One of the big buzzwords in business – for a long time, too – is networking. We teach that to our students at work in our Career Development class. In fact, sites like Face Book, MySpace, or even Twitter are referred to as “social networking” sites. It’s very common for people to find jobs because they knew someone at the company who told them of an opening before it hit the traditional advertising venues.
This same principal applies to writers. Knowing someone who knows someone is a very effective way to get published. My first novel was a result of my writer friend Jan Czech telling me about her former editor starting Tanglewood Press. I sent the novel, along with a cover letter indicating I knew Jan, and the rest is history. Obviously, my book had to stand on its own merits. Jan didn’t write it – I did. But because this editor knew Jan and liked her work, the reference was a favorable one.
Peggy, my Tanglewood editor, suggested recently that I submit a novel to a particular agent. I sent the requisite sample chapters and synopsis, and included the fact that my editor had suggested I do so. The agent ultimately chose to pass on the manuscript, but not before she offered me some wonderful feedback as follows in her email:
and was hoping to find a good time to write you back the thoughtful
letter you deserve. You don’t need me to tell you write beautifully,
though write beautifully you do. I found the sample chapters mature,
honest, moving, and very real. I knew something terrible was going to
happen to Mike or Rich from the minute they got into the car that first
time, though you surprised me that it didn’t happen in the first
chapter. From the synopsis, I can see that this will be a very intense
story; you’ll need to find a publisher who is not afraid of literary
books for boys.
and three chapters to some of the editors who are looking for literary
fiction. If you haven’t already shown it to fellow Vermont College alum
Jill Santopolo at Philomel, you might start there. Also looking for
literary fiction are Mary Cash at Holiday House; Regina Griffin at
Egmont; Virginia Buckley at Clarion.
for giving me the chance you did to take it on.
As it turns out, Jill Santopolo with Philomel doesn’t take unagented books. But I figured – hey – I know someone she knows, and we both graduated from Vermont, so it was worth a shot. It also happened that I served as a Graduate Assistant at Vermont the quarter she graduated. My friend Carol Lynch Williams also graduated that term, and I knew the two of them had been friends. I asked Carol if I could use her name when contacting Jill (Carol and I are in the same critique group, so she clearly knows my work). Carol said yes.
What I got back was a surprise.
I’m always happy to take a look at novels by friends of Carol Lynch Williams (and that you’re a VCFA grad is an added bonus!). If Brenda thought your manuscript was ready to be sent to editors, how come she chose not to represent it herself? Just curious…
At any rate, you can e-mail me your pages.
I look forward to reading them.
It has only been a few days, and I know this is a rough time of year for editors who are preparing to release their spring line, so I’m patiently waiting with crossed fingers.
Again – my work has to stand on its own. But knowing a few people and being willing to drop their names has certainly allowed me access to opportunities I might otherwise have missed.
Yes – the hard work and time spent agonizing over revisions is critical.
Yes – you need to attend the workshops and learn the tools of the trade.
But – while you’re doing all of that, it’s good to make a few friends along the way. I love my writing friends because of who they are as people, and I love that they care enough about me to share these opportunities
Here’s to networking! I’m a believer!