A popular post from October 2008
By Josi S. Kilpack
First, get out there.
Second, learn to smile
Third, wear perfume or cologne
Forth, act interested in other people and get their contact information
Fifth, find out what they want and help them with it
Sixth, be patient, it's a number game but you gotta play if you wanna score.
Now, wait, you weren't thinking I was talking about--oh you bad, bad, blog-reader! I'm not talking about that kind of lucky, the STD type of lucky, I'm talking about getting your lucky writing/publishing break. Shame on you!
This blog is all about creating your lucky moment, your big break, your connection that then leads to another connection that down the road puts you exactly where you want to be. Lot's up and coming writers justify the success of other writers by their being in the right place at the right time, or knowing the right person, or being at the right conference. Usually, they say this in a whiny tone of voice, consoling themselves with the misconception that because they weren't as 'lucky' as someone else, they missed their chance. Lame! And I'm gunna tell you why.
Right now, Julie Wright, a writer on this blog, is living it up in New York and hopefully not annoyed that I'm telling people that. Oh well, I'll choose repentance over permission this time. Julie is in New York because she is attending a highly-respected and very hard to get into writer's conference where she will be surrounded by editors and agents of some of the largest agencies and publishing houses in the country. They are very particular about who they allow to attend, she had to submit writing samples and wait a very long to time to hear that she was able to go. Then she had to plan a trip in 3 weeks and get everything ready to present. You can look at her current situation and think "Dang, she's lucky." You can think that, but you'd be wrong.
Julie isn't lucky (go to this post from a couple weeks ago for confirmation), she is brilliant. Brilliant because most writers have never heard of this conference and therefore wouldn't know to apply. Brilliant because most writers would be scared to death to submit a writing sample to be evaluated because they could very well be told they aren't good enough by some highly-respected judges. Brilliant because in the years I've known Julie, she's attended five times the writing conferences I have, knows hundreds of people in the national writing market, and despite having a hundred or more rejection letters in her file, she still goes to conferences, submits writing samples, and hob knobs with the mucky mucks of her market. Brilliant because instead of justifying other people's success with the idea that they were in the right place at the right time, Julie has consistently put herself in as many of the right places as she possibly could so that when the right time came, she knew what it looked like and got it's name and number.
If you want to achieve your writing goals and have ever said that someone else succeeded because of luck, or being the right place, or knowing someone, or simply by chance--then consider the following factors that can up your chances exponentially (I don't actually know what exponentially means, but it's a very, very cool word and makes me sound smart until I explain that I don't know what it means)
First--Get out there. Attend conferences, send queries, go to critique group, leave comments on blogs, have cards made up with your contact information. If you stay home and do none of these things, you'll never meet people, you'll never learn to network, you'll never gain confidence in who you are, you'll never perfect your elevator talk or learn to interact with all kinds of writers and publishing professionals. It's the law of the harvest--you reap what you sow. If you plant nothing--meet no one, go no where, comment on no-blogs--then you reap nothing--no Friends in the business, no name recognition, no card file, no inside knowledge. It has nothing to do with writing skill and technique (though they are important) but getting out there is about becoming part of the club. People talk about an 'old boys network' in pretty much every industry. And they do exist, however, in writing, it's an open invitation. Anyone can join, you just have to meet the rest of the people in the group. Writer's moan about being in the slush pile, but they put themselves there by doing nothing. Many writer's avoid the slush pile through having connections--but that doesn't happen in their kitchen.
Second--Learn to smile. Smiling isn't just about pulling up the corners of your mouth and showing your teeth, it's about attitude. It shows you're happy, it makes you inviting to others, it invites a good mood around you. When you're 'out there', having a smile on your face will increase your ability to meet other people to an incredible degree. It's the first step to being nice--smiling. And you should be nice.
Third--Wear perfume or cologne. This goes along with the smile, you want to be inviting. You don't want to smell like a cheeseburger or yesterday's shirt. You want to be confident in your presentation and that means not offending anyone's senses. You can take this a step further and brush your hair, stand up straight, choose a colored shirt that sets off your eyes. You're not going for super model here, but details are the difference between good and great--work toward great. Now, I know there are people out there that are allergic to perfume and Cologne--don't give me excuses. The point is, you want to be inviting. Stink is not inviting.
Fourth--Act interested in other people and get their contact information. Do not--DO NOT--simply advise, talk about your own book, tout yourself. Ask questions, find out what other people are doing, ask about their goals, how they got started, where they see themselves in ten years. Not only does this make them connect with you better, but you could learn a thing of five. Instead of being set on inspiring them, look to be inspired BY them. After meeting them and learning what they do, get their contact information and store it in a card file. You never know when that information might become very valuable to you.
And by people, I mean beginning writers, advanced writers, published authors, editors, agents, conference coordinators, spouses of all these people, marketers, the guy at the registration table. EVERYONE is someone worthy of your time. Julie knows, literally, hundreds of published authors and hundreds of writers who have yet to finish their first book. She could name three dozen agents off the top of her head and tell you what they publish. She goes to national conferences and goes to lunch with top authors in her market. She has their phone numbers and e-mail addresses and she knows if they are married, single, with kids, love dogs, are vegetarian, or vote republican. She knows these things because she's met them and she pays attention to them. Not every one of them have been responsible for a positive turn, but several of them have, and many are yet to play their hand, but they will. One thing she said about this conference she's attending now is that it's the first conference she's ever been to where she didn't know anyone, let alone forty people. But I can guarantee that when she gets home, she'll have fifty new contacts to add to her Rolodex.
Fifth--Find out what they want and help them with it. If you know someone that would be helpful for the situation of someone else, refer them there. If you know a book or a resource that would help them, share it. Some writers hold onto their advice as if by sharing it they will suddenly lose their place. That's silly. Be open and helpful and encouraging to other writers any way you can. Notice, this came after the advice to listening to the people you meet tell about themselves. That is not a coincidence.
Sixth--Be patient. Don't look at the people you meet as your ticket. They are people, not printed slips of paper, and be genuine, but realize that it can take time to develop a network and to feel comfortable in certain settings. This goes back to putting yourself in lots of 'right' places. Go to conferences over and over again, go to blogs over and over again, look and listen over and over again. Give it time and be sincere, be open to learning new things and generous in sharing what you know, but don't rush through it--rushing will negate the genuine pursuit and you'll miss out on so many things you need to learn through this phase of your career. Once your published, don't stop. You'll still need those resources, those networks, and they will need you now and again to help them along.
It's my belief, based on watching many other writers use this formula and succeed, that following these six steps, coupled with good writing, will not only help you, but actually allow you to accomplish your publication dreams. You don't have to go to a dozen conferences a year, but you do have to go to at least one, and more if you can find those that fit your genre and your schedule. You will have to make networking a priority if you want to benefit from it, and if you do, one day someone will tap you on the shoulder and say "Hey there, my name's Opportunity. I heard about you from so-and-so who was introduced to you by what's-his-name--in fact, it seems that a lot of people know who you are. Wanna get lucky?"