It Really IS about Who You Know, Sometimes

16 Jul

In almost any aspect of life, I can think of times when I’ve advanced in or achieved something or had an opportunity based on knowing someone else who helped me get there.

I spent the last seven months working at our local independent bookstore, a job I got offered because I’m a big fan and customer at the store and the owners know me. Reminds me of the first job I had as a prep cook at a restaurant, which my dad helped me get because he knew the owner.

Last year, I had the amazing opportunity to write the lyrics for a song sung at the rededication ceremony of the Idaho Statehouse.  The composer is a friend of mine and he was told he could pick any Idaho poet to work with. I am honored that he chose me, and I think our piece was amazing. (I know, I just used “amazing” twice in the same paragraph.)

The same holds true as writers. Sure, we like to think that our work stands on its own merits and will find the right publisher or agent when the time comes. And that’s true up to a point. You still won’t get anywhere without having the good writing, no matter who you know. (Mostly.) But sometimes, even with a masterful novel manuscript, publication is elusive. That’s why I think it’s important for writers to network, just as if we were business executives in need of clients or sales people searching for unsuspecting customers. (Nothing personal against sales people. They gotta eat the same as the rest of us.)

I know some fellow authors who, once published, felt there was nothing to be gained by attending conferences, classes, or workshops. Their attitude was that they had an agent, an editor, etc. and didn’t need that kind of help anymore. But I say, who you know can make all the difference.

Here’s an example. A friend of mine has had two agents so far in her career. They’ve both turned out to be wrong for her. So now she is agentless again. However, she knows a ton of agents, because she attends as well as speaks at all kinds of conferences, so she has the connections she needs to find the right one.

The Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference I attended last month in Utah gave me several new connections. One asked me to an invitation-only event to meet with major editors and pitch our manuscripts. This may or may not pan out, but it’s better than waiting in a slush pile.

There is always something more to learn, someone else to meet. Most authors, I think, want to help each other achieve their goals. I know I do. That is why, by the time this year is over, I will have attended no fewer than six conferences, workshops, retreats, or other writing related events. Not only has it helped me become a much more accomplished writer, but it has also provided numerous contacts that I’m sure will serve me well in my career. If nothing else, I have lots of friends in “the biz.” And that alone is worth it.


Posted by on July 16, 2011 in agents, conferences, editors, workshops, writers


6 responses to “It Really IS about Who You Know, Sometimes

  1. Liz Fredericks

    July 16, 2011 at 6:36 AM

    Hi Neysa – I agree with you – conferences are a great benefit and meeting interesting people in the writing industry is an excellent way to maintain motivation. I have to confess that ‘networking’ as a concept is uncomfortable for me and though I’ve had that obligation in my nonfiction life, it’s been a distasteful task. I don’t like networking with a focus on quid pro quo rather than connecting with another human being. I enjoy being a little ignorant and naive about who’s who in the industry so I can appreciate a new person for who they are without the cloud of what they could or could not do for me. I’ll leave it to serendipity! 😉 Of course, I may never publish, but life will be rich. I picked up that vibe in your blog and expect that you’ll see the best of both – riches in friends and publications.

  2. Janis

    July 16, 2011 at 6:40 AM

    Neysa, this is so true. There’s a reason for the old saw that states, “…being in the right place at the right time.” As much as it might make less outgoing writers uncomfortable, networking might provide them the break they need to get their work seen in the light of day.

  3. Carley Ash

    July 16, 2011 at 8:49 AM

    This is very insightful. As you said, it’s not always about connections, but sometimes it is.

  4. Clarissa Southwick

    July 16, 2011 at 10:46 AM

    Wow. I am so impressed with your conference-going. And you are always so generous to come back here and share those experiences with us. Which conference is next? I can’t wait to hear about it 🙂

  5. Peggy Staggs

    July 16, 2011 at 11:34 AM

    Getting out and meeting people is so important no matter where you are in your career. We’re fortunate enough to have an organization that provides us with lots of networking opportunities.

  6. Mary Vine

    July 17, 2011 at 10:00 AM

    My publisher told me once that every writer she’d ever known thought that she’d publish their works, when many of them didn’t have a romance, didn’t submit the type of work that is clearly stated in her agency guidelines, and then got mad because she wouldn’t support them. Some very good points in your blog. Congrats on your lyrics, how exciting!!


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