February 28th, 2008
It’s Who You Know-or Is It?

I was reading a blog yesterday that was written by an unpublished author. This author had gone to a lot of trouble to build a readership and get a quote for her unpublished work. One thing in one the posts really caught my eye. It had to do with connections in publishing. I read the comments and several referred to needing connections in one form or another in order to get published. This got me thinking about how different people approach publishing and the myth of the secret handshake.

When I first started writing seriously around 2001/2002, I never thought much about connections within the industry. I realized that it was a good thing to meet editors if you could, but I also knew that it wouldn’t guarantee you anything. The only thing it did was get you read a little faster…maybe.

So I was a little surprised about the emphasis on connections in the comments. Does having connections help? Sure. Do they get you published? No, not in my experience. If you’re not famous, it always comes down to the book, timing, market needs, etc. I’ve met a lot of editors over the years. I’ve had drinks with some, exchanged business cards with others. I received invitations to submit my work, which was great. But never did I EVER expect a sale to come from socializing.

Now maybe I’m completely talking out my arse. Wouldn’t be the first time and I doubt it’ll be the last. *ggg* Maybe there are writers out there who received their deals strictly from their connections. I mean I’ve heard the stories about Angela Knight having her work passed on by a friend, but if I’m not mistaken, she’d already been published in various arenas by then. She wasn’t an unpublished author when Berkley called.

So my question to you all is, do you know of any unpublished authors who’ve received book deals because they’re friends with the editors?

20 comments to “It’s Who You Know-or Is It?”

  1. No. Connections can certainly help you maybe get a toe in the door, but if you didn’t write a good book, it’s not going to help you sell.

    I’ve met editors that I’ve liked and we have a good repour, but that doesn’t mean they will buy my book. They MIGHT read me faster but that doesn’t guarantee me anything but possibly a quicker rejection. 🙂

    The only thing I can see connections helping with if an editor is putting an antho together and your name might come up in their minds as a possibility. Connections can offer you opportunities that maybe you wouldn’t have had before, but it DOES NOT guarantee you anything.

  2. Vivi, LOL on the quicker rejection. I agree with you about connections offering opportunities, but that tends to only happen once you’re published.

  3. Without the writing, all is nothing. No one is in this business to do favors. They bank on what they believe is a good investment, period.

    However, meeting editors of whatever genre you write in can get work read from time to time. It’s also fun because then you can hear gossip and know who people are talking about. Honestly, it’s work!

  4. Uh, that last line should read: Honestly, it’s the work. 🙂

  5. Well, I do remember going to a workshop at RWA National one year that was led by author Kresley Cole and her Pocket editor, Lauren McKenna. Lauren met Kresley at a conference pitch appointment, and they figured out they’d both attended the U of Florida, so when Kresley sent in her ms., she wrote “Go Gators!” on the envelope, which Lauren said made her laugh and read it immediately, because she remembered Kresley. Does that count as a connection leading to publication? I feel like I’ve heard at least a few stories like this one — but in the end, it really comes down to what you said: The quality of the work and the current market needs. If Kresley Cole had written a crappy book, or one in an overly tired genre, her “Go Gators” wouldn’t have gotten her anywhere.

  6. Jo, *No one is in this business to do favors.* This is what I believe, too. I think it’s good to make contacts, but you can’t ‘expect’ anything from them. If something good comes out of the contact, then great.

  7. Jo, No worries, I knew what you meant. *g*

  8. Catherine, No, your example is what I noted about contacts getting you a quicker read. If Kresley’s book had sucked, Lauren wouldn’t have bought it no matter how much she liked Kresley personally. It’s business.

  9. I haven’t heard of those specific types of deals, but I know that it can sometimes get you in the door with agents. In fact, some agents themselves will say that if you are recommended by one of their clients they will read your work faster, or with more care, or more of it at once, or whatever. That said, one such agent did admit that he had never taken on a writer that his clients had recommended, even though he gave them a greater chance, because in the end he just didn’t connect with their books or whatever. I have a feeling that contacts help more afterward, in providing blurbs for each other, promoting each other’s work (as you often see authors doing on their blogs), etc. But that would just be a guess on my part.

  10. Caryn, I would actually agree with you. I do believe contacts help more after you’re published than before. I’ve heard that many times with agents, including the answer the agent gave.

  11. If a publisher, editor, or agent has experience with your work, I can see them taking a longer look at it. Other than that, I believe you’re right, Jordan. They can’t wave a magic wand and make bad writing good; but if it’s good writing, having a friend on the publishing end couldn’t hurt. Maybe that’s what the lady meant.

  12. “I read the comments and several referred to needing connections in one form or another in order to get published.”

    I’d like to personally squash this perpetual idiocy. I sold my first two books without knowing or having met anyone in the publishing industry. I was a housewife with a subscription to Writer’s Digest. That was it.

    I did make the networking rounds the first few years after my first novel was published, but I never landed a single job. That includes belonging to three writer organizations and going to about twenty cons, and talking to or pitching about a hundred editors.

    All of the editors and clients who have approached me with job offers (regular and WFH) know me solely from my published work, my old web site and/or the weblogs. That includes jobs I took writing for Eric Flint from Baen, a novel series for Guideposts, and a blog post that ended up in a how-to antho for Philip Martin/Scarletta Press.

  13. “do you know of any unpublished authors who’ve received book deals because they’re friends with the editors?” No. And that’s sure not how I got my contract. I’ve been asked “what was your ‘in’?” more times than I can count, and of course, there was no ‘in.’ I think the connections myth is so strong because people don’t like the reality – that you have to query and revise over and over until someone caves in, you or an agent/editor 🙂 Yeah, that’s a lot less glamorous-sounding than the rumor that networking can get you sold, but it’s still how it is 99% of the time.

  14. If getting published depended on who I knew, I would’ve given up before I started. I sold pieces without knowing anybody (count me as another unknown with a WD subscription), submitted queries and mss. to major publishers without knowing a soul or having an agent, and when I eventually did sell my novels, I still didn’t know anybody. This sounds like the mythical Secret Handshake of Publishing.

  15. Bernard, No, I don’t think that’s what they meant. It was implied that ‘the in’ made the difference and that the treatment should be better because of it.

  16. Lynn, ***I’d like to personally squash this perpetual idiocy. I sold my first two books without knowing or having met anyone in the publishing industry. I was a housewife with a subscription to Writer’s Digest. That was it.*** I think sometimes that the internet hasn’t done a lot of writers any favors because they get the wrong impression by reading various publishing stories. It’s so easy to read a story where an author talks about meeting an editor and boom a deal happens. Very rarely are the ‘behind the scenes’ things discussed in these fairytales. (ie rejections, this being the fourth editor you made contact with, twentieth manuscript, etc.) I started taking classes without any knowledge of RWA. Came to them late.

  17. Jeaniene, I can’t believe that people are asking you about your ‘in’. (shakes head) Yes, the truth is far from glamorous.

  18. Charli, I went the contest route and didn’t know a soul. I was dumb enough to throw anything out there. Lucked out more times than not. Of course there were those years of writing classes…;)

  19. Connections had absolutely nothing to do with my getting started on my ebook career.

    In a round-about way, knowing somebody might have helped with getting pubbed print, but not through anything I did. I was friends with a couple of people who knew an editor at Berkley. They mentioned me to her. She checked me out and then contacted me. But I never in my wildest dreams expected or considered something like that happening.

    And I didn’t ‘use’ those connections. They just mentioned me.

    One thing that WILL help is being professional. Because both of these friends that passed my name on wouldn’t have done it if I was unprofessional. It’s that image thing again. 😉

    The conclusion I’ve come to is that getting pubbed has do with luck, timing, and hard work.

    I lucked into getting my book in front of a person who loved it @ EC.

    I got into EC right when erotic romance was taking off and that definitely played into things.

    Over the next couple of years, I had a book out with my epubs every 4-8 weeks, busting my tail to build a ‘name’.

    I tried to maintain a somewhat professional image.

    All of that was what led the two friends of mine to passing my name onto that editor.

    You can know all the people in the world, but if you don’t work hard, if you don’t carry yourself online somewhat professionally, and if the book you have doesn’t appeal to an editor, it doesn’t matter who you know or don’t know.

  20. Shiloh, I agree online image does come into play. Your friends mentioned you to an editor after you’d sold several ebooks. (And we’re glad that they did or we couldn’t have Through the Veil to look forward to. 😉 I’ve heard of that happening many times, but not with unpubbed authors.