Sunday, April 30, 2006

3... 2... 1... Contacts

Let's talk about networking and schmoozing.

There's a difference. Networking involves staying in touch with your peers, knowing who is doing what, trading industry buzz and leads and ideas.

Conferences and email are the preferred places to network. Gabbing online, or grabbing a beer and talking shop, will help you learn about the business vicariously---their experience becomes your experience. Writing is a solitary profession, and you should embrace every opportunity to compare notes.

Then, if a peer is putting together a conference, or editing an anthology, or gathering a line-up of authors at the local library, they'll (hopefully) keep you in mind, and you'll do the same.

Schmoozing is slightly different. Agents, editors, booksellers, sales reps, the media, and authors higher up on the food chain are prime targets for schmoozing. The reason is simple: They can do something for you.

Unlike networking, which is based on camaraderie, schmoozing is based on business relationships. The point is to present yourself as likeable, easy to work with, and professional. It isn't necessary to impress your peers. But impressing an editor, or your publisher's sales force, or a chain bookstore buyer, is something that can help you immeasurably.

Hopefully, most of us have reached adulthood with a sense of how to interact with others. But I'm still surprised by how many authors don't have social skills to match their talents. Sometimes it's shyness. Sometimes it's pomposity. Sometimes it's being oblivious. So let's do a quick Personal Interaction 101 refresher.
  • Handshake should be firm and quick.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Smile.
  • Listening has more power than talking.
  • Posture shows interest.
  • Compliments, flattery, and flirting in moderation.
  • Asking questions gets more people to like you than stating opinions.
  • Being funny is a plus.
  • Decent clothes, fresh breath, good grooming.
  • Remembering names and faces is important.
  • Be confident, not cocky.
  • Don't monopolize the conversation.
  • No one knows you're shy, so it's easy to fake confidence.
  • Pay attention to people's reactions.
  • Be genuine, be enthusiastic, be nice, and don't overstay your welcome.

I'm sure we all already know that stuff, and probably do most of it already. But it doesn't hurt to keep it in mind when you're networking, and especially when you're schmoozing.

Does this work? Absolutely. I've lost track of the number of opportunities that have fallen into my lap simply because I met so-and-so at such-and-such. I've landed events, publicity, media ops, anthologies, interviews, sales, appearances, blurbs, and so on, simply because I met someone somewhere and didn't piss them off.

I've pissed off a few as well, and while I don't recommend that as an ideal business model, I can honestly say that having detractors is a great way to get people curious about you, and if you're pleasing 100% of the people 100% of the time, you're probably amazingly boring.

On a semi-related note, if anyone is interested in arguing with me, or asking me any questions live, I'm the headliner in the next Writing to Publish chat, happening Monday, May 1, at 10pm Eastern time. You'll need AOL or AIM to join the chat (they are free to download.)

Here's the link: http://www.cuebon.com/ewriters/index.html

Hope to see some of you there!