Does the thought of going to a cocktail party of strangers make you break out in hives? Writers are not always confident when it comes to networking with literary agents, editors, and other publishing industry professionals. But at writers’ conferences, events, and meetings, you can give your writing career a big boost if you know how to work a room. Our techniques for successful mingling and networking will help!
Know Before You Go
- Do your homework. Research the organization(s) involved in your event and some of the people you hope to meet. Review any applicable websites. Moreover, have a clear idea of what you want to get out of the situation. Do you hope to meet three editors? Are you looking to meet other writers to share your ideas? Have a flexible goal in mind.
- Mentally prepare. A good technique is to imagine that you are at YOUR party. Imagining you’re the host will make you comfortable and confident enough to approach people and be engaging.
- Have a plan for coping with stress. Take a deep breath—in through your nose so you don’t trigger a “fight or flight” response that could bring on panic. Also, keep things in perspective: What’s the worst that can happen? If you mess up one event, you can often try again at the next one.
- Make a pact. Promise that, no matter what, you’ll be the best version of yourself. Be genuine, be confident, be warm. And remember: People want to meet you as much as you want to meet them!
- Bring your business cards.
- Don’t go to a networking event for self-promotion or publicity, which can be uncomfortable for all parties involved. Go with the intention of forming exciting new relationships. Then, see what happens!
Read more: Making the Most of Writers’ Conferences.
Introduce Yourself: Start Off On The Right Foot
- Make meaningful eye contact and smile.
- Call names. Use a person’s name in your greeting to make him/her feel connected to you. No harm in glancing at a name tag when you do this!
- Go for a brief and memorable introduction. For example, “Nice to meet you. I write provocative short stories. What do you do?” Being a bit unusual invites questions so you can continue the conversation, and the person may remember you better later.
- Make chitchat—mention the venue, the lecture, the discussion. You don’t want to appear uptight, so try a little small talk. As much as possible, keep it positive and light (unless you know the person you’re speaking to quite well).
How To Talk About Yourself Without Annoying People
Bringing up your good points is not as complicated as you think. You are not bragging. You’re selling yourself and your skills. There’s a difference.
Pitching yourself is all about preparation. If you’re pitching a book, keep it short. Just mention the highlights and consider practicing beforehand so you sound confident. Have a list of 3-4 things you want the person to know about you and/or your work.
And change your attitude about selling yourself—you’re not boasting, you’re asking for consideration in a confident manner. You wouldn’t mind helping someone if they came to you and you were in a position to help, would you? People want to help if they can.
Finally, understand that networking is about starting and then building relationships. It’s a process. Ask for a business card and follow up a few days later with an e-mail: “Hey, it was so nice to meet you the other day. I really enjoyed talking to you about…”
For Heaven’s Sake, Don’t…
- Drink too much alcohol. This is your career! It’s not time for happy hour.
- Drone on! Keep it short and sweet.
- Look around the room to see who you want to go talk to next while having a conversation.
- Wear anything too revealing or too casual.
- Answer your cell phone. If you answer your phone or even look at it during a conversation, you are just telling the person you’re talking to that (s)he is less important than your call or text.
- Tell jokes, especially off-color ones. Not the time, not the place.
- Forget to listen! I can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen nervous writers speak according to a script rather than listening and answering the question asked.
Read more: Ten Things NOT To Do At A Writers’ Conference.
Can’t make it to a writing conference or real-time event? Fear not. You can always network with agents and editors online. Wherever you’re networking, stay calm and you’ll do great! The more often you network within the publishing industry, the easier it will become. You’ll begin to recognize familiar faces, and you may even make some new friends (not that we’re suggesting you give up writing in your pajamas or anything!). At Writer’s Relief, we can’t network for you. But we can open doors for you by targeting your submissions to the best literary agents and editors. Contact us to learn more!