Networking for the Unpublished Loser

I hate networking. I hate small talk, I hate getting business cards I'll never use, and I hate feeling like I have to "connect" with people just so I can use them to further my career.

Thing is, that's the exact opposite of what networking is.

Networking is making friends. It's connecting with people and learning what they do. It's being yourself with others who are being themselves too.

Networking is following a contest winner because you really enjoyed their entry. Commenting on their blog because they're also into zombies and ninjas and pirates. Entering contests they run and discovering that you like each others' stories enough to swap critiques.

Networking is following an author whose book you enjoy. Friending them on Facebook. Discovering that you went to the same college and share a mutual friend. It's just talking.

Networking is following an agent's assistant on Twitter because they're funny. It's replying to their tweets in a (hopefully) funny, professional manner that gets them interested in your tweets. It's caring about their lives, even when things don't go well or they cease to work for an agent.

Sometimes I get a new critique partner out of networking. Sometimes I get someone willing to spread the word about a contest or a short story I got published. But whether or not they choose to be helpful to me, I always get a friend.

And sometimes I befriend someone who goes on to get an agent or a book deal, someone who--theoretically--could give me that Holy Grail of the unpublished: a referral. But here's the thing: if I did all this networking just to get a referral, I'd never get this far. People can smell Self Serving, and it stinks. Even now, I would think long and hard before asking for such a thing, simply because the friendships are more important to me than the (supposedly) quick path to getting published.

And that's the point. Networking isn't about using people. It's about finding friends. And the thing about friends is, when you really need them, they're there for you.

So that's my advice today. Be kind. Be funny. Be clever. But mostly, be a friend. Maybe that friendship will be useful to you some day, maybe not.

Hopefully, by then it won't matter.


fairyhedgehog said...

Yay! This is so right. The thing is just to get out there and make friends and have fun. And maybe one day you'll help each other out and maybe you won't. But that isn't the point.

You meet such wonderful people online.

vic caswell said...

amen to that! it's sort of a strange thing this networking... like blogging. i don't understand why people subscribe to a bunch of blogs and never read them. if you don't want to read it, don't subscribe... maybe i'm too much of a noob to get it. i chose to subscribe to this one because of, (let's be honest) the geekery. it's entertaining and you make good points. every blog i subscribe to i enjoy for some reason like that. otherwise, i don't see the point. anyway, great post adam!

Anonymous said...

I really like your take on networking. I'm typically a very shy person when it comes to dealing with groups or the public in general, but this post has help change my perception about networking altogether. Thank you!


Jeff Hirsch said...

Great points. It's like the zen of networking. You do it best when you're not trying to do it at all, when you're just being friendly and sincere.

Its like golf in that way. The only time I've ever played a decent (for me) game of golf was when I was just enjoying the day, without goals or stress. Just being in the moment.

Adam Heine said...

Carrie: Yay!

Jeff: The zen of networking. I like that! It's kinda like everything I do: blogging, writing, drawing, being a dad. When I try hard, I fail. When I just try without stressing about it, things come out well.

Michael LaRocca said...

Me posting a link to this on my Facebook page just because it's so so true is also what networking is supposed to be.

Adam Heine said...

Michael: Nice. Also, finding a freelance editor who also lives in Thailand just because I had a copy of MS Office for sale ;-)

Matthew MacNish said...

So true. Well said Adam.

Matthew MacNish said...

Whoa. Welcome to the way back machine. Who's that guy above me?

Steve MC said...

I so relate to this. Years ago, when reading up on the photography business, I remember an article that said to "give out your business cards to everyone you meet, even if you don't see a use for them at the moment." It was such a crass, cheap, and scummy view that I made a point to never get business cards.

Since then I've tried to not to be such a Luddite about it (I'd make a great monk), but the one time I followed an author's blog and sucked up to them, it didn't last long before I realized I didn't really like their work or would want to hang out with them. So I left.

What got me here, and what made me want to read your work, was Matt's word on you, your interest in martial arts and pirates and religion, and how your posts were both entertaining and useful. Plus, you're a righteous dude.

So yeah, thanks for the tip on this, where one can make an effort to meet people and end up with the best ones for one to be around.