“Everything comes to those who hustle while they wait.” –Thomas Edison
I got that quote in a writing workshop years ago and have it hanging on the wall above my desk. I think it really defines the business of being a writer.
Much of the writing business involves waiting. The wheels of publishing turn very slowly, and a writer who wants to be successful in publishing has to make the best of time while waiting for that response from the agent or editor or that contract or that check. Now you can hang out in front of the TV for the weeks it might take to get that call or that contract or that check—or you can use that time to make things happen in your career while you wait.
Becoming and staying published is partly about good writing, partly about determination, and partly about luck. Now a writer can learn her craft, and she can doggedly do her research about the market. That takes care of good writing and determination. But what about luck?
What some people call luck, I call opportunity. And opportunities abound for those who are watching for them. The trick is having the courage to jump on the chance when it comes around.
Chances to move your career forward happen every day, and I firmly believe that half of them come for the writer who does everything she can to make something happen. How do you do that? Put yourself in the way of potential opportunity whenever you can. Hustle while you wait!
Networking is one way to do this. Get to know people. The more contacts you make, the more chances you have of hearing the newest market news as soon as it hits the grapevine. Facebook, Twitter, writers meetings, email loops…there are tons of ways to network without going too far from home. Also, the more people you know, the more people you will get to meet as your friends introduce you to their friends.
Get involved with your chapter. Not only will you get to know other members, but holding a position on the board or a committee could put you in a position to meet visiting industry VIPs face-to-face. Great networking opportunity!
Enter contests. Contests are subjective, but there is always a chance that you might make the finals and have your manuscript end up in front of the agent or editor of your dreams. That’s the best case. Worst case scenario is that your work is read by two or more skilled judges who can provide valuable feedback. Sounds like a win-win situation to me!
Go to conferences. I can’t tell you how many people I have met at conferences over the years. My favorite thing to do is sit in the lobby at RWA and watch people go by. You’d be amazed how many people you can meet, or, in the case of a bestselling author or other industry professional, just get a look at. Recognizing someone’s face could prove valuable at a later time. I love meeting people!
A lot of writers attend conferences because of the editor/agent appointments. This is another kind of opportunity, one that you helped bring about because you paid the fee and went to the conference. At the appointment, you have about eight minutes to make the editor/agent fall in love with your concept and request to see the work. Here’s the thing about appointments: if your book isn’t done, don’t request an appointment.
The editors have a job to do filling their publishing schedules with the hottest works they can find, and the agents are looking for new clients whose work they think they can sell. So many times these people get excited about someone’s pitch and eagerly await the work, but it never arrives. Why? The book wasn’t done. Or the author got cold feet. Make sure when you request an appointment that you have something to sell, something that could be put in the mail as soon as you get home—something you intend to put in the mail when you get home. Be a professional and follow through with what you pitched.
Get involved in your own career. Go places, take classes, meet people. It’s the best way to make sure that when opportunity knocks, you’ll be waiting to open the door.