The Importance of Being Connected: How to Make and Maintain Industry Contacts
This article was contributed by YPG member Mackenzie Brady. If you are a YPG member and would like to contribute articles on publishing-related topics for our site, please contact Stephanie Bowen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Publishing is a relatively small, and therefore, very intimate industry. As anyone who transitions to publishing from an unrelated field certainly knows, it is a tough nut to crack. So here’s Nutcracker 101: it’s all about who you know.
Authors need to know the right agent to represent their work; agents need to know which editors will like their projects; and editors need to know which publisher will support their literary visions. Getting to know the individuals that make up the tight-knit community is a vital part of becoming a successful publishing professional—and the earlier you start, the better. Here is a list of some effective (and sometimes unconventional) ways to establish and nurture professional publishing relationships.
How to Connect:
1. Attend a writer’s workshop / conference. Not only do these events offer critical insight into the current publishing landscape in the form of agent/editor panels, but they also give you an excuse to travel and talk books with a variety of interesting people in the industry. Some conferences are genre-specific, like CrimeBake held in New England (www.crimebake.org), while others, like Writer’s Digest Conference held in NYC (www.writersdigestconference.com), cater to individuals interested in all forms of writing. Some other workshops and conferences to look into include Sewanee Writers Conference in Tennessee (http://sewaneewriters.org), Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Vermont (http://www.middlebury.edu/blwc), Art and Craft: Northwestern Summer Writers’ Conference in Chicago (http://www.scs.northwestern.edu/summernu/programs/writers.cfm), One Story’s Workshop for Writers in Brooklyn (www.one-story.com), and many more (view www.newpages.com/writing-conferences or http://writing.shawguides.com for additional conferences and writers’ workshops).
2. Join the AAP’s Young to Publishing Group. Not to toot YPG’s own horn too much, but joining this group is a smart first step in meeting a huge range of publishing professionals at AAP member publishing houses who already share your interest in networking, exchanging professional insights and improving lives through literary-oriented service projects. Attend Brown Bag Lunch (BBL) events to hear publishing experts’ thoughts and wisdom on specific industry issues, come to a happy hour or social event to mingle with your colleagues, join a book club, or volunteer for one of the many worthy causes YPG Cares supports, and remember as you make friends: YPG members can be each other’s best resource.
3. Get to know your bosses (and other people within your own company). Top publishing professionals weren’t always that way. They worked their way up from the slush pile to their current position, just like you’re trying to do now. The benefit of your bosses having been around the block is that they have met a lot of people and often are willing to help you meet them too. If you are interested in learning more about a position, whether within your current imprint or outside your company, don’t be afraid to email colleagues and former/current bosses and ask if they would be willing to connect you with someone for an informational interview. Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. People in our industry can be very supportive of newcomers, and sometimes your most valued connections will not come about the usual way.
How to Stay Connected:
1. Utilize Social Networking Sites. Join Twitter and Facebook so you can like, follow and tweet about and with agents, authors, editors, publishing houses, literary magazines, newspapers…any and all sources of industry news. Join publishing-oriented groups on LinkedIn such as the Women’s National Book Association, Book Publishing Professionals, Publishers & Booksellers Association, The Writers’ Network, Children’s Book Illustrators & Authors, Goodreads, Publishing Perspectives, Cover to Cover, The Book Lovers Group, or others. Through social media, you can stay abreast of what people are working on, what they care about, and what’s the latest buzz. This will prove very useful if and when you meet up with other publishing people. You need something to talk about.
2. Attend Industry Parties/Events. Indie bookstores like Books of Wonder (www.booksofwonder.com), HousingWorks (www.housingworks.org) and McNally Jackson (http://mcnallyjackson.com) often host authors for readings or signings. Agencies occasionally throw industry get-togethers like FinePrint and Nancy Coffey Literary Managements’ bi-annual Children’s Publishing Party. Ed2010.com offers a mentorship program and industry happy hours. These events are a great way to relax with like-minded people, see what they are up to and keep in touch.
3. Ask acquaintances to coffee/lunch. Publishing is a busy industry, but we all need a dose of caffeine and food to refuel, ergo the power-lunch. If you meet someone in the industry that you’d like to get to know better, email the person and ask to grab a quick drink or bite. The worst that could happen is they say no. If not, then you’ve already got yourself a quick and efficient way to maintain a professional relationship!