Many writers break out in a cold sweat at the thought of networking with literary agents, editors, and even other writers…because they don’t want to brag about themselves. But in today’s publishing marketplace, a little bit of boasting can be necessary to succeed as an author—especially if you’re attending a writers conference or writing a cover/query letter. Here’s how to talk about yourself and your accomplishments while networking—without feeling like a self-centered show-off.
Why You Should Give Yourself Permission To Talk About Yourself
You need to stand out! The publishing field is overflowing with writers just like you. So how will you get your “publish me” message across to your peers or superiors if you don’t claim your accolades? It may feel uncomfortable at first, but with a little practice, you’ll be able to brag without being a bore.
How to blow your own horn—without being a blow-hard:
Claim your successes. If you’ve spent any time on social media, you’ve probably encountered a “humble brag”—a person masking a huge accolade in some petty complaint. For example: “It’s so annoying when fans paw at me for my autograph as soon as I step outside.” Sometimes the humble brag can make you seem even more smug than if you had simply acknowledged your success! Be direct and honest about your successes instead of trying to disguise them. At the end of the day, people will be more turned off by duplicity than by earnest pride.
Tailor your achievements to your audience. Instead of firing off a full list of all your accomplishments to anyone who will listen, consider the situation you’re in or the person you’re talking to. For this moment, in this context, what will be most relevant to mention? Using this technique will benefit you in two ways: You’ll come across as more interested in the person you’re speaking with, and the odds of him or her remembering you in a positive light will increase. Learn more about working a room full of literary agent and editors.
Acquire a wingman. Really can’t bring yourself to brag? That’s okay. You might feel more comfortable with a trusted friend or colleague who can help you or even do your bragging for you. Arrange to attend gatherings with your wingman (or wingwoman!) and talk each other up to the people you meet. This works for many writers because they find it easier to praise a successful friend than to boast about themselves.
Share your gratitude. If someone you’re speaking with expresses awe or seems impressed by your accomplishments, be sure to express how grateful you are for your success. Mentioning thankfulness for the recognition of your accomplishments helps ensure you won’t come off as conceited or ungrateful.
QUESTION: What’s your go-to technique for talking about yourself and your achievements?
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Great post! I’d add one thing: Beware of the 1-Upper. Whether it’s you or the agents, editors or publishers you’re dealing with. We all have met the 1-Upper personality. You tell them how you can, humbly and conservatively, write 1000-words in an hour. Inevitably they can do 1100 words in 50 minutes. Don’t let the 1-upper irk you and potentially ruin an opportunity. Instead, smile and show a bit of awe that they’re so skilled. Finish by saying, “Perhaps you could teach me a few tricks to write as fast as you?” Most people love to talk about the things they love to talk about. Manipulating the 1-Upper in this fashion can get you far more benefits than calling his bluff or acting angry. I only say this because I have personally experienced a similar situation in which I failed and lost a very lucrative contract in the process.
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