Writing might be a solitary activity but making a career out of it definitely isn’t. Kirsty Logan tells us how to attract potential publishers without sounding like you’re on commission and explains why guzzling the free booze sometimes makes the wrong impression…
Don't be a hermit.
There are very few guarantees in the world, but this is one: no one will knock on your front door and offer to publish you. If they do, either they're a con artist or you're already famous for something else. Success is much more likely if you network, and you can't network by sitting alone and not talking to anyone.
It's great to network online, but it's important to get out and meet people face-to-face too. Get yourself on Google and see what's happening in your local area. Literary festivals, reading events and book launches are all excellent places to start. If your hometown has a good arts scene, there might even be specific events for artists and writers to network. Follow local writers and publishers on Twitter and engage them in conversation – if you meet them, you'll already have a connection.
Get some business cards printed. They don't have to be anything fancy (MooCards have lovely vintage typewriter and punctuation designs). Keep it simple, and don't cram in unnecessary text – just your name, email address and the word “writer”.
Prepare an ”elevator pitch” (so-called because you can say it in the time span of an elevator ride). This is a concise, exciting, easy-to-understand description of your novel in a few hundred words that you can use to answer the question "So what's your book about?"
Make sure all your social media profiles are up-to-date, and don't put anything on Twitter or Facebook that you wouldn't want a potential publisher to see. The day after the event, look up the people you met so that you can email or tweet them –don't be a stalker, just say it was nice to meet them and you hope to bump into them again.
You are not a salesperson.
It's good to be prepared, but you don't want to seem desperate or rude. If you meet an agent or publisher, do not immediately launch into a sales pitch. They're people too, and don't want to feel used. It's far more important to come across as professional, friendly, and generally the sort of person that they might like to work with. Even if you don't mention your novel or writing project at all, that's okay – your goal is to make them remember you in a positive way.
Listen more than you talk.
This is good advice not just for networking, but for life in general. Show a genuine interest in people's lives.
If someone isn't a hotshot agent or publisher, don't dismiss them – the worst thing you could do is lose interest as soon as someone says they're just the intern. When talking to someone, don't look over their shoulder to see if anyone more important has arrived.
Just because there's alcohol, doesn't mean you have to drink it all.
This is particularly true when the booze is free. It also applies to food – canapés are tempting, but small talk through a mouthful of smoked salmon is not classy. Feel free to eat and drink, but remember your table manners, and don't act like you haven't had a square meal for weeks.
Networking might seem scary, but I promise it's not difficult: just be polite, be friendly, and be prepared.
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Image by ShellyS available under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.