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?
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