Saturday, July 16, 2005

Must Network

I can’t over emphasize the need to have talent and craft in your writing. It will be a key in your success as a writer in the publishing world.  This entry is continuing my series on characteristics of successful writers from my years of interaction and observations. It’s probably the final one in this series (for now).

Publishing is also about connections or your network. Who do you know or who can you get to know that will champion your cause within the publishing house? Why can you get to know who will champion your cause outside of the publishing house? Every aspect is equally important.  Like every business, successful authors know and understand the power of information and the value of their network. At some writer’s conferences, I’ve seen classes on how to schmooze the editors with tips on the right and the wrong way to accomplish this type of networking. I’ve not taken one of these classes but would like to do so some day.

In a recent issue of The Foster Letter, Religious Market Update from Gary D. Foster, a news item caught my attention related to this topic. It originated from the Small Business Computing 6/10/05 but Gary’s newsletter said, “Contact Management Software not withstanding, a new Plaxo survey finds 37% of small business persons manage their contacts with Post-It notes or a Rolodex. Only 35% noted they used Microsoft Outlook to manage personal and business contacts, 17% reported using their PDAs or cell phones  to track addresses or phone numbers while 2% indicated they don’t use any form of contact management.”

Can you believe that lack of information management? Where are you in this process? How do you maintain or don’t maintain your information about writers and editors and others in the publishing area?

I don’t expect you or others to maintain my level of information management —yet everyone can be doing something in this area. Bestselling writers understand their need to have a constantly expanding network.  They can’t depend on an agent or a writer friend or someone else to handle this aspect but they understand the importance and power of this information.

In past entries, I’ve mentioned Malcolm Gladwell’s bestselling book, The Tipping Point. Gladwell talks about several factors that come together to make a product or a person catch a broad range of public attention. One of those factors is a connector.  The book includes a brief test and from taking this test, I learned that I fall into this connector category. Not everyone can be a connector—yet everyone can make a conscious effort to collect data and use it sparingly.

I have a lot of information in my Rolodex. I maintain it and preserve it and change it constantly. I back up my information files (to avoid computer crashes and losses). I’ve never used Plaxo —even though I’ve received the notices from many people.  Often the Plaxo notices have my incorrect personal information which at times I fix. At other times I send an email directly to the person with my data—so they can add it to their system if they want to do so.

I maintain my own Rolodex and database—one entry at a time. Yet the information  in my Rolodex is valuable after interviewing more than 150 bestselling authors. Often I have no need to go through a talent agent or a literary agent to reach a particular author—because I can reach them directly (which is often much more effective). It didn’t happen overnight but one entry at a time.

Last week at the International Christian Retail Show in Denver, I exchanged many business cards. It’s something I do naturally—and you may have to practice the questions. When you give your card to another person, they may or may not give you a card. If they don’t reach for their card, then you actively ask, “Do you have a card?” Even if I have their name and information in my Rolodex, I still exchange cards. Why? Information is constantly changing. Editors change titles and positions. Phone numbers change. The card gives you some new information which may or may not have been said verbally.

A major executive and I were continuing our discussion about a possible project. Besides the card, this person wrote his cell number and his personal email address on the back of the card. See the value of the network and the information? In one brief exchange, I received the way to contact this person directly—and by-pass his assistant or others who may block and limit access.

Exchanging business cards is only one step in this process. The cards do almost no good in my desk drawer. I will be adding this information to my computer (where I can search by company or last name or first name). Do I have this aspect perfected? Not a chance but I continually work at it—and you can as well.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. It’s the same with understanding the importance of the network.

3 Comment:

At 7:59 AM, Blogger C.J. Darlington Left a note...

What do you think should be printed on a business card? Obviously: name, address, phone, e-mail, website (if applicable). But as a fiction writer, would it help to have underneath my name "fiction writer" or "novelist", or do you think that's unnecessary? I wonder if it would appear amateurish.

At 9:16 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...

C.J. you asked some good questions and I can take it up in a future post. To give you a bit of an answer, I don't think you need to have your "type of writer" on the business card. Maybe you don't need an occupation or title at all. The key from my perspective is that you include complete information--name, address, phone and email--particularly if you want that person to easily reach you. Business cards are used for all sorts of reasons--something I can explain in a future entry about the Writing Life.

At 9:37 AM, Blogger C.J. Darlington Left a note...

Thanks, Terry. I suspected this would be true. I'll look forward to that future post as well.


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