Dear Miss Snark,
This might put me in the category of nitwit of the year, but I need to know so I don’t do the wrong thing. (close but no cigar)
I happen to live in the same town as a best selling author who writes books in the same category as mine. The author also started out like me, not that long ago, with little credential, but managed to succeed despite the overwhelming odds.
Speaking of these odds, as I begin the query process, little unknown me, I fantasize about a way to connect with this author. The author has connected with other popular novelists in the area (somehow she did it) and I’m wondering if there is a way for me to do same.
I have sent her a couple thank you notes after attending her talks—this is as far as I’ve come. I certainly don’t want to be a pest—and I have a real fear I will be perceived as one. After all, who the hell am I? I’ve even heard her comment about people coming out of the woodwork asking her to read their manuscripts—and she has to turn them down. (insert sound of ClueGong here)
I know I have no right to ask for anything. (insert sound of Clue Gong here) But I wonder, is there anything I can ask for? Anything I can do to facilitate a relationship without seeming like a desperate, needy, pest? The part of me that is supposed to be the fearless aggressive marketer sees an opportunity here—but I am having trouble identifying exactly what this opportunity is.
What can I do and if there is something to do, when, if at all, is it appropriate? Part of me thinks that this author was in the same position as me now, so maybe she will be willing to help—however, I’m not blind to the fact that approaching someone simply because you want something from them is never a good idea.
Thanks in advance for your snark-filled wisdom.
You are making the classic networking mistake of asking "what can you do for me" before you've answered the question: WHAT CAN I DO FOR YOU.
People will help people who have helped them. You can bet that if Miss Adventure wants her query letter read (this is an example, she's not an author) I'll do it, and do it happily. Why? Cause she's busily indexing this blog, even as we speak. She is helping me with a task that is of real benefit.
Similarly friends of mine in publishing are searching for jobs. I send them leads and intros as often as I find them. Will they be glad to do things for me if I need them? You bet.
The secret of good networking -which is what you are trying to do here- is to be of service to someone. You may have a connection that's helpful, useful knowledge, or simply the fruits of your labors.
If you see this author at events, pay attention to what she says about what she needs. Maybe she needs someone to answer her fan mail. Or an introduction to someone. Or you recommend her book for the One City One Book read...or something.
Networking is not about getting, it's about giving. The best networkers are the ones who think "what have I done for you lately", not the other way around. What is in your Rolodex that might help her? And if not her, then other authors in your town. I'm glad to help people who come to me with an introduction from someone in my network. I figure I'm expanding my reach.