By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund
If you're like me, you'd like to believe that we have the ability to forge our own way and make our own success on talent and hard work alone. We hate when we hear stories about people who make it to the top on the coattails of someone else, because of WHO they know, rather than WHAT they do.
Such instances seem completely unfair. Why should others get to bypass honing their talent and forgo hard work? Why should they get to fly to the summit rather than having to make the steep uphill climb like the rest of us?
I'm the first to say that talent and hard work are the building blocks of success. If you don't have a least a modicum of natural ability and aren't willing to work hard, then it isn't going to matter who you know and the doors they open for you. If you don't have a well-written book or a excellently told story, no one will care.
Let me say it again. Working hard, learning all you can, writing prolifically, and honing your talents are the KEYS to success for any writer.
But . . . sometimes WHO you know can help you advance, at least advance a little faster.
Over the years, I've developed many friendships with a wide variety of people in the publishing industry. And I've benefited from those relationships in MANY ways.
Obviously, it goes without saying (but I'm saying it anyway), that it's completely selfish and unprofessional to develop a friendship for the sole purpose of what you can get out of the relationship. Whether in a marriage, business partnership, or casual friendship, it never works (or at least for very long), when one person is doing all the giving and the other all the taking.
We can't seek out others to suck them dry. Any healthy relationship has to have mutual respect with clear boundaries.
All that to say, if we're seeking out relationships in the industry solely for the purpose of building our career, eventually that will backfire, people will sense our motivation, and we'll find ourselves alone and disillusioned.
However, if we're working at building mutually beneficial relationships, we will indeed find that those relationships can help us in many ways.
Here are just a few of those ways:
1. Relationships can open the door for critique partnerships.
All of my critiquing relationships have come out of friendships that I've developed. After a time of getting to know people, it's much easier to evaluate potential critique partners–their skill level, work ethic, genre knowledge, and reliability. A partnership that evolves naturally will probably be more trustworthy than one that comes out of a cold call.
2. Friends can offer important advice.
This is one of the areas I most appreciate about friendships. I've recently had to turn to veteran writers for advice on changing agents. And I've been so grateful to already have connections in place with wise authors I respect. They were able to counsel and encourage me through the tough decision. I'm grateful to have friends I can turn to in times of need. And I hope that I can be there for other writers too.
3. Sometimes friends can give us referrals.
I would NEVER encourage anyone to befriend someone for the purpose of asking for a referral either to an agent or publisher. I think most authors take the same position as me–I won't refer anyone unless I have the opportunity to evaluate their book. The sad fact is, I rarely have the time to read and evaluate for friends.
And the other issue with agreeing to read and possibly refer, is that it puts me in an awkward position of having to judge someone else's work. If a writer is clearly not ready for publication, then I have to bear the bad news. So most of the time, I avoid putting myself and others in that kind of predicament by simply steering clear of reading for referral purposes.
But on occasion, referrals can happen. I do make them. And friends have made them for me (in fact a friend recently referred me to her agent). But it's not something anyone does lightly.
4. Friends are more likely to offer endorsements.
I'm regularly asked to read books for endorsement purposes. While I consider it a great honor with each request, I also can't read every book of every person who asks for an endorsement. I'm MUCH more likely to agree to read the book of a friend rather than an acquaintance or stranger.
5. Relationships can provide new and important social media opportunities.
I've found that my friendships and acquaintances have led to many social media opportunities that I wouldn't have had if I'd stayed a hermit and holed away in my writing cave. I've been asked to guest blog, have been interviewed, had important book reviews, and have linked with fantastic promotional opportunities–all because of various connections I've made with people. I haven't necessarily sought those opportunities out. But they usually came as a result of being active and developing relationships with others.
My Summary: We can never skimp on working hard, learning, and always writing, writing, writing. But . . . in the process, we can't forget that we need each other too.
How about you? In what ways have you benefited from friendships with other writers? Do you think there's a right or wrong way of going about developing relationships?
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