Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Is it really "who you know?"

It's sort of a running joke amongst my friends that I "know everybody" in publishing. And while I definitely do NOT know EVERYBODY, it is true that between blogging and WriteOnCon and all the signings and conferences I go to, I have met and gotten to know quite a few people in the industry.

But the funny thing is, sometimes people think I have a reason for meeting so many people and taking the time to get to know them. You know that old saying: it's not who you are, it's who you know? Yeah... some people seem to think I'm on some dauntless "networking" quest to make as many connections as I can to get ahead in the industry. Which could not be further from the truth.

Here's the thing. I know there are stories of people who got their agent / book deal/ awesome blurb / whatever because they were friends with somebody who recommended them to somebody else and all the stars and planets aligned and viola! Insta mega-success!!!

It does happen. I'm not going to say it doesn't.

But...  just because it happens doesn't mean that's what you need in order to reach any level of success.

That's the thing I hate about those stories. They make people start to think: that is the only way I am ever going to get published--I NEED SOMEONE TO RECOMMEND ME!!!! 

When really? That's just one kinda rare, kinda flukey path to success.

Plus, even if you DO get someone to recommend you to an agent or an editor, you still won't get a book deal if you don't have a great book to sell them. It doesn't matter how much they like you (or how much they like the person recommending you). If they don't like your writing they aren't going to pay you for it.

And if you DO have an awesome book, you know what? An agent is going to want to represent it and an editor is going to want to buy it and an author is going to want to blurb it and readers are going to want to read it--because the book is awesome, and people love awesome books. Even if you don't know ANYONE.

I know that might sound oversimplified. And I know there are amazing authors and books that sometimes get overlooked. And I know rejection SUCKS, and we all wish we could find some secret fastpass to success without having to go through querying Hell and submissions Hell. And I know there are just enough stories of people who do just that by "knowing someone" to keep the dream alive. But... I really wish I could get people to understand that it's NOT all about who you know. I promise you, it's not.

Spend your time, effort, and energy worrying about making your book the best it can be, not worrying about how you can meet So-and-so or have So-and-so read your pages and have them recommend you to Important-Publishing-Person-X. You don't need to do that--not if you have a great book. And let yourself believe that your work is good enough to be published without any inside connections helping you along.

Being published really is a dream ANYONE can reach--if you're willing to put the time and effort into your craft. Don't be afraid to let your writing stand for itself.

You have all the tools you need to reach your dreams--without any "cool friends" to help you along the way. Believe that. Then don't give up while you work toward getting there.

Do that, and you WILL get there. I promise promise promise. You WILL.


  1. I so agree with you. It doesn't matter how popular your blog is or who you know if you don't have a book that resonates with the agent and publisher. So many people get published the old fashioned way of querying. It should give the rest of us hope.

  2. I need to get my husband to read this post! He's sure if I just had the right connections.... :)

  3. I've always longed to be the rare unicorn-like discovery. The writerly equivalent of a teen model being stumbled upon at a mall... As far as who we network with, I believe we simply are attracted to ppl with common interests. So, yeah, I communicate with a lot of ppl who write or talk about writing. :)

  4. Amen! I knew no one and was a slush pile baby--and it worked for me! :)

  5. You know you are the rock star of the publishing industry though, right? I mean you are. Maybe not the rock star, but certainly the Rainbow Brite.

  6. Amen, sister! I actually know very few people who got an agent or publishing deal that way.

    As far as I can tell, it's about your book and writing.

  7. I heartily agree! It can and does happen, but it's not necessary. What's necessary is to write well and write an outstanding book that catches an agent's/editor's attention!

  8. You mean you aren't my ticket to success and shiny things while squinkies rain down from heaven and unicorns frolic in unending fields of joy and joyness? Dang. Okay, I'll just keep working hard and writing the best I can.

    And Matthew's right, you are Rainbow Bright of Publishing.

  9. I think the idea of a fast-pass I-know-someone is attractive to all writers, but even if it did work that way, we'd probably have a lot of books that aren't ready to be published out on the market. I think the querying process is actually very enlightening about the MS itself. :)
    So yeah, it sucks. But it works.
    Great post!! :)

  10. So ture! It all comes down to the book itself.

  11. You are so right, Shannon. Make the friendships and connections because you love the people you're connecting with, not for "maybe they can help me with..." reasons. And no connections or industry friendships does not mean no book deal. Wise, wise post!! :-)

  12. I think it's easy to forget that the fastpass versions of success tend to be in the minority. And like you said, it's so flukey. Better to spend your time working on the important part - writing! - than to bet on someone else giving you a leg up.

  13. I'm pretty sure I am the cool friend.

    Maybe not the 'connected' or 'published' one yet but still...definitely cool.

    Why wouldn't everyone want to meet and make friends within the industry they love? I think it's awesome that you have the opportunity to do this and you actually take it! Good for you.

  14. Wow! I feel excited and inspired. Thanks for this beautiful post. :D
    My Blog

  15. Well said! So many people go to conferences and festivals looking for a short-cut, instead of to learn, to be inspired and to meet all kinds of people (not just the 'right' people).


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