Despite the online connections for writers, sometimes the face-to-face can be better. Or why would writers still join writers critique groups and professional organizations? True, most of them have online communities but they also meet in person. As a writer who belongs to perhaps too many writing organizations (Canadian Authors Association, Professional Writers Association of Canada, Crime Writers of Canada and my own writing critique group, East End Writers’ Group), I think I have somewhat of an insight on this.
When I meet and talk with other writers at a Canadian Authors Association meeting, not only can I put a face to a name, but I feel a closer connection. The person is flesh and blood with all the individual quirks – a toothy smile, a shy disposition, and yes, even someone who bombards you with writing questions. And here is the core – the personal exchange of writing information – style, writing methods, marketing, etc. – and the opportunity to connect on a deeper level than online. I’ve connected with publishers and agents this way (yes, I know there’s Twitter, but you are limited to number of characters and the agent or publisher can’t see your passion and neither of you can get a deep impression of each other). In person, you get a chance to really talk to the agent or publisher about your book. It doesn’t guarantee the agent will take you on or the publisher will sign a book contract on the spot. But it provides you with that connection you can use in your query letter. I talked to an agent at a couple of writing workshops (one with the CAA and one with my EEWG) – the result was a fast-track to get my query and days afterwards, my memoir in for scrutiny. Although she read it sooner than unsolicited manuscripts, she did reject it but not as bad – she said my voice was really good and original but the memoir was too long. She suggested dividing it into two books, which I’m now doing.
The bottom line is – besides the personal connection, you get quicker response and if not a contract, some useful information instead of the form rejection letter.
It’s not just connecting with agents or publishers at these gatherings, but other writers can be helpful, too. If they already have an agent and/or a book or books published, they can give you advice based on their experience. For example, one published novelist I know fired his agent when his second book was published. The questions here could be: did he dislike what his agent was doing or not doing? Did he think now that he had a publisher he didn’t need an agent? And a well-published author might be willing to read all or part of your manuscript for criticism and possibly pass a good word along to their agent. You never know, especially if you just sit in front of your laptop and don’t get out there beyond your local coffee shop.
Next week I’ll write about how an in-person writing critique group can help writers.