Networking Is Half the Battle | Guest Post by Josh Funk

It’s hard to get up the nerve to network. But networking is so incredibly helpful on the road to publication. Don’t get me wrong, you still need to have talent, work hard, and get a little lucky. A publisher probably won’t buy your book simply because you’re good at networking. But a publisher will never buy your book without seeing it.

A lot has happened to me since I last guest-posted here at Writers’ Rumpus. In a the past 5 months, I became represented by a wonderful literary agent and received offers on two picture book manuscripts. (I also dropped the pseudonym Papa J Funk.) And I’m not going to say my success is because I guest-posted here. Well, actually, I am … a little bit.

Beginning at the 2013 New England SCBWI Conference, I started rubbing elbows with everyone I could. I volunteered. I read a working manuscript at the open mic. I walked up to strangers to introduce myself. I’ll be honest, it was scary at times. But I returned home with a huge collection of business cards (and shared dozens of my own).

Papa J Funk Old Business Card

One strange fellow I met was Rumpus Writer Paul Czajak. Long story short: here I am, guest-blogging … for the second time.

Paulprofile - crop
Author Paul Czajak

That collection of business cards led to an increased digital network on Facebook and Twitter. Those e-friends shared publisher open submission windows, and one even gave a glowing personal recommendation to that splendid literary agent.

Volunteering and hobnobbing helped me find and found new critique groups. Those additional critiques led to improved manuscripts. And that manuscript I read at the open mic? LADY PANCAKE AND SIR FRENCH TOAST is currently scheduled for a September 2015 release from Sterling Children’s.

I can’t tell you how to network. You’ll have to find what works for you. But here are some tips and options:

  • Personal: Get out there.
    • Go to conferences. Go to writing retreats. Go to workshops.
    • Introduce yourself to everyone. Sit with people you don’t know. Force yourself to meet new people. Push yourself to get out of your comfort zone a little. Most people (at least in the kidlit world) are usually pretty friendly.
    • Make sure to bring business cards so you can stay in contact.
    • Have an elevator pitch ready.
    • Chuck Sambuchino of Writers’ Digest suggests these five in-person networking tips for writers.
  • Virtual: There are virtually (hee hee) an unlimited number of  ways to connect with people online. Some say “do them all!” But I find all the choices can be overwhelming. I’d personally recommend starting with Twitter and Facebook. Regarding all the others, I’m of the mind that you should only do what you feel comfortable doing.
    • Twitter (at least nowadays) is the forum of choice for many literary agents, publishers, teachers, and librarians. I’ve heard countless stories of writers and agents finding each other through Twitter.
    • Facebook is a great way to stay in contact with others after those conferences and retreats are over. Via Facebook friends I heard about agents and publishers accepting submissions, awesome workshops to attend, and I could even post questions when needing advice.
    • If I had to pick a third, I’d say GoodReads, as it is book-related.
    • Other Social Networking: It doesn’t hurt to try Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Google+, Mammoth, WordPress, or any of the other ones you find out there. But only do what you like. I’ve been told it’s better to very involved in one than not very involved in many.
    • Social Networking specifically for Writers: I don’t participate in any writer-specific social networking other than SCBWI. But there are lots out there. I’ll leave it up to you to Google them.

Writers are shy. That’s why we write, rather than act, dance, or ride bulls in rodeos. But talent, hard work, and luck account for only half of the road to publication. The other half, at least in my opinion, is networking.

How do you network as a children’s writer or illustrator?

21 comments

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  2. Great post! Networking is not only good for one’s career, it is just plain good for the soul. I began blogging and networking via social media very recently. I have met some truly fantastic, talented people. Writing can be a lonely profession, so it is nice to have a support system of people who “get” you. I also find comfort in the fact that many of the people I meet are as weird as I am (sometimes weirder). Congratulations on your two upcoming books!

    Michelle

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  3. Josh, I am glad you met Paul, too, or I may have never met you!!! You are one rockin’ crit group member and a super talented author. I am honored to rub elbows with you! Thanks for encouraging us to network. Running a blog and website, and making Pinterest writing boards are rewarding ways to network creatively. I second that 12 x 12 has changed my writing life and opened up so many professional opportunities! I love Goodreads, FB, and Twitter, too!

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  4. Thanks for your post. NESCBWI is the best! Lot’s of networking going on. Talking or schmoozing isn’t one of my problems-I’ll be at the registration table in May! See you there.

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  5. I WANT to network, even though sometimes it is difficult. But it is more to enmesh myself into the writing community as much as possible. And you definitely learn about the business. If it were not for SCBWI and critique groups where I learned of my publishers, I don’t think I would be published. Thanks for this great post, Josh.

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    1. That reminds me, I actually *do* like networking, too. Outside of everything writing (craft or business) – on a personal level I’ve made some really great friends (and e-friends) entirely due to ‘not being shy and getting out there.’

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  6. It IS tough to put yourself out there–whether writing or simply saying hello. And it’s absolutely worth it. Glad you reached out, Josh–I’m sure your enthusiasm and confidence inspire more people than you are aware of. And for anyone who’s going to be at the NESCBWI conference in Springfield this May, come to the Open Mic that Josh is helping to run on Saturday night. It’s going to be a great place to network, and to practice introducing yourself to a roomful of strangers.

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    1. Thanks again for inviting me, Marianne. And yes, if I wasn’t clear THE MANUSCRIPT I READ AT LAST YEAR’S NESCBWI OPEN MIC WAS SOLD 6 MONTHS LATER!

      So who’s it gonna be this year?

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  7. Great post. It’s not easy to get out there and network, and sometimes you have to force yourself to do it, but it does get easier and easier. I’m sticking with SCBWI as well and a few study groups that focus on craft.

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    1. Wait, 50 + 95 + 88 + 23 = 256? Maybe math is different when you’ve got degrees in psychobiology, classical civilization, and higher education administration.

      I would say this: The more you network, the more you increase your luck…

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      1. It can’t exceed 100%, but those numbers do fluctuate as you juggle your writing life.
        And now you posit a direct correlation between networking and luck – that calls for higher math indeed!

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  8. Thanks for the great post, Josh! I’m glad that Paul met you and brought you into our on-line critique group. You’re really good at finding the good in a manuscript and making it better. In terms of networking, Facebook groups and Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 forum have changed my life as a writer, for the better!

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      1. It’s true, he saw me huddled, alone over a beer at the bar, afraid to talk to anyone or even make eye contact. He helped me break out of my shell.

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