Thursday, May 26, 2011

Networking: How to Connect with Critique Partners, Agents & Editors

From Tamela Buhrke

There is nothing like connecting with a fellow writer when you are stuck or need someone to bounce an idea off. Yet, as your career progresses, you will need more than just a pat on the back. You will need guides and experts who can help you put your writing career into the fast track. When networking to build your writing career, there are several areas you will want to explore. First, find critique groups and writing coaches. Second, network with agents, editors and published authors.

The Benefits of Critique Groups

If you’ve been showcasing your work to friends and family, then you may not be getting the most accurate assessment of your work. Critique groups can be a healthy reality check, offering feedback from more experienced writers.

If you are nervous about meeting with people, or just don’t have the time for an ongoing critique group, then an online critique site is the way to go. The nice thing about starting with an online site is that it’s impersonal. You won't be worried about hurting a friend’s feelings and they won’t worry about hurting yours. The critique of your work will be unbiased. Here are a few online critique sites:

Each of these sites offers different styles for critiques. Some are offered by fellow writers and some by regular readers. Each will offer a different perspective so use your judgement to see which site is right for you.

If you need something more consistent and personal, that’s when a real world critique group might be better for you. One of the benefits of a critique group that meets in person is that you get more than just the feedback on your own work. You get friendship and camaraderie. You also have the benefit of learning each other’s style. The critiques can become more relevant and personalized.

How do you find a local critique group? Sometimes writing organizations have critique groups you can join—Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers does here. You can also build one yourself. Start by pulling from the friendships you have built in your writing communities. Once you have a base, you can build your group by posting membership openings on sites like Craig’s List, Meetup and even Twitter.

Networking with Agents & Editors

Once you have your critique groups, now it’s time to find people who can give you insider industry information. There is no better place to get to know and learn from agents and editors than Facebook and Twitter.

I heard that collective groan. I have no sympathy for you.

With these two social media sites, you can tap directly into the minds and hearts of the most sought after people in the publishing industry; agents, editors and successful authors. Every day, I follow agents and editors on Twitter. I read agent’s complaints about industry issues and query letters mishaps. I see their requests for certain genres or styles of work. Reading their tweets regularly is a great way to get to know the style and interests of specific agents.

Best of all, you can often ask them questions about your genre and get tips on everything from the best time of the year to query to how to market your book and more. Just please, please don’t try to pitch or query an agent or editor on Twitter or Facebook. That is considered rude. Instead, use the opportunity to learn from and about them.

Be professional. These social networking sites provide an opportunity for getting information and starting intelligent conversations. Earn respect from these people by being interested in them and learning from them. Build a relationship with them and it can only benefit you as you go into pitch sessions or send query letters.

Networking this way works. My experience is a perfect example. Last summer I was on Facebook, searching for writing groups. I ran across the RMFW Facebook page. On that page, I chatted with a someone named Dave. I didn't know him, but he knew a lot about the upcoming Gold conference. We agreed to connect at the Conference. After our meeting, I offered to help him with this blog. After some time to consider it, he agreed. Now I blog with this great group of writers and have had the opportunity to interview agents and editors. If I hadn’t started that conversation with Dave on Facebook, I wouldn’t have had this wonderful opportunity.

That is the power of networking.

Next week we'll take networking to a whole other level. I'll go over how to use your connections to build a marketing team and grow your readership.

See you next week!


Giles Hash said...

Networking is the very reason I joined RMFW. I've never been good at internet networking, so I plan on joining a critique group... as soon as I make time in my over-book schedule. I love networking, though, and I love learning from others and sharing what little knowledge I've learned over the years. :)

Tamela Buhrke said...

Great to have you on the blog! I'm always looking for positive networking people. If you are on twitter, feel free to follow me @TamelaBuhrke. I follow back.

Dean K Miller said...

Finding and joining Northern Colorado Writers has been a great experience for me. The blog and magazine writing classes, critique group, advice and support I've received has been incredible.

Through their yahoo groups page I found another first reader who takes me task every time I send her a piece of work.

I wandered in solitude through the woods for many years and now have a warm cabin of friends to visit whenever I want.

Getting involved and not being afraid to ask questions has opened my writing world beyond what I thought possible.

Thanks to everyone at NCW, and here at Chiseled, as well, for being home when a newbie shows at your front door. The welcome into the world of writing is a blessing I for which I'm eternally grateful.

Tamela Buhrke said...

I like the warm cabin imagery! It's true, though. Having a supportive critique group and writing community is like being in that safe place where everyone "gets" you. Yet, they want you to succeed so they aren't afraid to give you a good knock on the head when you need it.

Dean K Miller said...

Yes indeed. I've got the bumps to prove it.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Lots of excellent advice here, Tamela. I'm a big fan of critique groups and doubt I'd be published without the one I joined in 2003.