This post originally appeared on Writers Rumpus on March 25th, 2014:
It’s hard to get up the nerve to network. But networking is so incredibly helpful on the road to publication. Don’t get me wrong, you still need to have talent, work hard, and get a little lucky. A publisher probably won’t buy your book simply because you’re good at networking. But a publisher will never buy your book without seeing it.
A lot has happened to me since I last guest-posted here at Writers Rumpus. In the past 5 months, I became represented by a wonderful literary agent and have received offers on 2 picture book manuscripts (I also dropped the pseudonym Papa J Funk). And I’m not going to say my success is because I guest-posted here. Well, actually, I am … a little bit.
Beginning at the 2013 New England SCBWI Conference, I started rubbing elbows with everyone I could. I volunteered. I read a working manuscript at the open mic. I walked up to strangers to introduce myself. I’ll be honest, it was scary at times. But I returned home with a huge collection of business cards (and shared dozens of my own).
One strange fellow I met was Rumpus Writer Paul Czajak. Long story short: here I am, guest-blogging … for the 2nd time.
That collection of business cards led to an increased digital network on Facebook and Twitter. Those e-friends shared publisher open submission windows, and one even gave a glowing personal recommendation to that splendid literary agent.
Volunteering and hobnobbing helped me find and found new critique groups. Those additional critiques led to improved manuscripts. And that manuscript I read at the open mic? LADY PANCAKE AND SIR FRENCH TOAST is currently scheduled for a September 2015 release from Sterling Children’s.
I can’t tell you how to network. You’ll have to find what works for you. But here are some tips and options:
- Personal: Get out there.
- Go to conferences. Go to writing retreats. Go to workshops.
- Introduce yourself to everyone. Pick a lunch table with people you don’t know. Force yourself to meet new people. Push yourself to get out of your comfort zone a little. Most people (at least in the kidlit world) are usually pretty friendly.
- Make sure to bring business cards so you can stay in contact.
- Have an elevator pitch ready.
- Chuck Sambuchino of Writers’ Digest suggests these five in-person networking tips for writers
- Virtual: There are virtually (hee hee) an unlimited number of ways to connect with people online. Some say “do them all!” But I find it can be overwhelming with all the choices. I’d personally recommend starting with Twitter and Facebook. Regarding all the others, I’m of the mind that you should only do what you feel comfortable doing.
- Twitter (at least nowadays) is the forum of choice for many literary agents, publishers, and librarians. I’ve heard countless stories of writers and agents finding each other through twitter.
- Facebook is a great way to stay in contact with others after those conferences and retreats are over. Via Facebook friends I heard about agents and publishers accepting submissions, awesome workshops to attend, and could even post questions when needing advice.
- If I had to pick a third, I’d say GoodReads, as it is book related.
- Other Social Networking: It doesn’t hurt to try Pintrest, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Google+, Mammoth, WordPress, or any of the other ones you find out there. But only do what you like. I’ve been told it’s better to very involved in one than not very involved in many.
- Social Networking specifically for Writers: I don’t participate in any writer-specific social networking other than SCBWI. But there are lots out there. I’ll leave it up to you to google them.
Writers are shy. That’s why we write, rather than act, dance, or ride bulls in rodeos. But talent, hard work, and luck account for only half of the road to publication. The other half, at least in my opinion, is networking.