Connected? Or slush?

I know, I know, I’m supposed to be on a writing vacation. But I thought this was too important to wait until next month, so I’m posting it now.

My Twitter feed is full of writers, authors, editors, and agents. I see pub tips, write tips, query tips, editor tips. They post articles. Blog posts. Contests. And sometimes something catches fire and blows up.

This article was one such explosion. Well, maybe not quite an explosion. But it certainly started some interesting conversations.

Mind you, the article contains some very helpful information and provides a realistic account of what it takes to get your MS looked at, let alone agented. A lot of it I already knew. But it made me depressed anyway. Why? The line, “It’s all about who you know.”

I read that and I wanted to groan. Why? Why am I torturing myself like this if I’ll never get anywhere? I knew I’d have to wade through slush pile after slush pile, receive rejection after rejection, but the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow was after rejection number 103, someone would finally say yes. This made me think I should forgo an agent all together and just worry about doing direct submissions and maybe, someday, self-pub. Or, heaven forbid, throw my hands in the air and give up.

Then I started seeing these tweets.

It started with one agent, urging her followers to read the article. Good, great, done. Then another agent responded, taking issue with the “who you know” angle. Then another. And another. I’m sure there were plenty, but as I don’t want my feed to get out of control, there’s a limit to the number of agents I’ll follow, so I only saw a handful.

The gist of it was yes, connections can get you somewhere. More often than not, though, it’s the writer’s hard work and persistence that ends in a request for a partial, or a full, and eventually an offer. Holly Root posted this short piece on the Waxman Agency’s blog, and I started smiling again. Then someone started the hash tag #slushworks. There may or may not have been tears of happiness.

Everything’s not lost, to quote Coldplay.

Publishing, I feel, is a game of strategy and endurance. Especially endurance. Right now I’m still in the initial stages. I’m collecting agent names and sticking them on my spreadsheet. Some of them I’ll follow on Twitter, particularly if I think they’d be a good match, personality wise (which is important. At least, for me it is). I’ve had my one and two-line pitches critiqued (Adrien-Luc Sanders offered some great feedback on my 35-word pitch for the Entangle an Editor contest). I’ve taken a query class, and I’ll probably take another in the future. I do a little happy dance every time one of the agents I follow responds to one of my tweet responses.

(Here is my push for Twitter: I never thought I’d say this, but I’m thankful Liv Rancourt wore me down on my Twitter resistance. If I hadn’t joined Twitter and started following all those agents, editors, and authors, I wouldn’t have gotten a synopsis request for Iron Jewel and a full request for Shadowdemon. I wouldn’t have heard about Angela James’s BEFORE YOU HIT SEND self-editing course, which you must take. I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to warn agent Bridget Smith against using duct tape to wrap a split cable, or been able to recommend Broken Harbor or LA Confidential to agent Annie Bomke when she was looking for stories featuring a by-the-rules cop. In short, if you’re a writer wanting to be an author, Twitter is a free way to make those connections referred to in the article. End push.)

It’s a long, long, often rocky road to navigate, and some people along the way will lose their wheels, or find a dirt track they’d rather investigate than continue on toward the holy grail that is publishing. The article is one writer’s opinion. It’s heartening to know not everyone agrees.

(Want tips on what “research” means in relation to agents? Bree Ogden of Litreactor has some excellent tips.)

7 thoughts on “Connected? Or slush?

  1. I read the article. I think a better conclusion that could be drawn is: networking helps. He goes too far when he says that it’s the end-all be-all of how to get published, but it is certainly fair to say that agents will give your queries a closer look if you have a personal relationship with them prior to submitting. If you’re familiar with Rachel Aaron (a stand-up lady and successful fantasy author), she posted a comment on the article saying that she got her agent through the slushpile.

  2. Also, I too adamantly refused to join Twitter. Well, until today, when I read this post of yours. So dang it, you convinced me.

    1. Teehee! I’ve learned Twitter will give you what you put into it. You’ll amass an odd collection of followers (I have a chiropractic center and spa as a follower. I have no idea why.) but it’s worth it for the networking opportunities. The other really great way to network is conferences. If I hadn’t gone to the conference I attended last fall, I wouldn’t have met Liv and Shannon O’Brien, and without them, I wouldn’t have found half the resources I’ve found since then.

      1. It’s a team effort, and a great feeling to know you’re not alone. My problem – and maybe it’s not really a problem, but a lack of attention – is that by following so many people, I can’t always keep track of who’s who, so I don’t pick up on conversations like the one you’re blogging about. I need to figure out a better way of finding the forest through the trees. A smart girl would make lists, and then set up hootsuite or something like it to track those lists separately…Yep, a smart girl would do that…
        😉

  3. Yes, a smart girl would do that 🙂 But like I said above, I try to keep the number of people I follow to a minimum, and I’m not afraid to unfollow if I don’t think I’m getting the most bang for my buck.

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