How to Network with Publishers, Agents & Other Industry Professionals

Whether you’re hoping to work in the writing industry, or you’ve got a manuscript you’re hoping to submit, meeting professionals in the writing industry can really cement your career. It’s easy to forget that the whole industry is made of people—people who adore books and writing and words, and people who could adore you.

It’s always scary to put yourself out there, especially if you’re an introvert, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. Too many people let the fear of networking stop them, and if you push past it and try, you’re already beating them. Besides, publishers and agents are looking for up-and-comers, and they want to meet you as much as you want to meet them.

Identify Who You Want to Meet

The first step is to identify who it is you’d like to meet, both generally and specifically. The idea here is to give yourself enough knowledge about the industry so that you know what the people in it actually do. You’ll be way better off if you know the difference between an acquisitions editor and a proofreader.

Are you looking for publishers? Big publishers or small publishers, or are you willing to consider both? Do you need an agent? What is your genre? What is your target audience? Who publishes what you write? Who writes what you write? Which books cater to your niche, and who worked on it? Who else might be useful to know?

If you’re not sure where to start, a recent book that has been published for a similar audience to yours, and make a map of all the people you can find who worked on it. Make sure to find a book that was first published in your region, and try reading the acknowledgements  and searching for author interviews for clues.

All of these questions are relevant both for people looking to submit a manuscript, and for people hoping to work in the industry. Most professionals work in their own niche, and who might be helpful for one writer may not be helpful for another. Once you’ve figured this stuff out, you can start to think about which specific people you’d most like to meet.

Go to Writing Events

Writing conferences, festivals and events are the easiest way to meet writing professionals face-to-face. Whether they’re speaking or attending for their own professional development, they attend events like this with work in mind, and are totally prepared to meet and network with writers. Plus, the very fact you’re attending an event like this shows that you’re serious about your craft and you’re keen to learn more about the industry.

Events like this are also likely to be filled with people you haven’t even thought of networking with, like other creatives, or people who work for support organisations, or digital publishing experimenters, or publicists, or someone who might know that niche piece of knowledge you need for your manuscript. You’re also likely to meet other writers—both those who are a little further in their careers, and those who are at a similar stage to you.

So take a business card or your 30-second pitch, be polite to everyone you talk to, and listen as much as you speak. Don’t be afraid to go up to other people, because they’re all there for the same reason you are.

Look for Opportunities

If there isn’t a conference near you, there are tons of other ways to meet writing professionals and progress in your career. And don’t forget about the people with great connections who make things tick in the background, like writers centres and booksellers.

Go to writing workshops, online or in person. Follow writing support organisations online and subscribe to their email newsletters. Offer to volunteer for a support organisation or small local press. Go to the Australian Society of Authors’ literary speed dating events. Apply for programs like the ACT Writers Centre’s HARDCOPY program, and the Victorian Award for an Unpublished Manuscript. Submit to magazines with open calls for submissions, in the hopes that you might get to work with an editor. Send an email to a successful local author or a support organisation or someone with your dream internship asking for advice.

The point is do something. Reach out and make your bubble a little wider. You might not get to talk to the senior editor at Penguin Random House right away, but you could get to talk to an intern or someone who works in a small press. There are plenty of people in this industry, which is much wider than just publishers, and most of them are incredibly generous.

Reach Out Online

While nothing beats face-to-face contact, we’re incredibly lucky that we live in a world where everyone is just a click of a button away. Networking on Twitter is totally a thing, and a little online stalking can really result in a conversation or a small piece of advice with an industry professional. And even if you don’t get to talk to them personally, it might give you an insight into the kind of person they are, or what manuscripts they’re looking for.

Don’t be shy! If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at who writing organisations or literary journals are following, and then go on a train where you look at who those people are following. You can find wonderful things this way, or at least have a fun afternoon spiralling through the industry.

A Word of Warning

Remember that the writing industry, especially in Australia, is very small. This is great for many reasons—it means that the industry is accessible, and that making one good contact can open your world to lots of great contacts. But it also means that word travels quickly, and if you act unprofessionally or treat someone rudely, it may seriously affect your career.

So be generous to everyone you meet, and treat everyone politely. Even if your book is somehow guaranteed to be a bestseller, receptionists or interns or emerging writers deserve your respect—and you don’t want them telling their boss or other colleagues that you’d be difficult to work with.



What To Do Before You Start Writing

The piece of advice given out most often to budding writers is “Just write!”. This is important advice; writing is a craft, and most of the time, you learn by doing. A lot of the time, your first few projects will be more like practice projects anyway, or they’ll undergo a serious overhaul before you submit them.

However, there are a couple of things you might want to do before investing a large amount of time into a project. It’s always good to be as prepared as possible, and to make sure there won’t be any unexpected obstacles once you’re underway.

Research The Publishing Process

The first thing you want to check out is how what you are writing gets published. You’re not gearing up to get it published right away, but you want to make sure that you’re not going to pour months of effort into something, only to find that you haven’t followed industry protocol.

If you are writing a fiction novel, then yes, most of the time it’s best to write the whole thing before even thinking about approaching anyone. Once you’ve written the full manuscript, typically you’ll get feedback from writing friends, an editor or a mansucript assessment, you’ll rewrite and edit for a while, and then you’ll submit.

However, if it’s a different kind of form, there could be a different process. Nonfiction books, in particular, are often sold via book proposal, as publishers like to have input into the manuscript as it’s being developed. You will need to write sample chapters and a brief, but you won’t necessarily need to write the whole thing. Memoir can be an exception to this rule, as many publishers like it to be treated like a fiction manuscript, but not always.

Often articles and short stories are pitched to publications, though it is possible to submit them once they’ve been written. Entering competitions are also a great option for shorter works (and occasionally longer ones).

Check For Any Legal Issues

For most people, this isn’t something that you need to think about. But just in case, it’s good to go into your project aware of any risks. Things you might need to double check include:

  • Using real people, especially if they might be offended by your depiction of them or if anything you’re saying is untrue.
  • Anything from another piece of pop culture, including characters, plots, settings (such as fantasy worlds–don’t worry if it’s a real place!) or anything else that is identifiable, especially if it’s not in the public domain.
  • Including any and all quotes or other copyrighted material, including poetry, song lyrics, lines from books, and scripts. Again, this is one is especially important to look for if the source isn’t in the public domain.
  • Any information, even if true, that you’re not supposed to disclose for legal reasons, especially if you’ve signed a nondisclosure agreement or if it’s from a place you’ve worked.
  • Anything else you’re unsure about.

Most of the time referencing things like this will be okay, but it really depends how you do it. Of course, we can’t give you legal advice, but ArtsLaw have lots of great information on their site as well as a free legal advice service. You can also contact other writing support organisations.

Understand Your Publishing Rights

Another thing to be aware of is that if you post your writing online, you’ve given away your first publication rights. Basically, if you sell a manuscript or article to a publisher, most of the time they’ll pay for the rights to publish your manuscript for the first time. If it’s already been out there for free (such as on the internet) or for money (if you’ve self-published it), you’ll have already used these rights.

This doesn’t mean you’ve given away the rights to your writing, and no one else can sell or publish your writing without your permission. It does mean that it might make it a bit harder to sell your work to a publisher, even if you end up reworking the piece later.

This isn’t always a bad thing–lots of people have earned publishing deals through gaining a following by posting their writing online or self-publishing it. What is important is making sure you have all the knowledge you need to make a decision. You should also read the terms and conditions of any sites you upload your work to, to make sure they include anything that might

Of course, especially when you’re first starting out, this might not even matter to you. Places where you can post your work online for feedback can be really helpful as you’re learning your craft, so don’t feel pressured to save your work for publication.

Decide if You Want to Join Social Media

This one’s a bit more fun than the others on this list, but most publishers will really appreciate if you get on social media sooner rather than later. There are lots of writing communities online, and plenty of places to make friends and network. Joining now gives you time to experiment with the platforms and share the writing experience with the internet.

Take some time to look at the different platforms, and see where you might fit. For interaction and networking, writers might like Twitter as both a social and networking tool, and there are tons of tools and hashtags for writers. If Twitter’s not your thing, check out Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, or any others—more are popping up all the time.

Of course, if social media’s just not for you, that’s totally fine! It’s way more important that you work on the writing part, and now that you’ve checked off all the things on this list, you should feel totally free to go ahead and do just that.

5 Common Pieces of Writing Advice (And What They Really Mean)

Every successful writer thinks they’ve got this writing thing down and that they’re right about everything. And that’s true—for them. But writing is an art, like painting or sculpture, and you can use words to make all sorts of things in all sorts of ways. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read writing advice, but take it all with a grain of salt and do your thing.

That being said, these are the top five bits of writing advice on the internet, and what they actually mean.

Everything (And Everyone) Sucks at First

Especially when you’re starting out, it’s so easy to think that you’re the worst writer to ever have existed. But that’s totally not true. Writing isn’t just an art: writing is a craft, and like every other craft, it needs to be honed. Listen to Ira Glass on creativity if you’re ever feeling unsure about your skills.

And not only that—almost every writer’s drafts need a lot of work, and remember that most of the books you read have been professionally edited. Remember those guides on how to draw where you start with sketching a bunch of circles? Your first draft is basically those circles—and once you’ve got the first bit down, you can go back in and bring it to life.

Show, Don’t Tell

This is one of those pieces of advice that’s easy to give without explaining what it means. Basically, it means use hints in your description, dialogue or voice to indicate things to the reader without outright telling them. Obvious examples would include giving a character wrinkles on his face rather than stating that he’s old, or getting him to look at his watch five times to show he’s running late.

The essence of this is to trust your readers, and assume they are intelligent enough to pick up on the little things. You can also put symbolism and metaphor and hidden meanings into this piece of advice. Think of your favourite pieces of literature and the symbolism and underlying themes within it; though some readers may miss all of the details in your writing, there will definitely be those that notice all the layers.

Of course, this isn’t something you need to worry about too much in the writing stage—you can always add these details in while you’re editing.

Read. A Lot.

Reading is the most important thing a writer can do! As John Green says, it’s the only apprenticeship we have; we learn by seeing what other writers do and how. Of course, classic literature and books on writing are certainly useful for improving your skills, but they aren’t the only things you should be reading.

It’s important to read widely in your genre, so you can have an understanding of your market and of reader expectations. But it’s also important to read widely and voraciously, and for different reasons. Contrast slow-paced literature with a thriller to learn about the effects of pacing. Pick up a romance to study the bonds between characters, or the latest bestseller to see why it appeals to its audience.

Use Active Voice Over Passive Voice

Here comes the creative writing jargon that isn’t necessarily easy to immediately understand. Active voice is when the thing it is about does something (e.g. ‘he threw the ball’), while passive is when something is done to the thing (e.g. ‘the ball was thrown’). Using the active voice is usually recommended because it puts the character—and the reader—right in the middle of the action. Stuff is happening to them, rather than around them.

However in the right place, with the right narration, the passive voice can be used pretty powerfully too. This is one of those cases where you should take a step back during the editing stage and judge each use on it’s own merits.

Using Adjectives/Adverbs/Exclamations is the Road to Hell

The creative writing world is full of people who have opinions about different tools and types of language. Of course, there’s a grain of truth in each of these opinions, but keep in mind the context. Each of these people write in a certain style for a particular audience in their own genre—what they think may not be what works for you.

Almost everything you can put in a sentence can be used in a less-than-powerful way. Don’t worry too much about the doom-declaring naysayers. Again, forget about this while you’re drafting. Once you’re in the editing stage, you can look closely at each sentence and decide what works best in each place.