Friday, March 30, 2012

Publishing Mythbusting

Don't go into shock, but I'm writing an actual, useful blog post today, instead of one where I whine about deadlines. (HEY--I SAID DON'T GO INTO SHOCK I CAN'T REACH ALL OF YOU WITH SMELLING SALTS!!!)

Still with me? Good!

The reason for my sudden sense of blogging clarity is that I've had a lot of people ask me the same questions recently, so I thought I'd take a few minutes today to do a little publishing mythbusting and de-bunk three of the myths I keep hearing.

(it has nothing to do with procrastinating on a difficult scene. Nope. I would NEVER. *adjusts halo*)

(ahem)

Okay, here goes:


Myth #1: I need someone to refer me to their agent/editor in order to get an offer of representation/book deal.
No, you don't.  I PROMISE.
Are there stories out there of authors whose friend recommended them to so-and-so and it ended in a book deal? Of course. BUT, 99.999999% of the time those drafts were good enough that, had the person queried/submitted the old-fashioned way, it would've ended in the same result. (also: there are many, many stories of writers who got the golden recommendation to an agent/editor and still had it yield a rejection). 
If your book is good--and right for that person and the market--it will get offers, whether you are a famous author's BFF or Jane Nobody from the slush pile. All a recommendation will really get you is a slightly faster read, which is nice--of course--but NOT worth the amount of stress and worry some writers put into the quest for networking. It still always comes down to the writing and marketability of your book. Nail that, and nothing can stop you.

Myth #2: Authors only blurb their friend's books.
Obviously, I can't speak for every single author out there, but I do know quite a lot of them and I can say in all honesty that the answer is No. And yes, I realize that a decent percentage of the time it seems like authors know/are friends with the authors who blurb them. BUT, that is not because the author is doing a favor for their friend by blurbing their book. It's because if you have enough in common with a person to be friends with them, there is a REALLY good chance you will like their book. The things that make people similar enough to be friends often translates to similar writing sensibilities.  
Am I saying connections don't help? Of course not. But what I am saying is: if you don't have them, your book/career is not doomed. There are many, many blurbs that happen where the author is not friends with the other author. So don't waste precious time stressing about it--and definitely don't try and befriend authors simply to get something from them. That's just a bad idea all around.

Myth #3: Published authors don't like to talk to unpublished/un-agented authors.
Again, I can't speak for every author here, but in my experience, published authors really aren't paying attention to this. Believe me, I understand. I remember being un-agented and unpublished and nervous around authors who were. However, I learned very quickly that if I relaxed and talked to them like real people, they were just as open and friendly to me as they were to others who were published. In fact, pretty much all of the authors I'm close friends with now I met before my book deals.  
And speaking personally for a second... honestly, if someone comes up to me and tells me they're a writer, it doesn't cross my mind to ask if they have an agent or a book deal. Sometimes I might ask the name of their book, but only because I'm bad with names and it would be really embarrassing if I was talking to someone whose book I've read and never realized it was them. And if I find out they don't have an agent or a book deal it doesn't make even the slightest difference in my opinion of them--and I know many authors who feel the same way.

Notice a theme here? Lots of people wondering about networking, and yes, networking IS important. But it's not the key to publishing success either.

And I'd like to wrap this up with a quick Shannon-Networking P.S.A: The best way to network is to NOT "network." Don't have an agenda when you reach out to people. Don't expect anything from them--and don't do it thinking it will advance your career. Reach out to someone because you admire their writing or enjoy them as a person. It is always always ALWAYS better to make a FRIEND than a CONNECTION. And don't let any of this take away from what really matters: improving your craft as a writer.

Phew--that was a lot of thinking! My brain is tired now! :)

Anyway, I hope you guys found this helpful and that it answered some of those questions that are sitting in my still-to-be-replied-to email label.

Also, if you have other pressing questions feel free to leave them in the comments. I'll do my best to answer them as soon as I can.

Happy Friday!

27 comments:

  1. Such good advice Shannon. It's so true that it's best to try to be friends and not just connect with someone for the connection. One thing I've learned lately is that it's okay to ask your friends/connections sometimes for help. As I move closer to querying, just asking advice of some of you more experienced authors is really helping.

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    1. And that--right there--is the REAL value of networking. I've never had a friend recommend me for anything. But I have gotten so much useful information from them and had them answer so many questions! I hope you know you're welcome to email me if you ever need anything too. Though Casey's pretty much the querying expert, so you are in good hands there!

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  2. So true! People put way too much pressure on themselves (writers? Putting pressure on themselves? NO WAY) to network and make friends and be successful with their successful friends. So much better (and more fun!) to just do what you do and see who is also doing what you do. Friends are better than contacts anyway.

    Yay friends!

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    1. Definitely YAY friends! (And ha--writers putting pressure on ourselves? Surely you jest.) :)

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  3. This is true. Every bit of it. I would much rather make a friend than a connection and I have a rule to NEVER ask peeps I consider my friends for favors regarding this business(general advice does not count). Not that it makes anyone a bad person if they do...it's just not something I feel comfortable doing.

    Part of the joy of succeeding is knowing you did it on your own. Not counting your critique partners, agent, support of an understanding family eating wayyy too much pizza, your friends listening to you whine...well, you get my point.

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    1. Exactly! I had a few friends I could've asked for recs, but I didn't because

      -I wanted to make it on my own
      -I didn't want to risk jeopardizing the friendship, which was way more important to me.

      And yes, pizza is a crucial support for writers. And chocolate. I probably should've thanked them in my acks! :)

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  4. Good Myth busters =). I admit, I was wondering if people only got blurbs from other authors because they were friends. I'm glad to know I was wrong.

    And I agree, people are more desirable to have around when they don't have an agenda. When you are friends with someone first, they are more willing to help you out, and when you don't expect anything in return you're more apt to be happy with whatever outcome.

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    1. Really, truly, you do not have to be friends with the authors to get a blurb. Honestly, I'm not "friends" with either of the authors who blurbed me. I'd met them at signings and we sometimes interact on Twitter, but it's not like I call them up and we hang out all the time (I wish...) :)

      And yes, it's always better not to EXPECT. That generally just sets you up for disappointment

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  5. Great post, and very true.

    I remember meeting you at my first SCBWI conference and just genuinely liking you. I didn't know what you wrote, what deals may be in play, for me it was just great to connect with other writers and feel comfortable. I met lots that conference, but just a handful that I stayed in touch with afterwards because I genuinely liked them. The following summer, I was excited to connect with you again and we had our nom-nom pancake festivus, and it was then that I learned all the excitement that was about to unfold for you. The friendships that come organically remain, and you can genuinely cheer each other's successes.

    I've always personally been grateful for anyone and everyone that took the time to answer my noob questions, to offer advice, and certainly for anyone who ever tried to help by offering up a connection to another. I am a big believer in paying it forward. But I would never befriend someone just to get something from them. Bad karma :)

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    1. Aw, thanks Robin. And exactly, it's about meeting and connecting with people you LIKE, not searching for networking advantages! (Also, I am down for another pancake-fest any time) :)

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  6. I am going to write my comment in an acrostic poem using the word SHANNON.
    S-super savvy post
    H-heck, no, I'm not really going to do this whole thing
    A-alright, that's good enough...

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    1. LOL--you had me scared there for a second. I was like, does she really want to have to come up with something for THREE Ns. :)

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  7. Great advice and encouraging post, Shannon. Thanks for the good words!!

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  8. This was all probably inspired by my Facebook antics. And now I know why you won't talk to me, and why you ignore me at parties. I have to get published first.

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    1. Ha--nope, it wasn't your antics. (You have no idea how often this keeps coming up lately. Weirdly so). And wait--you're not published? Ugh, what am I doing replying to your comment then? :P

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  9. Shannon!

    I've been sort of awol lately (trying to focus on my wrting, lol), but I could not agree with this post more! The only thing under that is gonna get you an agent is the writing. So make it good! Luckily that is the one part of the publishing journey that you have complete control over. ;)

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    1. WHAT--YOU'VE BEEN FOCUSING ON WRITING???? THE NERVE!!!

      Actually, I haven't been blogging much for the same reason. But it's good to see your lovely face in my comments bar. Hope writing is going well. And hey, I came to NOLA for ALA last year, so I think this means YOU need to come to Cali for ALA this year. You can make that happen, right? :)

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  10. Always great advice and things to remember! I love your opening disclaimer - keep in mind there are some people (me, specifically) who like to read your blogs about looming deadlines and news about new book deals, it puts our dreams into perspective - that it is possible! So thanks!

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    1. Aw, you're so sweet Toni. Thank you! (And don't worry, I'm sure I'll be back to my whining ways next week!) :)

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  11. I TOTALLY agree. Do not try to befriend authors simply to get something from them. That is horribly wrong. Be genuine. Be you. No brown nosing.

    I think it's awesome that the writing community is so tight and we all end up connecting in one way or another. And it is so true you don't have to get a referral to make it. Just like you said. If the work has merit, it will find its way out of the slush pile with or without a nudge from a friend.

    Great post! I Always enjoy reading your thoughts. Keep 'em, coming.

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  12. I was pleased to find that after joining the blogging community that established people along with published authors were so friendly and helpful.

    Great post.

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  13. Great post, Shannon, and you're right, the writing community is very warm and welcoming. I love the support I have found and received from fellow writers, no matter where they are in their careers, or that fact that I'm pretty new. Thanks!

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  14. You are brilliant, my dear. But then, I already knew that. :-)

    To me, the BEST part of an online community/network, whatever you want to call it, IS making friends with other writers. I love learning from everyone, talking shop, knowing I'm not alone, getting inspired on a daily basis.

    xo,
    Kimberley

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  15. Love this post! :o)

    I don't think any of the writing friends I've made through blogging had agents when we connected. Some of them do now, but it hasn't really changed our friendships. It's a lot of fun to see your friends succeed.

    Thanks for all that you do!

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  16. I'm not great at keeping up with the online networking thing. It doesn't mean I don't like people and don't want to read and respond to their blogs, updates, tweets, etc. it's just that there isn't enough time in my day to keep up with it all (including my own blogging efforts).

    I do get around to reading and replying now and then (though mostly it's just reading and not replying), but not as often as I'd like. Maybe I'll get lucky and find more time one of these days. ;-)

    Still, when I do get online, I've found other authors (published, unpublished, with an agent, without an agent--from all walks of life) to be incredibly friendly and helpful!

    Anyway, it's a comfort to know that networking challenged people like myself won't necessarily be left behind in the publishing industry. =D

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  17. GREAT post! Thanks so much for your myth busting! And I'd much rather have friends than connections. Friends are there for 100% of the time. Connections? Not so much. I prefer to be gathering friends along my journey - and I have met some treasured ones to be sure!

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Yay-I love comments! Thank you so much! (But please remember to keep your comments spoiler-free. Also, I try to keep this a happy, positive place. Friendly debate is fine, but always be kind to each other). <3