Sunday, April 30, 2006

3... 2... 1... Contacts

Let's talk about networking and schmoozing.

There's a difference. Networking involves staying in touch with your peers, knowing who is doing what, trading industry buzz and leads and ideas.

Conferences and email are the preferred places to network. Gabbing online, or grabbing a beer and talking shop, will help you learn about the business vicariously---their experience becomes your experience. Writing is a solitary profession, and you should embrace every opportunity to compare notes.

Then, if a peer is putting together a conference, or editing an anthology, or gathering a line-up of authors at the local library, they'll (hopefully) keep you in mind, and you'll do the same.

Schmoozing is slightly different. Agents, editors, booksellers, sales reps, the media, and authors higher up on the food chain are prime targets for schmoozing. The reason is simple: They can do something for you.

Unlike networking, which is based on camaraderie, schmoozing is based on business relationships. The point is to present yourself as likeable, easy to work with, and professional. It isn't necessary to impress your peers. But impressing an editor, or your publisher's sales force, or a chain bookstore buyer, is something that can help you immeasurably.

Hopefully, most of us have reached adulthood with a sense of how to interact with others. But I'm still surprised by how many authors don't have social skills to match their talents. Sometimes it's shyness. Sometimes it's pomposity. Sometimes it's being oblivious. So let's do a quick Personal Interaction 101 refresher.
  • Handshake should be firm and quick.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Smile.
  • Listening has more power than talking.
  • Posture shows interest.
  • Compliments, flattery, and flirting in moderation.
  • Asking questions gets more people to like you than stating opinions.
  • Being funny is a plus.
  • Decent clothes, fresh breath, good grooming.
  • Remembering names and faces is important.
  • Be confident, not cocky.
  • Don't monopolize the conversation.
  • No one knows you're shy, so it's easy to fake confidence.
  • Pay attention to people's reactions.
  • Be genuine, be enthusiastic, be nice, and don't overstay your welcome.

I'm sure we all already know that stuff, and probably do most of it already. But it doesn't hurt to keep it in mind when you're networking, and especially when you're schmoozing.

Does this work? Absolutely. I've lost track of the number of opportunities that have fallen into my lap simply because I met so-and-so at such-and-such. I've landed events, publicity, media ops, anthologies, interviews, sales, appearances, blurbs, and so on, simply because I met someone somewhere and didn't piss them off.

I've pissed off a few as well, and while I don't recommend that as an ideal business model, I can honestly say that having detractors is a great way to get people curious about you, and if you're pleasing 100% of the people 100% of the time, you're probably amazingly boring.

On a semi-related note, if anyone is interested in arguing with me, or asking me any questions live, I'm the headliner in the next Writing to Publish chat, happening Monday, May 1, at 10pm Eastern time. You'll need AOL or AIM to join the chat (they are free to download.)

Here's the link:

Hope to see some of you there!


Sandra Ruttan said...

"I've pissed off a few as well, and while I don't recommend that as an ideal business model, I can honestly say that having detractors is a great way to get people curious about you, and if you're pleasing 100% of the people 100% of the time, you're probably amazingly boring."

Sniff sniff. And all this time I thought I was just burning bridges on DorothyL...

I might just have to check out this online chat thing.

Now, applying what we learned here, ask a question. What's the difference between schmoozing and ass-kissing?

And in case you couldn't tell, this is me listening.

JA Konrath said...

What's the difference between schmoozing and ass-kissing?


Jason Pinter said...

With schmoozing, there's a Quid Pro Quo. They can help you, and perhaps you can help them. Editors need talented authors, salespeople need books they can sell, journalists need interesting stories, booksellers need books that will keep reordering. That's what you can offer them in exchange for favorable coverage, better shelf placement, etc...

Ass-kissing is a one-way street, and if you don't know the difference, people can smell your breath from a mile away.

Erich Haught said...

How do you schmooze someone you don't like? Also, is there a way to deal with the bile generated by always being so nice?

Bernita said...

Erich, a cholecystectomy.

Jason Pinter said...

Erich, you need to look at schmoozing as a business transaction. In any business, you're going to end up working with people you invariably don't like or get along with, simply because they offer you a service that can benefit your business. If an author gets high and mighty and has visible contempt for these people, they're only going to close avenues for their writing to find an audience. Chances are an author wouldn't necessarily get along with all of his/her readers, but would you ask them not to buy your book for that reason?

JA Konrath said...

I get along well with all of my readers. All three of them.

Sandra Ruttan said...

You know, shocking as it is, I feelso much better after reading your blog today. Now I can rest assured that when I buy you a drink at Bouchercon it's strictly networking and there'll be no ass kissing involved.

Mark Terry said...

And if you schmooze and network simultaneously, it's called


Or schnoozing.


s.w. vaughn said...

Ah, but can a charming manner overcome bad teeth? If one does not smile, might one manage to be seen as "mysterious" and "intriguing" -- or would one just come off as an utterly unfriendly a**hole?

Perhaps I should invest in a bleach treatment. Oh -- or I could wear a mask! Yes, that's it, I'll attend conferences as S, the Ninja Scribbler of Don't-Talk-to-That-Freak.

Looking forward to the chat tonight, JA. :-)

Jude Hardin said...

I think a mascarade party would be a great event at a literary conference. That way, we could schmooze in anonymity until someone asks for a business card.

I think I'll wear my Abraham Lincoln costume.

J.D. Rhodes: Joe, who is THAT supposed to be?

J.A. Konrath (after a few drinks): That's George Washington, you idiot.

Jude Hardin said...

That joke came from a movie adaptation of Steinbeck's CANNERY ROW. Just to give credit where it's due.

s.w. vaughn said...

Great idea, Jude. I'm game. :-)

Jason Pinter said...

I'm coming as Kaavya Visnawathan.

Jude Hardin said...

I'm coming as Kaavya Visnawathan.

PJ Parrish said...

I'm coming as Kaavya Viswanathan coming as Megan McCafferty.

s.w. vaughn said...

PJ...that's deep. :-)

Jason Pinter said...

I think if you come as Kaavya Viswanathan coming as Megan McCafferty, it's the literary equivalent of "Crossing the streams." You might open up the portal to another dimension and get squashed by a giant marshmallow version of Jane Austen.

Allison Brennan said...

ROFLOL, I had something (hopefully) profound to say about networking vs schmoozing, but I lost the thought as I read all the comments . . .

Great post, funnier comments. ;)

Unknown said...


My new favorite word.

Thank you.

Jude Hardin said...


Quitting Schmorking Now Greatly Reduces Serious Risks To Your Health.

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