(Accidental) Networking for Writers
- By: Jessica Faust | Date: Apr 30 2009
Pub date: April 2009
Agent: Jessica Faust
Bella’s Web site: www.BellaAndre.com
As an econ major in college and then a dot-com marketing director years later, I knew all about professional networking. The whole concept reeked of slimy, smarmy, sucking up. How on earth, I often wondered, could anybody go out and network with a straight face?
Five years ago, when I started writing fiction, networking was the furthest thing from my mind. All I knew was that I’d always loved reading romance and it was a lovely surprise to realize that I loved writing it too! Jessica recently did a post about going to a writer’s conference and having the time of her life chatting with other agents and writers and editors about the business. I feel exactly the same way and because, right from the start, I couldn’t get enough of talking about writing and publishing and brainstorming, I joined two local RWA chapters and went to conferences and loved every second that I was surrounded by other writers.
In the past five years, several of the women I met at these early meetings have become some of my closest friends. We have a scheduled lunch once a month and several of us talk on the phone or email pretty much every single day. Lunches are social plus brainstorming plus career counseling plus emotional counseling plus laughing like crazy. These women have been there with me to celebrate my career highs and to listen to me cry and then give me a kick in the butt after the lows. They’ve heeded the call of needing a title within the next thirty minutes, of helping me work through what my next scene should be (or why the current scene isn’t working), of doing crucial eleventh-hour read-throughs, and of helping me ask a big-name writer for a cover quote.
Just for fun, I made a list of a dozen of my writing friends and broke us down by type of book and house. Between the twelve of us, we write romantic suspense, women’s fiction, historical mysteries, YA, thrillers, time travel, Scottish historicals, regency historicals, contemporary erotic, Christian YA, mysteries, and straight contemporaries. We write for Pocket, Kensington, Berkeley, Ballantine, BantamDell, Avon, Harlequin, Grand Central, and Wild Rose Press. Some of us have been writing for five years. Others for twenty-five. Wow, just reading this list is getting me all excited! What a thrill it is to hang out with these women. That’s a hell of a lot of knowledge.
Some might even call it networking.
And you know what? I finally get it. I’ve finally seen the light. Networking isn’t about dragging yourself to a painfully boring dinner or lunch or speech or conference and forcing yourself to shake hands with everyone to try to get ahead. It’s about finding something you love and being unable to stop yourself from talking about it.
In Wild Heat, the first book in Bella Andre’s Hotshots: Men of Fire series, Logan Cain is a firefighter addicted to risk. Maya Jackson is the sultry beauty he never saw coming, targeting him as her number-one suspect in a string of deadly wildfires. But when Maya’s life is threatened, Logan vows to protect the woman sworn to bring him down. And as desire ignites, nothing—not the killer fire or the killer hot on their trail—can douse the flames. . . . Allison Brennan called it “a breathtaking, terrific, hot, hot, hot romantic suspense.” Brenda Novak said, “WILD HEAT has one sexy firefighter—and a love that burns up the pages.” And according to Catherine Coulter the book is “a roller coaster ride. Don’t miss it.”
Oh. . . I never thought of that as networking. I love to get together with other people who have the same interests and chat. Maybe that’s the reason I’m in a bookclub. We all love to read – and some of us write.
🙂 Glad to know I’m working on my craft when I thought I was just hanging with the girls.
Kim – It took me years to realize that the fun I was having with my friends actually counted as networking! Bonus! 😉 Bella
Bella, the difference you’ve described in your first networking vs. what you do now is the honesty of the process–when you’re networking to achieve an end (marketing is all about achieving SOMETHING) for a product or business that’s nothing more than a job, there’s a certain amount of subterfuge involved–trying to project passion where none really exists. I know for a fact that–as an author–networking with other authors and writing professionals is so fulfilling and requires so much honesty, you can’t help but feel the kind of passion and excitement that suddenly brings all your interests together. I think the best part of networking within the writing biz is the fact that you’re surrounding yourself with people who actually “get it.” Voices in my head? No problem. Getting up at three a.m. to write because the characters won’t let me sleep or the solution to that plot point finally came clear? No big deal…and WRITERS UNDERSTAND! I envy you your tight circle of writer friends. I’m so far in the boonies that mine is limited to all online, though I must admit, those friends are truly my lifeline.
Wonderful insights into networking – and the book sounds fantastic!
Kate – Hey you! Thanks for chiming in. 😉 And you know, I used to live out in the boonies and actually moved closer to the city to be able to lunch/Starbucks on a regular basis with my girlfriends. Online is fab too!
CursingMama – Glad it was helpful!
So very true, Bella. Since finding a writing group close by (an hour and a half drive to the meetings, but in this neck of the woods that’s close) I have felt more like a writer. And since that initial stepping away from my comfort zone of hiding out with my characters I’ve joined a group blog where I’ve met wonderful writers from all over North America. That initial leap led me to join RWA and RWA Online – and my writing circle has expanded again. It would be great to be closer to these people, but the Internet allows us to e-mail and MSN whenever – I feel like I’m just around the corner.
The greatest thing about these people are they, too, are working toward a goal of publication (or a second or third contract). They encourage, support, celebrate, commiserate, and are there for me. A family that understands my desire to write.
Your book sounds great – looking forward to reading it.
Janet – All of our stories sound really similar! 😉 It’s great how being a member of RWA really hooks you up with other writers, isn’t it?
I’ve really learned a lot about networking in my grad school studies — and it’s so helpful, really, not just for me but for my students as well.
Judy – You’re so right about writing breaking down the barriers. In my group of friends we range in age from early 30s to 70s.
Lois – Thanks for chiming in.
Hey Bella, fancy meeting you here. 🙂
With the variety of writers groups I belong to (the local chapter) and the online groups, it’s true — there is such a huge component of friends and women who write different genres, for different publishers. And the great thing is that I enjoy spending time with ALL of them.
The benefits that come from just enjoying yourself, being genuine with your friends and new friends you make and supporting others as writers have always supported me — it’s all good networking, at the end of the day. Best, I think, when you don’t even realize you’re doing it. 🙂
What I find most interesting about hanging around other writers is how all boundaries are dissolved. Some of the writers are old/young, men/women, have kids/don’t, work outside the home/don’t, married/single, democrat/republican, make a comfortable living/struggling to pay bills, etc. It’s all about the common thread: A love of writing. It’s great!
Thanks for the upbeat post!
Jeannie – Thanks for dropping by! 😉 And you and I met through the circle of friends I mentioned, which is fun!
“The Hong Kong Connection” is a legal thriller about a gutsy female attorney who takes on high ranking International officials. It’s a taut, rollercoaster of a ride from New York to Palm Beach to Washington D.C. to Hong Kong. The plot is expertly woven, the characters persuasive, and the dialogue snappy and spot on.
I never believed in networking until I began assisting my boss, Ramona. My God, it is an art with her. She is manic about maintaining her contacts, chatting with past associates, employees… My goodness, I am in big trouble if I am not on top of her C-Suite contacts! LOL
But she has really taught me a lot about just maintaining relationships. For in our business, it leads to future deals. And when a big conference comes up (she only attends two per year), watch out! I have to request the attendence list and reconcile it with her contacts to determine what acquaintences will be in attendence.
Yes, networking is an art form that I desire to learn.
Thanks for the post!
Claudia Helena Ross