Welcome to guest writer, Nichole Reber, who stresses the importance of writers networking with one another.
Don’t let working alone work against you
Professional competition can make the freelance or the literary writer do better work. More often than not, however, that competition ends up looking petty. For writers to network is a good business practice. Yet how do we know if we’re protecting our best interests and or just being selfish?
The Well, MediaBistro, SheWrites, as well as writers’ conferences and groups like Chicago Women in Publishing, or your weekly writers meetup, were designed as writers’ networks. So aren’t they the best places to find the editorial contact or the best publisher to place our work?
Connecting and sharing with other writers has helped me so many times, it’s difficult to remember any bad experiences. One fellow writer was too busy with her own projects to help a publisher with its proofreading needs, so she suggested me. That one contact brought six months of income. In another case, when my new expat friends in China discovered I had been a freelance writer before moving there, word spread and, within six months, I was writing for four magazines and two publishers.
Journalist and travel writer Candace Dempsey can relate. “I broke into the New York Times because of the Well, where I first encountered the editor of Motherlode. Of course she wasn’t the editor then, but just another writer and we were all encouraging each other. I remember when she got the job interview, in fact.”
Marisa Wikramanayake, a freelance writer who runs a gorgeous web site for writers, concurs: “Be educational to work with and know. Don’t be selfish with what you know. If I can help a client out with some information I will… If my friends need to know something that might help them, of course I will tell them. I often learn a lot through the process of helping and teaching others.”
Only one per life preserver
We all know that the life of a writer and gleaning those resources we so desperately need isn’t always kumbaya. We’ve also experienced times when reaching out left us high and dry.
Susan Blumberg-Kason, whose travel memoir comes out in July 2014, recalls just such an occasion. “I had a neighbor from when I was young (and actually babysat this guy) who wrote a China memoir a few years back. When I asked him who his agent was, he refused to tell me! I was just curious. And of course I found out (the agent) when the book came out.”
I experienced something similar with a travel journalist I approached a couple years ago. Hoping to break into a travel magazine he’d sold some pieces to, I asked him if he was willing to give an email address for the editor. Absolutely not.
Why? Why would a writer not share a contact? Could another writer steal our entire career because we share an editor’s or an agent’s name? This is networking. Everyone in every business has to do it. From the lowest rung on the ladder to the pinnacle. No one got to where they are by living in a vacuum, or without help from others.
Many fit in a lifeboat
Still, people run rife with paranoia and avarice. As one person told me, he never reveals his editorial contacts. He worked too hard to procure them, he says. Sharing them would allow someone else to get off easy. It’s a circular argument. One that actually proves my point. Perhaps if he had learned to connect earlier in his career he wouldn’t have had to work so hard to gain the sources he now has.
When I do think back to encounters with miserly peers, the memories still sting. Most of my experiences have been with sharing, though. Sharing experience and giving a writer the contact info s/he needs to get into a publication might help launch that writer’s portfolio to a whole new level. She’ll remember you for that. She’ll also, likely, reciprocate because successful people surround themselves with knowledgeable people. It’s not a matter of owing someone. It’s not a matter of thievery. It’s a matter of decency. And I hope that decency comes your way soon.
Nichole L. Reber likes sharing stories about writers who’ve recently had their book accepted for publication, thereby empowering others to do the same. She is looking for an editorial contact to pitch a story idea at Poets & Writers magazine. Her freelance journalism and literary writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Florida Design, Perspective, and EastLit. Follow Nichole on Twitter or Facebook.