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Networking for Introverts

I get a lot of questions about how to network–both from those who work in publishing and authors. I know how difficult it can be for many. Honestly, I think networking is uncomfortable for the vast majority of us–whether you’re an introvert or not.

Networking put you in a vulnerable position. You need to somehow put yourself out there, talk to strangers, and hope they don’t find you boring, stupid, unprofessional, or whatever else you fear most. I get it. I’ve been there.

Just because I’ve been doing this for 20 years, doesn’t mean my hands don’t sweat every time I enter a cocktail party or need to Zoom with a new editor. They do.

There are lots of tips and advice for how to network, but I have one that is simple, essential, and allows you to stay in your slippers.

The Number One Tip for Publishing Professionals

My number one tip for networking for publishing professionals is simply respond to emails. That’s it. When I send an editor a submission or pitch my first impression of that person is how responsive they are and how caring they come across in their email. Is this someone I’m willing to trust my author’s career with?

From there, the email can reveal a ton about yourself without needing to hop on a call. Was this the type of book you’d like to see more of? Even if this particular project didn’t work. Are you looking to expand your list in other ways?

There’s an editor who has been in the business longer than me. Every email rejection they send includes a paragraph describing what they want to see more of. This simple paragraph goes out to every agent who submits. It says, without saying explicitly, that I value your submission and want to see more from you. Here’s the list of my favorite things.

Networking for Authors

Networking for authors isn’t much different. It’s all about the query. Every query you send is a networking opportunity. Personalizing it in some way, reminding the agent you’ve met or queried before, or just writing a great query makes a connection. Even with thousands of queries, there are always those that stand out–the authors with the great idea, who were close, but not quite, and, yes, those who were just plain jerks.

Networking doesn’t have to leave you in a puddle on the floor. These first steps are super simple ways to make yourself memorable and ease into bigger events like cocktail parties or Zoom calls. They will also make events a lot easier when you already have that email or query to talk about.

Category: Blog

5 comments

  1. Thank you Jessica. Your posts are always appreciated. I agree in these COVID times when we all are restricted to remote access, it’s so important to connect with folks via e-mail, zoom conferences, and meet and greets. It also never hurts to reach out and include a little extra. Thanks to all the agents or editors who send that little comment about why a submission isn’t quite right for them.

  2. Best advice I ever heard for networking was “Don’t try to be interesting; try to be interested.”

    Actually that’s pretty good advice for any social situation, but I’ve found that if I change the term “networking” to “just getting to know people” it relieves a lot of the anxiety around it, and it comes out to about the same thing in the end. Sort of. I guess. For those of us who loathe the entire concept of “selling” anyway!

    Another thing I’ve found is that most writers really are just the nicest people, very easy to schmooze with (probably because most of them are introverts, too) and once you get to know a bunch of them, your circle of influential people you know keeps growing by proxy.

  3. Thank you for the wonderful advice. When I’m emailing someone new, I spend time finding the right tone, looking at every word. As I enter this query process I see it the same way, to be professional and genuine. Cocktail hours used to stress me out until I realized I don’t need to meet everyone, just one person. I may go through a few stilted conversations to get to that one person but if I make one connection I’m happy.

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