Is Schmoozing the New Way Into Traditional Publication?

I recently raised the question: Is the Query System Dying? And in response, I mentioned that writers may need to look for new ways to relate to agents (i.e. via social media or conferences.) If agents and editors have an overwhelming number of queries and manuscripts to look through, it stands to reason they’d be more inclined to give priority to people they “know.”

If mingling with industry professionals can help give us an advantage, then that begs the question: Is schmoozing the new way in the door of traditional publication? Do writers who “hang out” with agents and editors on blogs, twitter, or even at conferences have an easier time getting in the traditional publication door?

In a post titled “How to Attract an Agent,” agent Wendy Lawton said this: “I like to see queries from writers whose names I recognize because they Twitter with other writers, they comment on writer blogs or they follow a number of my writer/agent/editor friends on Facebook. (And yes, we all notice names that appear regularly.)” (Emphasis mine.)

More and more often, I hear stories of writers getting agents because of twitter or blogging. So, my friends, times are indeed changing. And we need to be willing to roll with the changes if we hope to keep up. But does that mean we need to turn to schmoozing, stalking, brown-nosing, and groveling to get published?

I have to be honest. I’m not very good at schmoozing (aka being nice and flowery to someone in order to get something I want). The very thought of resorting to schmoozing sounds as appealing as the root canal I’m going to need soon.

In fact, back when I was agent-hunting, if I’d had to turn into a groveling, sappy, “I-love-you-and-you’re-the-best-agent” kind of writer, I don’t think I could have done it. I would have respectfully declined to participate in the schmoozing party.

But is that really what it takes? Do writers have to ingratiate themselves to industry professionals in order to get published? Or can we take up the new methods of relating and getting noticed without having to schmooze?

Here are just a few of my thoughts (besides writing an outstanding book, which is a given):

1. Make YOUR web presence the focus.

In other words, use social media effectively and consistently. Write great blog posts. Start to make a name for yourself. Stand out from the crowd. Tweet interesting things. (All of which, by the way, is great practice for what we hope to accomplish with our published books.)

When you work at increasing your web presence, then people will begin to talk about you. Your name gets splashed around cyberland. You become someone that agents will recognize, not because of all your schmoozing, but because of your strength, your professionalism, and your magnetism.

2. Be confident in who YOU are.

I love what James Scott Bells says in his book, The Art of War for Writers: “To keep from turning off those who can publish you, you must not be desperate . . . There are many ways writers can give off the sense of desperation. And believe me, agents and editors can pick up that scent from a distance.”

Yes, I recommend commenting on agent blogs, retweeting them, and interacting with them throughout cyberland. In fact, I go as far as suggesting specifically getting your name and avatar in front of the agents you hope to query.

But . . . I caution against coming across desperate or trying too hard. Professionals will be attracted to those who exude confidence and professionalism. Those are the kinds of writers they’ll want to invest in long term.

3. Know when you’re REALLY ready to increase your efforts.

Yes, conferences can be a good way to get your work in front of agents and editors. But the costs can be prohibitive. If finances are a concern, I suggest waiting until after you get consistent, objective feedback that your work is of publishable quality before investing the money in a conference.

And while I do think there are a lot of benefits to starting social media early in a writing career, I don’t think there’s a lot of benefit to investing a TON of time and energy into it until you’re further along. After all, if you get an agent’s attention but your work is still amateur, you might possibly end up doing yourself more harm than good.

~My Summary: Although at first appearance it may seem like we have resort to schmoozing to get noticed in today’s tight publishing market, we can take a different approach. We can stand out, stand tall, and stand proud. If we do that before publication, then we’re setting the pattern for later.

What do you think? Have you ever felt the pressure to schmooze agents or editors to get noticed? Is there a better way in to get a foot in the door? If so, what?


  1. Thanks for covering this topic Jody. It becoming clear there is no formula to reaching publication, save strong writing. That makes this road a bit narrow at times, which is why the social networking aspect appeals to me.

    I appreciate the connection between writers, and the well of informatio from agents to keep my eye on the prize.

    I do plan to use my blog, twitter presence and facebook family of friends to enhance my goal, but only in a sincere way.

    I will carry this post with me today.

  2. Schmoozing seems so fake to me--at least if you are doing it just to get noticed. I see no problem in following an agent online in order to learn about them. Sure, retweet them if you really like what they have to say. Go ahead and comment on their post if you have something to contribute to the conversation. But to do it because you want them to notice you, well, it reeks of FAKE-ness.

    And I want to be real. When the time is right and I have something to say--and something to "sell"--I will join in the conversation.

    Interesting post, Jody!

  3. I've been thinking about this too. I would never want to schmooze someone or be fake, but there are some agents who I don't have a problem telling them I love their blog or I think they're really nice. If it's true, it's not schmoozing, but at the same time, I'm nervous about having them need to recognize my name to stand out. That means more conferences, less standing against the cyber wall shyly.... people complain about the query system but I still think it's the "fairest" route.

  4. Love your thoughts, Jody! The publishing world is such tricky place to maneuver around. I find it difficult at times to take a step back and remind myself to simply be myself. And like you said, stand tall and stand proud. I do think we writers can try too hard at times and that is usually met with disappointment. So, we should set a course to follow and then stay the course. And of course, we shouldn't be afraid to adjust in small ways as needed.

  5. Good topic. I'm not a shmoozer. I'm me and I always have been taught and believe that it is enough to be ourselves and God will honor us that way:)

  6. This is such a great, balanced post. I think some people are really good at being genuine in their schmoozing. I feel self-conscious and awkward and so I tend not to do it. This post makes me feel less worried about that. Thank you for that.

  7. I think schmoozing is the way to get ahead in many areas of life, and yet, I'm not good at schmoozing. And I've watched the best. :)

  8. Great points, Jody! I hate the idea of schmoozing, and I've compared the whole process to an awkward junior-high dance. But I agree that it seems to take more than just sending in a query and waiting for a reply. I like how you've defined the difference between schmoozing and having an active web presence that exudes confidence.

  9. This has been on my mind a fair bit lately. It's nice to see how others view the need to be noticed, without being seen as just vying for attention.

  10. Yes, agents are at conferences but they hang with their clients and other agents. I would never force hang out time. It doesn't work like that.

  11. I get a little swish inside my stomach whenever I sense someone is desperate and fake toward someone in hopes to gain something.

    I'm the weird one that prays for numerous agents, even ones I don't plan on querying. I pray for them because I've met them and they've left an impression on me. I pray for an editor who wanted my proposal and then retired. I think about her. She can't give me anything now and yet she impacted me in a such a way I pray for her.

    I love remembering that everyone in this business is human. I love finding confidence in God. When I do that, I don't need to look for it to come from anyone or anywhere else.

    ~ Wendy

  12. In the end, I think it's the writing that is going to stand out from the crowd. Social Media is a great place to connect with people. I guess I'd say just be yourself out there, and make sure it doesn't eat to deeply into your writing time. Thanks, Jody!!

  13. This is great, Jody. I totally get what you're saying. It's like this little cocky/humble twist you've got to perfect.

  14. To all the people talking about not schmoozing and just being yourself, you have to remember that yourself is a writer. Talking about the things you love with other people who love them too is not fake. It's called being human.
    If you come off as the human sales-pitch, sure that's going to be a turn off, but talking with people in the industry about your writing doesn't have to be unnatural.
    Just communicate, people. It's not a crime.

  15. I'm going to agree with this Jody. While I'm a published author I am currently without an agent. One I friended on twitter made a random comment about a book idea. I , loving a challenge like I do, engaged her for more info. Then a fabulous idea and character began to emerge. I told her briefly her response was " interesting can't wait to read more."

    However, my intentions were purely innocent. I didn't engage her for the intentions of representation. I'm just sassy is all. LOL


  16. Very nice post. I'm going to tweet it.

    I have no experience in this area, so I'm not going to try to contribute to the discussion. But I wanted you to know that I enjoyed the article very much!

  17. I think people can smell honesty a mile away. I think agents are looking for real people to build real relationships with. The only place schmoozing will get you is in the rejection pile. ;)

  18. Love this topic!

    I think there is a difference between schmoozing and building a good reputation. In today's publishing climate, it's smart to get our names in front of agents and editors by responding to their blogs and tweets. However, our efforts shouldn't solely focus on those who can help us. That's just creepy!

  19. Hi Jody! Great post! I think there's a difference between schmoozing and honestly seeking publishing information and relationships. I know that I go to writer and agent blogs because I honestly thirst for information-- but the fact that these people know my name and see me around online probably benefits me as well as they recognize my name. I think agents and publishers can honestly tell between people who are seeking information and who are just going to their blogs/ building the relationship for their own benefit.

  20. Great insights as usual, Jody.

    In the days when I was seeking an agent, I was uncomfortable with the idea of schmoozing. I focused my attention on writing the best story I could and finding ways to get it in front of agents and editors. I figured that was what would capture their attention. In my case, that's what worked.

  21. I SO agree about schmoozing. In fact, I'm so afraid I'll be interpreted as schmoozing that I talked with 3 different agents at conference and never said a word about myself or my book. I just smiled and waved. :P I'm sure there has to be a balance ... somewhere in there. :)

  22. Jody, I'm so glad you addressed this topic in your post. I know writers feel pressure to schmooze agents or not even go that far, but simply make some sort of acquaintance with them. And I feel it can go too far sometimes.

    However, I feel making your presence known in some way to an agent is a good thing. Even if it's simply by commenting on posts, participating in contests, etc. Being on an agents radar can help when you finally do get a meeting with them or your query in front of them. But beyond that, I feel most agents are professional enough to take on clients they know are willing to commit and clients who have strong writing.

  23. I appreciate your insight as always. :) I have a question... you wrote, "waiting until after you get consistent, objective feedback that your work is of publishable quality..." How do get consistent, objective feedback? (My blog is not a writing blog but I would love to turn it into something publishable one day...)

  24. Interesting topic.

    Now more than ever I believe you need to make your presence know and not only for the obvious reasons. There are thousands of accomplished writers out there and you are competing against all of them.

    So, yes, I believe there needs to be a certain amount of smoozing...

    It's like what they say.... "It's not what you know, it's who you know."


  25. I'm so glad you covered this topic because every time I read something that says I need to schmooze--be it for publishing or agent searching, or else my day job--my heart sinks. I HATE it.

    I really, really believe in standing tall and proud. This has been my philosophy in blogging too. Other bloggers have way more followers and comments a day than I do, but I want to make sure I'm authentic. That means not trying to be someone I'm not.

  26. It's more important to build relationships, be real, attend conferences. I attended one Mt. Hermon conference that made a huge difference for me. That was James Scott Bell's mentoring group that I was a part of in 2006 or maybe 2007.
    I'd also been to many other conferences and studied the craft for years. And even though it is expensive to attend conferences, try to find one close to you. It may not be this year, but maybe next year.
    If you can get into a conference where they offerning mentoring groups you can learn a lot fast. But it doesn't guarantee publication. Opportunites will present themselves. Will you be ready?

  27. To be honest, you summed up my feelings about this issue perfectly. I don't think I would make the best schmoozer, but I'm happy to throw my comments into the ring when I really have something to say. :-)

  28. I'm so glad you brought this up. Yes, I do feel pressure to schmooze - and I hope I'm avoiding it. However, I feel it's difficult to even be friendly toward agents and editors (like I would be toward anyone) without causing schmoozing suspicions. ;)

    About conferences - I've found them very helpful, even though I'm not ready to pitch/workshop. The classes/presentations are tremendously informative. Cost can be an issue - but one or two a year is managable, and even the less expensive conferences are good for an encouraging push in the right direction.

    Thanks, as always for the excellent post.

    Have a lovely week. :)

  29. I'm not a fan of schmoozing or stalking. The one and only conference I went to my roommate literally stalked an editor. She was under the impression that this is what had to be done. I remember thinking I'll never get published if that is what it takes.
    Thanks for the post.

  30. Angela C asked: How do get consistent, objective feedback?

    My Answer: Angela, I think this is going to vary from writer to writer, depending upon our situations. But I'm referring to our non-blogging writing--our books or stories. Getting feedback on that writing is really important. Here are a few places writers can look for objective and qualified feedback: contests, freelance editors, or critique partners/group.

  31. I'll be sure, when the time approaches, that I'll start leaving comments on all the agent/editor blogs I visit.

    I'm not a schmoozer either.

  32. Great topic, Jody. I detest the whole concept of schmoozing. Even the 'it's who you know' thing makes me uncomfortable.

    The poster above my computer says, "Be yourself. An original is always worth more than a copy." As a preacher's wife I've done my share of struggling with how to be myself in an acceptable way. Faking interest in others or saying things that I wouldn't ordinarily say, for any reason, isn't being authentic. If I thought that was what it was going to take to get published I'd probably give up on my dream. And if I thought any of my occasional comments on an agent's blog could be construed as schmoozing, I'd die of embarrassment. I have enough trouble speaking to publishing professionals at conference appointments, so cyberstalking is way beyond me!

    I love interacting with the writing friends I've made online and I hope those relationships are never tainted by the ugliness of ulterior motives.

  33. It's amazing how quickly the industry seems to be changing. Thanks for sharing!

  34. What an intriguing topic, Jody. (And, no, I'm not schmoozing you. ;) )

    If I'm honest, I'd have to agree with you that I'm just not capable of schmoozing. So maybe my opinion is self-serving, but I want an agent who is selective and able to distinguish between schmooze and genuine interest. Most agents whose blogs or tweets I read seem like savvy people and I wouldn't expect them to fall for schmoozers. Gotta love that word though!

  35. Thank you Jodi - I am constantly thinking of this. My question is this - what are interesting Tweets that can get you noticed? I follow lots of writers and agents who tell me about what they had for lunch or what their cat is doing. If I have to smooze, is that superficial stuff necessary? I wish we could go back!


  36. Hi NicCher,
    You raise a great question! I think that there are a lot of different ways to build a web presence on Twitter, or to become a strong Tweeter. For example, some writers tweet links to very helpful writing posts or industry news.Others offer writing tips. If you have a particularly helpful post yourself, then tweet the link. Ask questions of other writers. Participate in some of the writing hashtag forums (#litchat, #amwriting, etc.). I think there are a lot of ways to grow your presence on Twitter, but it requires some savvy and networking. And yes, I do think we should share some of our every day lives with people, because we want to relate in real ways to people too!

  37. As a veteran of the non-publishing business world, I can say that schmoozing doesn't work there. Stands to reason that it doesn't work in the publishing world, either. People are people. Desperation (for a job, for an agent, for a publishing deal) can be smelled a long way off by anybody in a position of "power." Your advice to be confident in who you are applies in ALL worlds. Great post.

  38. I think you lead by example in how to do this right! Wait a minute, that sounded like schmoozing!! :) But it's true, nonetheless.

  39. I agree with all of your points, especially point 3. I went to the Writer's Digest Conference this past weekend. I just wrote a post on my blog about how I was one of the few people not participating in the pitch slam. I didn't pitch because my book isn't ready. I'm blogging and tweeting to get myself out there, but I'm not trying to get an agent's attention until I have a great book to show them.

  40. I think we'd all like to think that the best writing wins over the best schmoozing. I guess it's not always like that. You've got a good point about not too much web presence as was the talk on the WriteOnCon live chat last night.

  41. Awesome post, Jody! Definitely agree that you can get your name out there in front of agents and publishers in a positive way that's NOT schmoozing.I've thoroughly enjoyed getting to know other writers (published and unpublished) and gleaning from their experiences as well. Can't say enough about getting counsel! Have a wonderful week! God bless!

  42. Hi Jody -

    Wow, what a hot topic!

    I'm not into schmoozing anyone whether it's a fellow writer, an agent, or an editor. As with blogging, it's all about relationships and caring about others.

    Schmoozing is using. I can't imagine that would be pleasing to the Lord.

    Susan :)

  43. Great topic and very true. I have met some wonderful agents and editors at conferences who requested my books. And I learned a lot from workshops on synopsis and query writing. In the end, my book is what landed me a contract. I'm still working on making internet connects. But I'm very grateful for them. That's how I found you!

  44. I don't recommend schmoozing just for the sake of schmoozing - if it is a fakey, suck-up effort that is going to show and put people off. Simple, genuine interaction however is a good thing and can never hurt when done sincerely.

    I remember way back in the days before internet when I sent a query to HQ. I was asked for the manuscript and went back and forth with some revisions before being ultimately rejected. I sent in another query a few months later and got an almost immediate and personal reply - the time after that as well. Why? I can only imagine because they recognized my name.

  45. Great discussion, Jody.

    I don't think of it as schmoozing as much as being part of the community of writers and joining the conversation. When writers join us at the virtual water cooler we get to interact with them and see how they think while there's nothing at stake. It's so organic.

    Think of a dating situation. Which is more likely to result in success, a pre-set blind date or meeting and observing someone in a natural setting with lots of other fun people?

    We can all spot insincere schmoozing and agenda driven interaction. I'm not talking about flattery, I'm talking about coming to admire a person for the way they think and the content they add to the conversation.

    Great blog! (Did that sound like schmooze?)

  46. Hi Wendy,

    I like your analogies! For me, twitter is definitely like hanging out at the water cooler, and it IS a great place to interact with a variety of people, including industry professionals.

    I agree that our connections can evolve out of the natural relationships we build. It takes time and often stepping out of our comfort zones. We have to be willing to join in at the water cooler in a genuinely friendly way.

    Thank you for your additional insights and for swinging by!

  47. Thanks, Jody- I'm new to the whole social networking thing and am a bit intimidated by the art of 'schmoozing'. For me it just doesn't seem natural or right. I think a writer's work should stand for itself but on the other hand, it helps to be recognized.
    It's a narrow road we walk, but I also compare writing to 'rowing a boat in the ocean.' You never know if you're actually making progress. Thanks again.

  48. Hi Laura!

    I like your comparison to writing being like rowing a boat in an ocean! Very good analogy. Progress in social media is very hard to quantify, partially because there's such a snowball effect to it. But I've learned that the longer I'm rowing, I can begin to see how far I've come! Wishing you all the best!

  49. Wonderful article, Jody! You're right, having a good web presence can do a lot for a writer these days. I'm glad you gave a little mention about conferences because they're a great way to expand your contacts. If you have the finances, do it and always go prepared, these are very professional events. You should have a sample of your book, business cards, and something you can give away.


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