerously closed, too, when authors don't network with "just plain readers" too.

Danette Haworth said...

I post on a couple of writing boards regularly, and this summer I met some of the other posters at the conference. It was easy to talk because it seemed like we already knew each other.

Church Lady said...

Dear Katie,

quote: It's my online "image" and it helps people remember me.

Church Lady has quite a presence herself. She is trying to network her way over to Minister Bob.

;-)

Subservient No More said...

I am the networking queen and mostly I think it's because I'm friendly, open and not an idiot. Not being an idiot goes a long way I find.

Everything else I was going to say Brandi said already, but I'll reiterate. I agree with her points completely. Be very confident and tell people you're trying to break into the scary world of publishing. Ask others if they know anyone in the business. You'd be amazed at who knows someone who knows someone and often all you have to do is ask them to refer you or introduce you.

Another thing is (and now this only works if you aren't an idiot and if you are a genuinely good writer) email authors you like and ask them for advice. Every time I've ever done this they have written me back with kind words and helpful hints. In fact, I've even had published authors write to me first just because they liked my blog! Then I make sure I become familiar with their work and ask them to tell me everything they know about the business that could help me out.

I think that human beings in general are good at heart and that people are usually really excited to help someone out, even if it's a total stranger.

Nathan Bransford said...

subservient no more-

Not being an idiot is actually really good advice. The people who are most worried about annoying someone by asking for help are the same people who are the LEAST likely annoy someone when they actually do ask for advice, because they're cognizant of that person's time and are going to do so extremely politely.

Heidi the Hick said...

I am, first of all, so relieved that in this day and age, a writer can have a computer and internet access, and the ability to network this way instead of moving to the big city.

big city- ugh.

berets- ugh.

I didn't start blogging to get a network. But, it happened! I discovered Miss Snark. Then I discovered Nathan Bransford. A couple of fellow reader-blogger-commenters found me. Look at that-- I have a network! I've been educated and befriended and mentored, all without leaving my house.

I don't have a problem with writers needing to be into promoting themselves, and I also don't think we need to step out of our introverted little comfort zone. The internet is amazing for this purpose!! We can hole ourselves up in our comfort zones but still reach out to others!!

Being in the music biz, I've learned so much about promotion. (My husband is a recording engineer; I used to manage him. Now I'm simply married to the biz.) We set him up a website, after I put a lot of thought into BRANDING and IMAGE. These are not dirty words! He used his childhood nickname to make himself more memorable, and used the same graphic on all of his materials: biz cards, website, invoices.

He's totally self employed and relies on getting clients to come to him. Get them, do the best work for them, bring them back, make sure they feel like spreading the word. Writers have to do the same thing. We have to stick in someone's memory to be effective. It is more work, but I think it's worth it.

Josephine Damian said...

Katie!

Small world. Well, this certainly proves your point.

I instantly recognized your avatar before I even read the name. Brand recognition - that's what it's all about.

Glad to "see" you here. Sorry I'll miss seeing you for real at the meeting this Saturday. Hope to catch up with you in Sept.

Best,
Josephine

original bran fan said...

You linked to J.A. Konrath so I went to visit his blog and it's so great and so readable. Now I have to go back and read Konrath's entire archive, which is huge.

There goes my free time. Darn it.

Kimber An said...

Since the last Slush Pile blog entry, I've learned how to figure out which of my mentor-type Blog Buddies would be open to giving me a referral. It really wasn't that difficult either.

I think the most important thing about buddying up with authors is to go into the relationship with the mindset of a *Student.* A referral from a published author is not a magic ticket, especially if your writing stinks. However, I've learned truckloads about the writing craft and the publishing industry from my mentors. I don't know if I know enough yet, but I'm lightyears ahead of where I was a year ago.
;)

Sophie W. said...

I think a lot of people are concerned because asking an author for a referral, or putting yourself out there is like 'selling yourself.'

But isn't the point of a QUERY to sell your work?

As the daughter of a fundraiser, I've grown up around networking. Here's a secret: smile, handshake, "It's so good to see you!" Also, if you can get them to ask you about YOUR work, you're in. :)

J M Peltier said...

Networking is really just about making friends. In this case it's the right friends, but the rules are still the same.

I think people just get more shy as they get older. So by the time making friends becomes networking, we're all afraid we dont know what we're doing.

Katie said...

Hi, Josephine! I guess YOU proved my point... thanks!

I'll miss seeing you at the meeting.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

One of the best things I've done is get more involved in the short story market as a writer and an editor. I've learned all about editing, deadlines, and the sometimes odd qualities of the saleable piece. I've kept my finger on the market. I've got a stack of rejections, but I've learned to not take it personally. I also know to take a personalized rejection seriously because I know how rarely I send one out. I've learned that editors are people, too--just generally nice folks with lives as complicated as mine. I've made wonderful connections (and friends!) with authors around the world. I've learned professional writerly behavior. But mostly, writing short fiction has honed my craft and buying it has honed my marketing skills.

Q: Do most magazines require a query letter for submission? Many do not explicitly mention it but should I assume they want one anyway? Full disclosure: I am referring to a veritable wish list of magazines: Paris Review, New Yorker, Kenyon Review, etc.

Most are no query--just submit the work. Read the submission guidelines; most can be found on their website. Many are now email subs. What editors want to know is:

The genre, word count rounded to a hundred, any sales credits (not all that necessary) and how to reach you. Thanks for your time and bobs-yer-uncle, you've got a cover letter for your story. Just don't forget to include the actual story!!

Hope this helps.

joycemocha said...

This whole topic must be a meme flaring right now, as various science fiction writers are blogging about networking and the like over on LiveJournal. Jay Lake is one who's been discussing it; one of the big issues is that he's used a metaphor of high school cliques to talk about the professional network that goes on at science fiction conventions and that's triggered a *lot* of conversation.

For myself, I've given up on writing conventions and have focused on sf conventions. The SF con world is cheaper, more entertaining, and you can end up meeting more professionals on an equal social level if you aren't prone to tripping over your feet and snotting up the surroundings.

Additionally, you can also build up a fan base of *readers* by networking at SF cons--and don't underestimate the power of certain well-known fans.

That said, I've decided that the biggest element of professional social networking is that it has to be *fun* in its own right. One reason I don't like Writers' Conferences is the air of quiet desperation as everyone swarms the agents and editors looking to network and Get Connections to Get Published.

BT. DT. Didn't really work. I suspect my experience was more common among aspiring newbie writers than is projected.

For me, networking at cons is as much about talking about ideas as it is the profession. That's why I like SF cons--I can dip into the writer track, then dip into various theme tracks, or I can go hang out in the various fan groups or the bar and strike up Interesting Conversations.

Writers' conventions depress me. SF cons energize me. Life's too short to spend a lot of my own money on something that depresses me.

Jason R. Clark said...

Thanks for the excellent post Nathan. I'm one of those RSS-readers, who too rarely comments on the blogs I read. This is a great reminder to get off my metaphorical digital butt and get more involved.

I've also got to second Brandi's mention of a strong writer's group as a great resource. I found a wonderful bunch--a published author among them--and it's gained me more connections than I've found anywhere else. It's about the critiquing first, but the networking's a nice side-effect.

A Paperback Writer said...

So, in the simbiotic (hope I spelled that right) relationships of birds and rhinos, everyone wins except the ticks. However, I'm not sure I like the thought of being either the HUGE rhino waiting for the little people to eat the parasites off my back or the stupid little bird wannabe big guy, hanging around powerful friends and earning a sycophant degree.
Sigh.
And I'm in no way an introvert.

urbansherpa said...

Great discussion and lots of ideas. my two cents: it doesn't matter what it is that you want, networking is going to give you an inside track that you don't already have. Want to get your kid in a particular school, or on a certain team? You volunteer to bring cupcakes to the meeting, or help out at a sign up table. Instant network.

Can't afford the pricey writer's conferences? Volunteer to help out at an event, you will get in for free AND you will meet the very people who keep the organization running.

A friend of mine works for a very large, entertainment agency and teaches a class on 'Inside Hollywood'. He starts off every first class by telling the hopefuls who signed up and paid their money to hear his pearls of wisdom that: it's highly unlikely that they will EVER sell anything to Hollywood but if they want to try they have to be willing to go out and make contacts and mine absolutely every opportunity for all it's worth and then maybe... just maybe they have a chance.

This should come as no surprise to anyone here, but the seats in his class are always full which is proof that, if nothing else, we have hope.

I liked the tip on the shrinking violets blog... that was a good one.

Luc2 said...

Nathan, thanks for continuing this interesting discussion. Can we get back to sports now?

But seriously. I understand this is an industry, and networking is required. And I got excellent tips here (thanks everybody!).

In your original post, you mention the lack of time. That touches one of my main problems. I have a demanding job, a family that I want to be with, and a body that requires exercise. My time for writing is scarce. I'm sure that goes for many others here. I put my blog in the freezer because I understood it would be time consuming (and it stunk). This networkng will take away 50% of my precious writing time. Is it really worth it?

That touches on your next quote: 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. If I decide to dedicate most of my time to writing (good writing trumps all) and if I only focus on building my network when I'm starting the query process, may that be too little, too late? Or would that be enough to show my willingness?

Anne Dayton said...

I can't tell you how many people have written to my coauthor and me to tell us they heard about our books after they followed some link and ended up on our blog. We really try to create a community, and we've made some great friends, and people seem to assume (hopefully correctly) that if they like our blog, they'll enjoy our books. I know it's been said and it pretty obvious at the point anyway, but I really think blogging is a good way for shy writers (like me) to get out there and meet people. Plus, you get to make new friends. How cool is that?

Jenny said...

luc2,

A couple years ago I got very active in RWA, an organization for people who write romance.

One thing I noticed was how many of the "writers" who were active in the organization were so busy attending lectures about writing technique, learning about marketing, and enjoying the social opportunities the organization provided that they never got around to finishing a novel!

Only one then-unpublished writer I spent time with during that period is now on her way to big time success with four novels published. I met her in an online critique group where we traded chapters around--not at a meeting!

My understanding is that she broke in by sending a query to a mid-tier agent who has a solid track record in her genre. (Who those agents are IS something that organizations like the RWA can teach you). After having a book accepted for publication, she started networking very hard.

My own feeling is that if your time is limited, putting your energy into writing first and networking only when you are convinced your writing is really strong would be the way to go.

Researching which agents are selling the work of new authors in your genre would help, too. Top agents rarely look at the work of newbies--at least in the genres I'm familiar with--because they can't make huge deals for people who haven't got some kind of track record. But there seems to be a second tier of agents who get people into the game, and if you can find them, they'll usually respond to a well written query.

Dave said...

I've found SF cons to be very helpful in networking. I spoke with one writer who had to leave early and he provided a ticket to an industry invitational party. At the party I spoke to another writer who I'd talked with after panels and he introduced me to Sheila Gilbert from DAW.

I've met a few writers at Cons, and others in places like Absolute Write (where I use my real name) but still don't feel I can ask any of them to recommend me to an agent. Most authors don't want to read someone else's work, and if they haven't read yours they can't really recommend it.

In the meantime, I'll keep reading, writing and polishing.

Scott said...

I started "networking" with writers several years ago, not because I wanted to promote myself, but just because I like talking writing with other people who share my interest.

I didn't even think of it as networking. It was just hanging with other writers.

When it comes to having that relationship with writers who have some influence, that's a little harder. I live in a clique-ish area, and the writing community around here reflects that.

I've been lucky enough to make friends (in a professional sort of way) with one pretty well-published writer in the area who has helped me and given me some good advice, but to really be part of the community of successful writers in my area would require more street cred than I have. I'd have to earn inclusion.

Of course, once I earn it, it might not be as important anymore.

And, by the way, this blog came up briefly during last night's writing group meeting, mostly because two of us in my group have posted in this thread. (You know who you are!)

Luc2 said...

Jenny, thank you for your detailed response. It answers my questions and more!

Top agents rarely look at the work of newbies--at least in the genres I'm familiar with--because they can't make huge deals for people who haven't got some kind of track record. This is interesting, and makes sense. I wonder if it applies to the genre I'm writing in (Fantasy) as well. I guess it does.

Bernita said...

As anecdotal evidence to support Nathan's contention about blogs and networking, an editor in charge of setting up a new fiction imprint for an established non-fiction house saw a comment of mine here, liked my "snap," and contacted me.
We have exchanged e-mails and said editor is interested in my present WIP.
Further, I was asked for my recommendations about other writers whose work might fit the imprint's scope and vision.
It may well all come to nothing, but there it is.

Heidi the Hick said...

At the risk of being way too late to ask...

HOW would I go about reaching an author? One I want very much to contact does not have any contact info that I can find. Do I write to the publisher? Agent?

isak said...

I live far from both New York and California, so the only networking I'm really able to do is via the Internet. I've been thinking of leaving my current job to take up one that deals more in writing. Down here in Florida, those are pretty much copywriting positions or other such jobs in marketing. Is anyone else involved in that kind of writing? And has it been useful in terms of perfecting how to sell yourself and your work?

Or should one just embrace all potential avenues for networking without delving into the advertising biz?

Ello said...

Nathan,
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 said...

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

Scott said...

Isak,

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?)

L.C.McCabe said...

Nathan,

Huzzah!

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 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.

Linda

burgy61 said...

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.

Marti said...

Excellent post!

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 said...

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 said...

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 said...

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!

Isak said...

Scott,

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 said...

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.

sylvia said...

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...

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