Is it who you know?

15Aug12

(blows dust off blog)

This article made the rounds today, and I wanted to link it here, because it is very useful in framing how and why agents take things on.

My caveat would be that the writer’s point here, tweetable though the “it’s who you know” is, is actually more complex than just networking. It’s about becoming really good, then having that goodness recognized by people who are already trusted by the agent AND will vouch for your quality as a person and as a writer. If any of those elements aren’t there, all the connections in the world won’t affect the outcome.

I get a lot of things sent my way by people other than the author. Freelance editors, lawyers, conference chairs, my clients, etc. Some of what gets sent is brilliant. Some is clearly not ready for prime time. Think obvious first drafts of novels that came my way via a passing professional acquaintance of the writer’s dad/wife/brother, who is just trying to do a friend’s loved one a favor. If I don’t trust the taste of the person who referred it, and/or they’ve never read the author’s work either, there really is no leg up to having had it come in by those means. I’m not entering the read inclined toward it without that trust and voucher.

So those of you out there doing the good work, the hard thankless seemingly endless work of getting sharper and better every day as a writer, and then seeing tweets about this article and wanting to just light the whole thing on fire? Do not despair that your brother’s cousin isn’t a Somebody who will send your book to an agent. Many of the people who have those connections use them too soon or expect them to be a guarantee. The times it does open the door, as this article actually does a great job of highlighting, it’s because there’s a backstory of daily effort and work that doesn’t make for a sexy slug line. But the not-sexy hard-work part that gets left out of the narrative later is what makes it possible for you to be that “friend of a friend” or slush-pile success story.

Much like the idea of the overnight success, there really is no magic shortcut or right way. There’s only your road to success.



4 Responses to “Is it who you know?”

  1. 1 Debra Lynn Lazar

    My first agent and I found each other on Twitter. No referrals, no prior associations, just from tweeting. I’m currently seeking new representation and I now know many more writers and agents. However, I’m under no delusion that the only way I will find my new agent is when that person reads my book and falls in love with it, not because I’m a relative or a friend of a friend. And that is exactly as it should be. I hear a lot of anger and bitterness in the writer of that article. He should probably just get back to work.

  2. It’s really true. My parents always told everyone what a great writer I was, but it took me a long time to realize nobody trusted my parents because of their reputation as con-artists. That’s when I decided to branch out and make some new contacts outside the grifting community.

  3. Thank you for the smart pep talk! I am stumbling onto this post a little late, but the topic is particularly germane to the stage of the game I am now entering. Michael Bourne’s article is exceedingly depressing, and heaps a great deal of discouragement on someone trying to navigate the bewildering landscape of agent querying. So, it’s nice to hear a wise agent maintaining the value of “daily effort and work.” I am encouraged.


  1. 1 Connected? Or slush? | The Rubber Duck Brigade

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