by: Joelle Charbonneau
As writers we talk and think a lot about how to create the best story possible. We work on making our sentences punchy, our plot fast and fascinating and our characters real and interesting. We write. It’s what we do.
Well, not exactly. I mean, yes, we write. We have to. (Trust me, if we didn’t enjoy the writing process we wouldn’t be doing it. The money ain’t that great.) But there is more to the writing business than just writing. (Insert shocked and horrified gasp here.)
Yeah. I’m talking about networking - talking about writing, learning about other writers and, of course, learning about and chatting up publishing professionals better known as editors and agents. No squealing like a girl over this. (I am a girl, so I can say that without it sounding condescending and macho, right?) If you are serious about making writing your career, it is necessary to talk to other writers and industry professionals in order to find out what is going on in the business now. You can’t just read what's on the shelves. That's the stuff that was happening 18 months ago. Trust me on that one. My book was sold almost a year ago and won’t hit shelves for another 5 months. You need to stay current and networking is the only way to do this.
Don’t fret. There are lots of easy ways to network. Twitter is one of my favorite places to make writer hook-ups. I’ll admit that I was intimidated by Twitter a year ago, but that was before I really started having conversations with the other folks out there. It's a great place to see how other writers spend their days, market their work and think about the business. And lots of industry professionals are out there in Twitterverse - many of whom are giving tips to authors. I know a couple of authors who made contact with an agent on twitter and eventually signed with them. This might not happen for you, but it is a great way to hear the agent/editor perspective of what's going on in the biz without leaving the comfort and relative safety of your home.
Facebook is another great place to find and chat with writers as are the myriad of blogs, like this one, that are haunting the world wide web. But while these virtual methods are great, nothing can take the place of personal contact.
Yes, I am telling you to brave the wonderful world of interpersonal relationships. Conferences are a great way to make these connections. I just got home from speaking at one this weekend. You can meet editors and agents and other writers at a variety of conferences. There are panels and workshops on a wide range of subjects and numerous industry tidbits to be picked up at these events. In my experience the bar is the place where the most interesting conversations take place. (I know – big shocker.) I’ve met a lot of great friends and industry professionals with a glass of wine, or more likely a diet soda, in hand. In fact, a bar conversation with an agent was the inspiration for writing Skating Around the Law.
Conversations about the writing business can be important for writers at all stages of their career. New writers can learn how best to craft their story or approach the querying process. More experienced writers can meet and perhaps even get a submission request from an agent or editor. And published authors, debut to best-selling, can share their successes and their mistakes with people who understand the writing process. Networking will help a writer get a better perspective of all things publishing. And heck - you never know where you will find a great idea or get a request for submission. Take a chance and remember that whether the person is your favorite author or an important editor or agent – he or she is a person who is interested in having conversations about the business. Buy that person a drink and have fun talking about a subject you have in common – writing.
And if any of you have great conference bar stories, please feel free to share. I know there are lots of them out there.