Bill Bodden brings us the second post in the guest blogging series, on the topic of networking. Bill is a great writer and a really splendid guy whose story “In The Shadow of His Glory” is the dark heart of my first anthology, Sidekicks!
It would be no exaggeration to say that 90% of the writing work I’ve had in the last five years has come through networking. To paraphrase the old saw, (in my case, at least) it really is all about who you know. I’m writing this from a writer’s perspective; pretty much everything applies, with only slight variations, to illustrators, editors, graphic design/layout professionals, the whole gamut of folks involved with publishing books.
As a freelance writer, I scour the web for open calls for fiction, but in truth, I somehow miss most of the ones I would be interested in. As a no-name writer, I very rarely get invitations to submit stories to anthologies. Besides the depressing work of sending out stories and waiting for the rejection letters, I’ve found that I can keep my writing skills sharper if I continue to work as a freelancer.
I’ve recently finished work on a couple of different table-top RPG projects, one of which I was recommended for by a friend. After I completed my assignment, I was given more work by that firm, so I must have done an okay job. I know the developer of the second project personally, and he very graciously farmed some of the writing work for this book out to me.
So how does one get to know people in positions like that? Buy them a drink at a convention. Chat with them; strike up a conversation about puppies or the stock market on aluminum siding – whatever. If they’re gamers, play games with them. Find something you’re both interested in and talk about it for a LITTLE while.
Remember your manners.
Also, remember that this isn’t all about you. Ask them questions about stuff they’ve mentioned; ask what they like to read. You know, carry on a conversation. If it comes up, mention some writing work you’ve done that’s appropriate, but absolutely don’t lead with that information; it sets an impossible standard for the rest of the conversation. If someone else introduces you and THEY lead with “This is Bob Schmalkald; he had a story in the anthology What the Hell Is This? by Editor X,” then go with that, but be prepared to move immediately on to talking about something else.
Then leave. Don’t follow them around from panel to panel; don’t barge in on their dinner party and expect to be invited along as they’re leaving for the restaurant. In short, try — try really hard — to NOT act like a stalker. Being memorable is good, but being memorable for not being a creepy, clingy jerk is much, much better. If you run into them later, great. Chat a bit more maybe, then go chat with someone else. Don’t monopolize their time, and know when to back off. If they happen to invite you along, great; they like you.
Remember your manners.
After the convention is over, friend them on Facebook OR Twitter OR Goodreads. Don’t friend them on all three on the same day – remember that warning about not acting like a stalker? Yeah. After a week or two has passed it’s probably okay to friend them elsewhere, particularly if you’ve been interacting.
Eventually, you’ll be networking without even realizing it, swapping business cards with editors, publishers, and other writers. This is good. It gets your name out there so people will remember you, and think of you when they have a project and need some help writing it. People will actually check out your work, and talk about it with each other. That part is the icing on the cake.
Perhaps the most important thing about networking is this: Deliver what is asked. There is nothing — and I mean NOTHING — that will get your name spread around faster than being on-time and on word-count for a project. If you sign a contract stating that you’ll have 50,000 words typed, double-spaced on 60-lb. linen paper by tomorrow, you’d better do exactly that. Read your contract and know what it means before you sign it.
And remember your manners.
Bill Bodden has been a freelance writer since 2002. Most recently he has had a story included in Sarah Hans’ anthology Sidekicks! from Alliteration Ink, and upcoming credits in the Achtung! Cthulhu Keeper’s Guide plus several as yet untitled projects. You can check out his work and his weekly blog at http://billbodden.com/