Networking, or Bracing For No

I may have mentioned this here before (I complain about it a lot), but the days of writers typing furiously, sending the novel off to their editor, then starting on the next one are long over. Now we have to network and promote and talk to people.

Look, if I wanted to talk to people I wouldn’t have become a writer, okay? That’s, like, the opposite of the point. If I wanted to tell my interesting stories to people directly I would have gone into comedy or something.

But alas, here we are.

The sole saving grace on this whole “having to talk to people” part of being a writer is that no other writer wants to talk to people either. The writers conferences I’ve been to (all three of them!) are filled with wallflowers, all of whom either sit quietly with people they already know or, like me, drift toward the extroverts and wait to be adopted.

Since only about 1 in 20 of us (number pulled from thin air) actually like talking to other humans, writers are extremely chill about being approached by other writers. They understand how terrifying it is. I’ve been sending a lot of cold-emails lately to find more “Dearly Departed” interviewees–get excited!– and even the NYT Bestseller I emailed got back to me within a couple hours with a very kind “sorry, too busy.” One of my favorite cozy mystery authors said no, but said that this blog looked “wonderful!” It sucks she can’t do an interview, but you’ve got to love someone who takes the time to find a nice thing to say about the thing their rejecting.

Here’s what I’ve figured out so far about navigating networking with other writers. I assume they hold true across genres, but I’m definitely confident that it makes sense for anyone wanting to meet/hang out with/ask a favor from cozy mystery authors.

  1. At conferences, find an extrovert and attach yourself like a limpet. Extroverts are great. They combine writer-kindness to scared newbies with the ability to effortlessly create social groups. You’ll make new friends without having to walk up and introduce yourself all alone. The extrovert will do it for you!
  2. Join a professional group, if you can afford it. Being a Sisters in Crime member is great. I can automatically connect with thousands of other writers and have an “in.” It’s like having an extrovert for your emails.
  3. Follow the rules. If you do whatever it says on the “contact” page for your Target Writer (no asking for an introduction to their agent, only use this address instead of that one, etc) not only do you increase your odds of a positive response, you minimize the risk of whatever your worst-case scenario is. They can’t post your name on Twitter and call you a Big Thoughtless Jerk if you were polite and didn’t violate any of their pre-stated requirements. Also, check up on basic email etiquette. I’m *pretty* sure emails with links in them are more likely to get marked as spam. So maybe don’t do that.
  4. Ask for a recommendation from a friend. I’m shameless about name-dropping when I’m asking for something from another writer. I think of saying “Mary Feliz says you’re good at…” as wedging a steel-toed boot in the door so they can’t slam it on me. Or like a letter of introduction, if you’re old-fashioned. Someone’s vouching for me to them, so they can be a little more confident I’m not a creep or entirely clueless.
  5. Bite the bullet. Writers have to be social creatures, or at least pretend we are, so might as well take the chance now. It doesn’t necessarily get easier the more you do it, but you’ll get a little better at knowing what words to use.

Who’s your favorite extrovert to adopt yourself to at conferences? What’s your best writer-interaction story? What’s the worst? Let me know!

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