Monday, February 23, 2009

Networking through Submissions

I have always believed that networking in publishing is done with each and every query letter or submission you send out, that making a connection with agents doesn’t mean you have to attend conferences or meet them in person, it can happen and, frankly, should happen, through the work you are giving them. Which is why it’s always a bad idea to rail on an agent after receiving a rejection.

That being said, I’m always amazed when authors don’t want to use those networking opportunities to put themselves at the top of the pack. So here are some suggestions for networking through submissions:

  1. If an agent gave you positive feedback on a previous work and asked to see any future works, always, always include them in your next round of submissions (obviously as long as it fits their tastes). Think of it as a cocktail party on paper (or via email). When seeing an agent you met once before, maybe in a pitch appointment, you would probably go up to her at a cocktail party, reintroduce yourself, give some insight into your first meeting and then start a conversation. Submission networking is no different. Reintroduce yourself, remind the agent why you’re querying again and that she liked your work, and begin the conversation.
  2. Any time an agent gives you personal feedback or inspiration you should submit to them again. There’s nothing more frustrating for an agent than to hear that she really changed a person’s work and that the author later found another agent and sold. If you liked someone, felt a connection, and used her advice to make your next work stronger, or even your current work, go ahead and query again and let her know why. And yes, do so even if she didn’t specifically ask to see the work again. It’s networking, and as I’ve always said, what’s the worst that can happen?
  3. When making a connection or a reconnection give as much information as possible. We all have limited memories and it never hurts to have enough reminders so that we know exactly who someone is.
  4. No excuses!! I hear so often that writers are for the most part introverts and getting out there and networking is hard. Well, buck up, folks, networking is hard for everyone and you can sit around and use that as an excuse or you can learn to grow beyond it. If you want success in any business you need to learn how to network and put yourself out there. Publishing is no different.
  5. And lastly, have fun with it.



Anonymous said...

You make it sound so simple and logical. But... what if an agent who has given personal attention to previous work is no longer taking new clients? Should that be mentioned in a submission to a different agent within the same agency?

Kathleen Irene Paterka said...

Hi Jessica,

"Redundant". That's the word used in a rejection letter to me years ago by the first agent I ever pitched a manuscript to. I cringed, and I cried. Redundant? The word stung. After all, she was talking about "my baby".

But let's face it. Not all babies are cute. Parents' eyes are blinded by love, but the world sees otherwise. And after some time and space, plus some deep breaths, I came to see that agent was right - for my story WAS riddled with redundancies. And though at the time her criticism was difficult to hear, ultimately it made the story (and hopefully, subsequent works) stronger.

I'll be meeting with that agent at an upcoming writer's conference, and I intend to tell her what her criticism meant to me: "Thank you. It was exactly what I needed to hear."



Anita said...

It seems like networking is a lot about common sense and good manners. Even "introverts" should use good manners, right?!

An agent and her assistant recently spent a lot of time rejecting my manuscript (sounds kind of funny, but it's true). They gave me lots of great feedback, so when I resubmitted, I let them know they had an exclusive for a few weeks. Maybe they won't take me up on the exclusive look, but it seemed like I should offer it, just as common courtesy. (I think mom would be proud of my good manners).

Anonymous said...

On the other hand... I've had three or so editors tell me (through my agent) in a reject to send them "anything else I write," and it hasn't yet resulted in a sale -- and in at least two of the instances a ms was better suited for a different editor at the same imprint, but because of the "send me anything else she writes" was sent to those previous editors. And turned down flat.

I doubt Bookends does this, but there is a whole section of agents out there that encourage you to resubmit with vague statements like, "if your next book is more commercial." Then, when you do, a year later, their reply is sorry, "we're looking for something less mainstream."

In those cases I'd rather receive a form reject, I think. :)

Anonymous said...

I have a question. I sent my agent my revised manuscript three weeks ago and have not heard back yet. I know this is not uncommon but I'm wondering how long I should wait to give her a nudge?

Anonymous said...

A big palm slap to the forehead for me. I know this and yet I proceeded to query agents who had requested partials or fulls for a previous work without mentioning it. Even though I knew I should. Another slap to the forehead and a head bang or two against a wall. Truly a dumb move not mentioning the previous connection. Even after one of the agents went ahead and requested a full of my latest, I only mentioned the previous work after I goofed and emailed the first book rather than the newest that he wanted to see after he emailed me back to point out the error...and said he'd read that one too...and it was then I pointed out he had already read that one and passed...maybe that was a major faux pas as well? Haven't heard from him yet and it's been two weeks...still not much time to worry yet.

Elana Johnson said...

Very good advice. I've never thought of querying as networking. Thanks!

Kate Douglas said...

I'm still a relative new kid in this business, and I didn't realize it was actually networking when I go to meet a couple of agents at a conference--I just really liked them as people and we've kept in touch even though I have no intention of gettng a new agent. However, one of these agents has asked me, on a couple of occasions, to read and give quotes for authors she represents, which has led to my name and a few choice words on the covers for books of authors who are doing very, very well--good advertising for me, not to mention a chance to read advance copies of some wonderful books. You never know where networking in real life (not just submissions) will lead you, but it pays to get to know as many people as you can in this business, and to always treat them fairly.

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

Jessica, Thanks for reiterating this important point. Although I'm just about to hit the query road hard on my current book, I'm also writing like a maniac on my next project. I will make a list of all agents who reject me on #1 with positive words, and resubmit when I'm ready to query on #2. Unless, of course, I find the perfect agent for #1. ;-)Your blog is tremendously helpful and much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

There's a workshop in this for you somewhere, Jessica. You'd fill a room at any conference if this was the topic.

J Duncan

Carolyn V. said...

I just went to a writer's conference where they strongly recommended networking, not just with agents and editors, but also published writers.

But I have a question. What if I use a penname?

I have been using my real name at the conferences. Should I attend my conferences under my penname?

Wes said...

You offer sound advice. A well-known agent made suggestions for improving my opening chapters when she rejected my MS, and she was correct. I'm nearly finished with my rewrite, and I plan to contact her again before I query anyone else. I feel I owe her the courtesy after she made valuable comments to me, plus we already have a connection, if only by email.

Anonymous said...

When a well-known author gives you a referral, must you always use their name in future correspondence?
I got an immediate request from an agent, but didn't mention the name in the follow-up letter cuz it felt like name-dropping and I wanted my work to stand on its on merit.

Guess what? Not only was my ms. ignored, it was finally rejected.
Oh well...guess this biz does work on WHO you know.

Luckily my full is with two top agents now and I didn't have to resort to name-dropping!

Lisette Kristensen said...


Excellent post! Networkig is the key to everything, introvert or not is has to be part of the business of getting published.

One question, if you have a manuscript that is not suitable for an interested in agent, is it bad form to contact them and ask is there anyone in their office that handles that type of work?

Like a referral.



Lisette Kristensen said...


Excellent post! Networkig is the key to everything, introvert or not is has to be part of the business of getting published.

One question, if you have a manuscript that is not suitable for an interested in agent, is it bad form to contact them and ask is there anyone in their office that handles that type of work?

Like a referral.



Sookie said...

I left my writer’s orifice—er—office and attended a query-writing seminar last Thursday night, not only to learn more about queries, but to network. Color me surprised. A hundred and ninety five writers jammed to the rafters inside a small neighborhood library.

On the down side, everyone had many query stories, none of them good. One elderly writer in particular asked the published-author cum speaker, “What are my chances of being notice out of the slush pile?”

Ya know, there’s a lot to be said about the quiet pause after a question. Often, the real answer rests there.

I wanted to throw a bone in the direction of optimism and tell the senior, “Celebrate the small stuff. You finished a book. Many—most don’t.”

I saw with some hindsight that I should have. She left shortly after hearing the odds.

Anyway, the networking was super, the query information stellar. All in all, aside from the above mentioned heartbreaking moment, a successful night.

Confucius says; house without toilet is uncanny

Anonymous said...

I've always networked through submissions with editors. But to be honest, when I was querying agents, I didn't think of it as networking...and didn't think it was worth the time or energy.

And there's a reason for this. So many agent web pages and guidelines are blunt and stern. Follow my rules or else. I just read a blog post this morning on an agent blog that sounded as if this agent might need a career change (or she's been following the waffle truck too long). If I were still searching for an agent, I probably wouldn't query this one. And I know I wouldn't network with her.

I know there are agents out there who aren't like this (clearly, you're not; mine isn't), but so many are, and they usually seem to be the high profile ones on the web who post about what they want and how they want things done. As far as feedback goes, few offer anything worth reading...which is fine. You don't expect it from them in the first place.

What happens is you get this impression that "they" don't want to hear back, and you just don't bother.

Anonymous said...

Exactly! Most agents have this "What's in it for me?" attitude and rightly so, but they often forget the writer is a real person who slaved over the ms. and query letter, and only see it as one more message to delete or ms. to discard.

A word of thanks or appreciation: e.g. "Thanks for thinking of me" even in a form letter may help lessen the sting of rejection.

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

I'll try to get to the questions here...

If the agent is no longer taking on new clients you could still query. If she passes saying she's no longer taking on new clients then just query someone else in the office, but don't bother mentioning the previous submission. It makes the new agent feel second fiddle.

The problem with resubmitting isn't always that the agents lie and say at one point they're looking for commercial the next they're not. Instead what often happens is tastes and the market changes. And it can easily happen in one year. Listen, networking doesn't always help or get you an agent, but it can, very often, get you that foot in the door.

Of course you are more then welcome to not use the referrals, previous submissions or whatever to get your foot in the door. The thing to remember though is that in the end the ONLY thing that matters is your work. If you have an edge up to that point use it. Many of you complain that an agent won't even read your chapters, well here is a step in that direction.

Refer to my post last week on asking for agent recommendations, even within the same office.


Sheila Deeth said...

Makes a lot of sense, but the form letter rejections always feel like a "go away," so I just end up researching more agents in search of a better fit.

Jennifer Roland said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AC said...

So true, so true. Networking is an awesome tool in this industry. I've met agents and editors at conferences, now I've never worked with alot of them, but you just never know. I think its all about visibility and accessibility. I try to send thank you cards when my material is rejected, just to keep the contact open.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I didn't know some of that and I'm glad that you mentioned it.