It’s Not What You Know It’s Who You Know


First, let me start by saying that I am officially a dud. I am, at this very moment, sitting in a crowd of people at an Outlaws arena football game (who my brother-n-laws play for professionally) with my lap top, editing my manuscript and thinking only of my blog followers! I asked my husband if he could do something about the ridiculously loud music they are playing between the plays because it is distracting me but he said I’m just being sensitive. Hmpf!

Now that I’ve vented, let us get to the topic at hand. Whether you are self published or on the path to finding an agent, as an author, we all want the same thing – for our work to be noticed. For over a year now, I’ve been sitting quietly in my living room in small town USA screaming into cyberspace for someone to give me a chance, sending out queries, writing revision after revision of my synopsis, trying out new hooks on different agents and hoping to somehow stand out from the rest of the layers in the slush pile. Maybe that’s you too?

Representation is the golden egg to writers, for many have written yet few are published. To quote Alexandria LaFaye, an author I met recently,  “less than 2% of the world is published!”  This leads me to believe one thing, there is some truth in one of those old cliche’s we writers try so hard to avoid.

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

I’ve been blessed and honored to meet many published authors, either through conferences or festivals and each time I do, I ask them the same question. “How did you find representation?”  Nearly every author I have asked tells me they secured an agent or editor through a meeting, conference, pitch session, contest or through a connection they made with another author. Not with a query.

It’s the unfortunate truth. Trying to find an agent can start to feel a bit like playing the lottery. I’m not saying it’s impossible but writers have to be realistic about the chances. Your manuscript is in a pile with many other talented pieces.  So what is the solution? 

Get to know people!

You’ll be surprised to find that authors and agents are -gasp– people too! I know, I know; writers are introverts by nature and face time just isn’t our thing (sorry if this stereo type doesn’t fit) but it’s time to get crazy and take a risk. Time to get out there and meet people that can teach us the things we need to know, point us in the right direction and sometimes even help us make career changing connections.

How you ask?

You have to leave your house and your comfort zone and probably your zip code. I’m talking conferences, literature festivals, writer’s groups, contests! Grab that paper bag and breathe in and out. It’s going to be okay! And here’s another thing, don’t be afraid to talk to them! What’s the worst that can happen? They might not have the time to talk. Maybe they won’t email you back if you take their card. But….WHAT IF THEY DO! It’s worth that chance isn’t it?

We have a whole summer of conferences ahead of us. Pick one and go! Make a family trip out of it. Make connections while you are there and challenge yourself to know and be known!


22 thoughts on “It’s Not What You Know It’s Who You Know

  1. Great post…I attended the Austin Film Festival for the first time last year, which has a magnificent screenwriters’ conference, and found it almost laughable to watch 400+ introverts try to socialize outside of whomever they came to the conference with.

    Some are better, some are worse, but as the four days wore on, a bond began to form that helped people open up. As well, the speakers were amazingly generous with their time and often stayed for the whole conference, willingly engaging the attendees.

    It’s tough, but as you say, you have to do it.

    • I’m going to a conference in St. Louis in a couple of weeks. I am not looking forward to the awkward stage but as you say, you have to do it to get over it! I’ll keep you posted on how it goes!

  2. It’s so true! I meant to respond to your last post, but the closest I ever got to selling a screenplay was going to a pitchfest. But it wasn’t just pitching that did it. I got a few reads from the event, but the one that almost sold was from a producer I actually had a good conversation with outside of the pitch room. Lesson: go to the mixers, go to the booths, go to the after parties, go to the awkward writer karaoke events that come with those pitchfests. And talk to everyone. I’m such an introvert too, and at first it was scary, but you do get used to it!

  3. Great Advice! And yes, writers are total shut ins. At least I am. Although, as much as I love your advice, I fear I fail at it everytime. Leaving my comfort zone pretty much never happens. Booooo!!!

  4. Totally agree. Also, beware of getting sucked into certain Creative Writing courses – I’ve recently completed my Masters and have made precisely no contacts whatsover. We were told the department had connections with literary agents, and that if our work was deemed suitable contact would be established. Not one student is represented by this agency. This suggests that not one student is deemed good enough by the tutors and a university more than willing to take costly tuition fees.
    Your advice, go out and meet, is totally correct. Do it! 🙂

  5. So true and yet so infrequently spoken about. I’ve heard the same things from published writers I’ve met. I’ve never considered contests and conferences as a viable of getting an agent before… but I think I need to change my mindset.

  6. Wow. Great post, and I think all of us have to just throw ourselves at it. But how tough if you’re not an eternal optimist. What conference do you plan to go to this year?

    I want to try it, but I don’t like the crowd thing and the typical way at selling. Still, I know what you’re saying about the comfort zone thing!

  7. Your post and its comments are all really interesting. I’m panicking at the thought of trying to sell myself, but you say it has to be that way. Publishing my book on my blog for free is tempting…

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