Like any competitive industry, publishing can, at times, be about who you know and the contacts you make. What I want to know is just how much contact you have to have before you go in' for the kill’ with your pitch?
Take Twitter. I love Twitter. Nothing fills me with more glee then when I have a Twitter conversation with a lovely author who I admire, except of course when I tweet with an agent. A few agents do follow me on Twitter and I follow a fair few more. Occasionally I have conversations with agents about books or what we're enjoying on TV.
For me, Twitter is about building relationships. It takes a lot of self-control, especially after copious amounts of wine, not to DM the agents following me. I think it’s better to make a Twitter friendship, and then hope that if I did sub to them via the slush-pile they might just (if I was lucky) remember the Twitter relationship. I also hope that if I were to meet that agent in person that it might make an introduction easier.
If meeting them in a virtual world is a tricky minefield to negotiate, what happens when you meet an agent or a commissioning editor in real life? And especially at an event when you’ve had wine.
Last year, I was at the Romantic Novelists’ Association Winter Party chatting to a fellow member of the New Writers’ Scheme and they asked me if I was looking for an agent. When I said yes, the woman whispered that there were a few in the room. As much as I wanted to rush over and pitch my book, I wouldn’t let myself. After all, it was a party for them too, I’m sure if they were bombarded by every unrepresented writer in the room they’d be pretty peeved.
About a week after the RNA party, I was lucky enough to attend a dinner for a few bloggers at a publisher's. After dinner the commissioning editor of a women’s fiction list handed us bloggers her business card. There in my hands was a direct email address to someone who had control of their very own list, which she is currently building. A publisher who, may I add, allows you to sub without being published. So have I emailed? No, I haven’t. I didn’t think it was appropriate because I didn’t meet her as an aspiring author, I met her in a I’m-here-to-publicise-your-books capacity.
About a year ago, I was at a Q&A panel where an agent was speaking. After the panel, I spoke to the agent and having had a pleasant conversation, I thought nothing more about it. A couple of days later, that agent emailed me through my website told me to sub her my manuscript when I was ready. Now, regular readers to this column will know that this doesn’t have a happy ending, but it gave me the idea that if agents you were in contact with wanted you to pitch to them, they’d ask.
Am I wrong? Am I taking too much of a back seat and letting opportunities slip through my fingers? Just how well do you have to know the person you’re in contact with before you ‘know’ them?