. . .Or the big fail. At least for me. In which I look at networking.
I admit it. I suck at networking. After twenty plus years in this business, attending major conferences almost yearly, having been published by some of the big five in NY, I should have contacts out the wazoo. I should have lists and lists of author friends, sheets and sheets of readers’ information, editors and agents I can call by first name or just call on the phone. The fault is mine. It isn’t that I haven’t met these people–I have–and they were all very nice (with the exception of one agent I met early in my career before my first sale, who shall remain nameless but basically told a group of us that if we weren’t Nora Roberts, he wasn’t interested in us). I’ve been on panels with big name authors, had lunches and dinners with editors, always behaved professionally and politely, and I can boast that I have NEVER missed a deadline (the latest I turned in a contracted novel was the day before it was due). My novels have required little revision (seriously, two scenes in ten books), I’ve had more than one copyeditor say that mine has been the cleanest manuscript they’ve ever seen and more than one write me a special note that they loved my book, and, for the most part, I’ve received positive reviews (There would be something wrong with my writing if everyone loved everything I wrote.)
So what’s the issue?
I am hopelessly shy.
Put me in front of a room of people and make me speak, and I do great. In fact I love it. I love to teach, elucidate, share my knowledge. But I don’t know how to reach out one-on-one to the people who could forward my career. I don’t want to “bother” them. This is the special dichotomy many writers share. I KNOW my stuff–grammar, story structure, formatting, etc.– and because I do, I tend to go it solo. So because I’m competent, I don’t bug people. Yet I am filled with self-doubt. I really crave recognition, acknowledgement, and frankly, if I’m so good that I don’t get editing, why am I not on the best sellers lists? Something is missing and I think it’s personality.
I know authors who are people magnets. They walk into a room and make everyone feel as if they are their best friend. I walk into a room and try not to feel uncomfortable. I try to push myself into talking to people, but that’s an almost insurmountable obstacle for me. It’s rare that I can bubble in front of my close friends, much less in front of strangers. If however anyone comes up to me and starts a conversation, I am so grateful. My readers have no idea how much their reviews or emails mean to me. I do enjoy learning about the daily lives of editors and agents. I just suck at initiating such conversations.
So here’s my tip to you. If you ever meet me somewhere, come up and say, “Hi.” Please. I will love you for it. Or just drop me a line. Or review one of my books (Even if you hated it–one of my favorite reviews was one from someone who didn’t rave but wrote a thoughtful account of my novel that she enjoyed, but didn’t love. But the review was so fair and well thought out, I had to reach out and thank her.) The same is true for any author. They will probably appreciate it.
Remember: I am more afraid of you than you are of me.
Books I’m reading now:
Can’t say. It’s RITA time again.