Develop professional relationships

Publishing is an industry made up of close communities that depend on professional relationships. The rewards of being an emotionally intelligent, courteous, practical and savvy individual will be far more advantageous than what you would receive from demanding you get what you want, when you want it.

Now more than ever, authors are aware of their presence alongside their manuscript. Platform is a concept used so often that some writers spend more time developing their online profile than they do on actually writing. It shouldn’t be a case of one or the other, author or manuscript, like all things with writing, when the two work together, we see the best results.

If you are in the early stages of developing your career as a writer, there are advantages to building a platform. But until you have something to sell, a competed manuscript, or a collection of stories, your platform is essentially redundant. But making professional industry connections is not.

Direct communication

Writing is a business as much as it is an art so within this industry you need to conduct yourself in an appropriate manner. Always remember less is more.

Emails and covering letters should be brief, succinct and necessary. Publishing professionals are busy people, so communicate only what you need to. This doesn’t mean you need to be clipped. Appropriate and polite greetings that reflect your personality can be used as you see fit.

As a professional writer, anything you craft should be a polished draft. If you are emailing from your mobile device, ensure that you use full and correct punctuation, and always check the spelling.

Email addresses themselves should be appropriate for the kind of work they are intended. If you still have a Hotmail account bearing your high-school nickname, it might be time to upgrade your handle. You may like to use the new address for professional purposes and keep your Hotmail linked to your social media sites etc.

Calling, unless invited, is inappropriate in most instances. As is contacting a publishing professional through their personal Facebook account. If in doubt ask yourself what you would be comfortable with.

Social Media

Anything you post online is just one Google search away. It’s best to keep this in mind before posting a meme about a journal editor who rejected your short story to your Facebook page, or blogging about how misinformed the funding body is to be giving away grants to anyone but you. What you say online may only be intended as a joke, but tone can be misinterpreted, and it’s unpleasant for all parties when it is. If in doubt ask yourself if you would say the same thing to the person directly. If you would not, then it’s probably best not to put it online.

On the flip side, social media can be a great tool for building an audience, connecting with other readers and writers, and expressing yourself in relation to your craft and the industry you are working in.

Networking at Festivals and Events

Attending festivals, readings, book launches and events are great ways to connect with other writers and industry professionals. Networking is not a dirty word. Networking is not leveraging friendships, manipulating individuals, and it does not involve bribery, trickery or falsehoods. Networking, by definition, is an exchange of mutually beneficial information.

When meeting new people, introduce yourself and engage in the conversation. Interact first as a human being, rather than a writer with something to sell. Networking is not about using opportunities to push your work on an industry person, but about being memorable. Being remembered for your humour, your warmth and you intelligence will far outweigh being remembered as the person who slipped their manuscript to an agent under the toilet cubicle door.

When to follow up

If you have work submitted for consideration, the waiting period is an exercise in patience. Publishers receive hundreds of submissions but if three months have passed from the date of your submission, unless advised otherwise in the submission guidelines, you are welcome to send a follow-up email. Be polite and succinct with this email giving the details and date of the submission, and enquire as to when you can expect to hear the outcome.

If you are following up after meeting someone at a networking event, a week is an appropriate period to wait. If you see something online that resonates with a conversation, perhaps send the link along as a reminder. For example, it was great to meet you at the booksellers conference last week. I have just read an article on fish farming and was reminded about your mention of Paul Torday’s book Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.

If you’ve been invited to get in touch about your manuscript take care to send your best possible work. If your draft has been recently completed, be patient with the final edits. It is better to use the extra time to polish your work and show respect for the relationship than rush it in and rely on a new connection. While relationships matter, in publishing, the manuscript comes first. If you are going to be some time with the work, get in touch briefly to show your interest, for example, it was great to meet you at the booksellers conference last week. Thank you for your interest in my manuscript. As said, I am in the final editing stages but I will endeavour to have the pages to you by the end of July. If you require anything sooner, please get in touch.

Building relationships takes work, become a confident networker takes practice, but operating in a professional and polite manner should be instinctive.

Further resources

-          Networking Tips for Reclusive, Introverted Writer-Types by Peter M Ball http://goo.gl/Kh8OPu

-          How I Became the Kind of Person Who Can Work a Room by Kimberly Weisul http://www.inc.com/kimberly-weisul/how-to-work-a-room-the-only-strategy-you-need.html

-          Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman www.danielgoleman.info/topics/social-intelligence

This Writers' Guide is available for download here. You are free to share, copy and distribute this document. If you do, please attribute the work to Queensland Writers Centre, including our phone number +61 7 3842 9922 and website address www.qwc.asn.au.

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