The Importance of Networking
I’ve talked about networking many times in the past; why it is important and necessary. At When Words Collide I was reminded once again of how critical it is to a writer to network.
It all began with one of the keynote speeches. Sam Morgan, a literary agent, talked about how he got into his current career. He went from one connection to the next to the next until he had gone from unemployed college graduate to literary agent. He said he didn’t even know what a literary agent was until he got the job.
His talk made it sound like he bounced from one person to the next like a ping pong ball. If you weren’t paying attention, you might think he lucked into his job. What he actually did was use his connections to move into the career he enjoys today.
Doesn’t Networking Take a Special Something?
It does. It takes the ability to talk to, and get to know people. That’s special, right?
It’s interesting to me, that I have had this notion that my writing has to be nothing short of brilliant to even get the attention of an agent. Over the weekend I spoke to many authors who told me stories of how they met a publisher or an editor or an agent during When Words Collide and formed a friendship that led to amazing things.
In one case, the author in question was brand new and her manuscript needed a lot of work. That connection has led to the improvement of her writing and her mentor is helping her find an agent. In several other conversations, I was told a chance meeting in the bar or at a party led to agents asking for partials and fulls of manuscripts. I was told that, even when a manuscript was rejected (which was often) the agent had good feedback and asked the author to continue submitting to them.
But, What Would I Talk About?
That is a silly question. There’s very little book people like to talk about more than books. Do that. Talk about what you like and what you write. Ask them what they like.
Animated conversation will likely follow. Chance are, if the person you are talking to doesn’t represent what you write, they know someone who does. If you make a good enough impression, they could talk you up to someone else.
You just never know.
Should I Prepare Something?
That is a better question. Have your elevator pitch ready and your excitement about your work on standby. Never talk about your work with anything less than enthusiasm and passion. That, as much as anything, will get people interested in you and what you write.
I made the mistake once of downplaying my work at a convention. I was talking to an author I greatly respect and he asked me what I was working on. He was a NY Times best-selling author in horror and I didn’t think my little Scouts and Zombie series was much compared to his stuff. I didn’t talk it up and our conversation ended shortly after.
He has gone on to start his own press. I sometimes wonder if speaking better of my work would have done anything for it with him. What I do know is, by not giving it the hype it deserved, NOTHING happened.
I did better at WWC. I was sitting beside my Champagne Books publisher talking about…well, books and I ended up pitching her my Fantasy series. She has now asked to see it. Will it sell? I don’t know but it wouldn’t be in her hands if I hadn’t said something first.
Be real. Be excited. Talk to everyone you can.