who to meet and why

For this series I'm going to talk mostly about in-person networking, which I mentioned previously as the best, most important kind. Yes, I know it's an online world (I've been online longer than many writers I know) but publishing is still a small industry, especially when you get genre specific. Science Fiction WorldCon is immense, but when I go to parties in the evenings, many faces are familiar. Most agents and editors I've met or at least seen on panels. I make the rounds and meet as many writers, agents, editors, booksellers, and readers as I can (yes, even though I'm in the middle of contract and am represented, I still do this).

Your job in networking in person runs the gamut between professional to entertainment. It's important to be on the top of your game always. At an appearance, you're always on.

Readers are my audience. Simply put, they are why I get to do what I do. When I'm at a con I'm there to entertain them, whether it's on a panel, at the hotel bar, or at the parties. Readers are the greatest folks in the world, and as a reader myself, I rarely meet one I can't talk to.

Don't discount that the littlest thing can sell a ton of books. When I was on a panel this fall, one of my fellow panelists mentioned he'd read my book and it was like Supernatural on steroids. It didn't hurt that we came into the panel with the aim of entertaining: we had more jokes and laughter in that panel than any other  I've ever been on. I sold 15 books immediately afterward. They bought several of my friend's books too. The booksellers were all, "What happened? They all rushed in here to grab your book!"

What happened? We entertained them. That's our job.

Booksellers are the essential link, Amazon notwithstanding. There really is no one like a bookseller who gets behind a book. I know a bookseller in a small shop that handsold 500 copies of a writer's first book.There aren't enough of them so everyone of them needs our support. Plus they respect writers like no other, I think, because they know in a visceral way how their shops depend on our writing. Befriend every bookseller you meet. Buy their books. Buy them coffee at cons. They are probably the hardest working people there.

Writers are our tribe. They will do everything for you from pat you on the back when you make your daily word count to kick your ass when you don't. They'll read your books and give you cover quotes. They'll talk you up to readers, editors, and agents. They'll critique your work and tell you when you suck. Even the most experienced, jaded writers started somewhere, and 99% of them have never forgotten their own meager beginnings. Most experienced writers I know love new writers, so don't be scared of them. They also pay it forward better than any group I've ever been around. Just don't forget to do the same.

Meeting agents and editors is a little different. My agent gets thousands of queries a month. Thousands. So do editors. And trust me, they don't all suck. What sets you apart can be the tone of your query, and also the tone of your voice on the phone or in person. They meet you, learn you're a writer, and they're thinking: can I work with this person? Do they seem reasonable? Professional? And, incidentally, you should be thinking the same thing when you meet an agent or an editor!

Agents have  a wider view of the industry than anyone else. Think of it: they see tons of queries. They talk to many, many editors. They watch the business as a whole, plus their own business.  They are readers first; the front line to our audience. And honestly, wouldn't you rather do business with someone you've actually met?  Not that it's necessary, but living near my agent is made of wonderful.

Editors have their finger on the pulse at their House. They know what's selling, what's just been bought. They have at least a year-long or more eagle's eye view of the market as a whole, plus their own corner of it. They're genre specific, which narrows a focus (what works to sell in romance might not work in SF or mystery). Ask editors what their latest projects are. They honestly are as excited as any writer to talk about it.

They say it takes 3 exposures in marketing to enter the human psyche as even a memory. Agents are inundated with queries. Editors are inundated with books. Readers are inundated with writers. In our industry, making those three exposures can be tough, but the ones made in person are far more memorable... as long as you have a great book to back it up.

Okay, I'll break it into some details of the HOW tomorrow...


Beth Hull said...

This is fascinating stuff. I'm planning to go to SCBWI LA next August, and want my time there to count. I'm soaking up all you're sharing and love how in-depth this is. Thank you! On to #3!

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

Thanks Beth, and have a blast there!