The serendipity continues. At the MagNet (magazine publishing industry) conference in downtown Toronto last week, again someone beneficial sat down beside me. Again it was someone I had never met before, an editor at a literary journal in western Canada. She was looking for a writer to review mystery books for both their print and online versions. Now that will be me – I have the connections to get her published mystery books to review, the writing experience, and she says the journal pays – not a lot. However, there is another lead here. She is interested in reviewing any books/anthologies I have published and I am in an anthology, Gathered Streams ( Hidden Brook Press) coming out in July 2010. But if I file for future reference when I get my memoir published – here’s a connection to get the word out about my book. Of course, I’m still pitching agents but that’s a different story.
So how do you go about doing this when someone you don’t know sits down beside you at a conference? You introduce yourself – name and profession – and they will probably do the same. Then ask them about what they do and listen. Tell them a bit about what you do but don’t go into a long-winded pitch. At some point in the conversation, you can ask if they are looking for book reviewers; do they use freelance stories; or if an agent or publisher, do they represent/publish (science fiction, mystery, memoir, etc.) – or better, ask what categories they represent/ publish. Then say, “I might be able to help you here.” Here’s where you do a soft pitch and ask if you can followup by e-mail. And exchange business cards.
You can also do what I call “passive networking.” When you attend workshops/seminars, listen to the speaker(s) and take notes. And if there seems to be a possible fit with what you do, don’t bombard them with a lot of me-me questions during the lecture. Instead, go up to them after the seminar, introduce yourself, ask your question, and depending on their answer, let them know you will followup with an e-mail. And exchange business cards. However, if the speaker has valuable information for your writing, but their business is not for you (for example, you write memoirs but the literary agency handles only fiction) you would be wasting each others’ time if you spoke to the agent afterwards. If the agency does handle a range of genres, but the agent spoke only on pitching fiction and what the agency does for its clients, it might still be worth talking to the agent. If nothing else, he or she can give you the agency’s contact person for your book genre.
And don’t forget your colleagues. They may also be looking for agents, publishers or freelance writing work but they also have information and connections and so do you. You may benefit each other by talking. One writer may know someone who knows someone who… or maybe the contact you are looking for is the writer’s sister or an in-law. You know the old saying, “six degrees of separation.”
And I’m going to end on another platitude. Don’t be shy. Speak up. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.