Thursday, September 15, 2011

Getting connections

I've often heard that in the publishing industry who you know can take you a long way. I've read many interviews where the writer's friend, who happened to be a writer or worked in the biz, had read their MS and passed it onto an agent. I've even read one where a debut author was commissioned to write a story by a friend of her mother's. Not a bad way to become a published author with a guaranteed publishing deal. There are lots of stories like this, and I'm not saying it's not a legitimate way as I might end up with a story like that. What I want to look at today is how do you get to be a story like that.

If you aren't one of those lucky people who was born into a family of publishing royalty then the key is to network. So here's some tips on how to network without being one of those creepy leechers who lurk at the back of conferences waiting to pounce on a passing editor or agent (I've seen it, and the look of fear and exasperation that it wasn't me doing the major stalking, I only do minor stalking):

Oh yes she did!
  1. Join your local writers centre. I actually live in a publishing waste land, but when I was in my state's capital I went in and joined up in person. I got chatting to one of the ladies who worked there, who also happens to be one of Australia's leading speculative fiction short story writers. We kept in touch, I interviewed her on my blog, she interviewed me on her blog and now she's taken me on as her mentor. The interaction was genuine and I gave. The only thing I asked for was occasionally an opinion and some advice on who she would recommend as someone for me to hire to help edit my work. And that's when she offered herself.
  2. Join a critique group or writers group. This is something I haven't done personally, mainly due to family time constraints, but I have visited the local writer's group and made a good connection there. I'm hoping that they will help me get a local writer's conference off the ground. But I've heard many stories of how published authors where in critique groups together.
  3. Join an online writers community. I wouldn't be a part of this blog if I hadn't joined inkpop. It's where I met my fellow YAtopians Wendy, Leigh and Kelley V. It's also where I met Jeyn Roberts, who's debut novel DARK INSIDE hits the stands soon, Kate Grace, who I interviewed in my last post on YAtopia and a whole bunch of other writing friends who offer to do critiques and reviews.
  4. Enter competitions and short story submissions. My first published piece,GROWTH came through a submission to The Australian Literary Review for the anthology BASICS OF LIFE. I also was a runner-up with KARMA for Aus Lit's YA short story competition. Since then, I have received two invitations to write short stories for anthologies. It's a slow start, but it's a start and it's still my stories published and on book shelves.
  5. Go to conferences. Conferences are a great place to meet other writers and you also can get the opportunity to pitch to agents and editors. I met some great people at the CYA Conference in 2010 and I'm hoping to go again in 2012. I also did get the opportunity to pitch to an editor, which scored a MS request.
  6. Have a strong presence on social media. Twitter, blogs, Tumblr, Google + and Facebook yourself. Even Pottermore if you can. Be nice, polite, funny if you've got the right humour bone and connect with as many editors, agents and writers as you can. Just remember two things: not all publishing professional want you to friend them on Facebook (so check out their friend list to give you an idea of how open they are to friends requests) and that social media is an open forum, so be mindful of how you behave.  Stalking social media profiles in a non-creepy way is good. I've scored a request through a Twitter call for pitches. You can see what trends are expected and get an up-to-date knowledge on what agents are looking for, what conferences they're going to and even their querying status.
  7. Go to book launches. You can often get to ask a few polite questions, especially if you're getting them to sign a book you've just bought. But don't thrust a manuscript in their face. Book launches often have a variety of publishing industry peeps at them, so use the opportunity well.
Stop posting negatives and post positives!
So here's a list of things not to do:
  1. Accost agents, editors and writers in the toilets.
  2. Turn up at places of work uninvited - it scares them. There's a query process, use it.
  3. Harass agents and editors on social media, good way to ensure your query gets deleted without even being read.
  4. Follow them around at conferences. It's creepy and they might call security on you.
  5. Ignore submission guidelines. Whether it's a competition, query or a story submission, follow the guidelines. It's the top pet peeve for publishing peeps.
Let's add to the list, what are some other writer no-nos (feel free to include examples...without naming the guilty party)?

And for those of you who are at the querying stage, Mandy Hubbard from D4EO Literary is hosting a two sentence pitch contest here in two weeks. You can read her interview on my personal blog.


  1. Ooh, I've read posts/comments/blogs where a disgruntled author wrote about an agent or editor in an unflattering light...and I've seen unhappy responses! The internet feels huge, but, in many ways, it's a small, connected world. If you bad mouth someone, no matter how big they are and how small you are, it can get back to them and leave you looking extremely unprofessional. A few times the complaint was the result of a simple misunderstanding. And once something goes online, it's pretty much there forever. Be careful who you name and what you say!

  2. This is a great post with soooo much good advice in it. Though I am personally still shying away from Twitter and Facebook, this is all true. Good luck with the writers conference launch. My town just had its first writers conference (the Chuckanut Writers Conference) and it was amazing. It's certainly a very good way to connect with agents and other writers.

  3. Most of my connections have come via social networking, especially through blogging. Maybe that's why I love to do it. :D