Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Building, not Burning, the Bridges

“You can say what you like, pass the blame I don't mind, because we both lit the match that burned the bridge.” Lifehouse

One of my favorite bands, but seriously, you can’t burn the bridges in the publishing industry. Do you know how small a world it is? What do I mean by burning a bridge?

  •  An author replies to an agent’s form rejection with nastiness. Burned bridge
  • Not saying thank you to a beta reader. Burned bridge
  • Shunning a newbie writer at a conference. Burned bridge

You never know when you might meet this agent at a conference. Or who this beta reader knows that you don’t. Or that this newbie writer might be the next [insert big name writer here]. You never know when you might have a mutual friend. Or when you might learn something. Or meet a kindred spirit. You just don’t know when your burned bridge will come back to bite you in the a**.

Better yet, how about build a bridge?

Which brings me to my real point. The power of Networking. Also, publishing is a VERY small world. A VERY, very small world.

A writer colleague of mine (who I casually banter with on twitter) knows a publisher or two. That woman I sat next to at a workshop last year? She knows my agent’s boss. The woman I just invited to speak at a conference? She publishes the exact sort of book that I write.

If you think about it, I KNOW you all can come up with six degrees (or way less, in some cases) of separation from your favorite dream agent or editor. So how do you build bridges?

  • Be nice. Always. And in every possible way.
  • Reach out, congratulate someone if they tweet about a success story. Commiserate if someone is down.
  • Pay it forward. Go above and beyond. You never know when it’s going to come back at you.
  • Interact. Participate in chat groups on twitter. Again, be nice, not troll-like.
  • Go to conferences, if you can afford it. Shake hands, say hi. Share your work, but don’t be pushy. Be appropriate. Be the person you want them to remember.
  • Don’t just network with the big-wigs. Say hi to the stranger sitting next to you. Reach out and shake hands with the gal on the elevator. Retweet someone’s good news.

This isn’t to say that if you do these things you’ll get an agent. Or a book deal. But anyone in business will tell you that networking is important. Being well-regarded is important. And it certainly won’t hurt your chances of getting an agent or book deal if you practice these suggestions.

This is a very small industry. The longer you’re around it, the more you’ll see it. That person you talked to on twitter will sell a book. That intern you goofed with will become next year’s rock star agent. That beta reader will get an agent and refer you. Build the bridges, don’t burn them. And then pay it forward.

But it takes time.

I’d love to hear your stories of building bridges that turned into success stories!


  1. Great advice! I think "pay it forward" is the one that's really stuck with me throughout my journey. I've been amazed at how giving people have been, so I've tried to pass that on to others. Also, building bridges isn't just about networking--it's also about meeting awesome people!

  2. Oprah Winfrey says, "Everybody has a story. Everybody." That's one reason I started sharing people's stories on my blog. I'm continually blown away by the unique paths people follow into publishing and I love sharing their work with others.

    You're spot on. Build bridges. If for no other reason, it is human courtesy to be polite. But in the end it is so personally fulfilling to hear someone's story.

  3. I love every word of this, Kris... So, so true. Thanks for the timely reminder. :)

  4. And I remember sitting next to you one year at the conference... and becoming your critique partner the following year... it's a wonderfully small world. :)

  5. Great advice Kristine, and a good rule of thumb for life in general.
    You never know who might turn out to be a companion on the journey.

  6. Here's an example. I'm a very shy person, but I attended my first conference about 8 months ago and really tried to put myself out there and be friendly. On the very first day, I was alone in the elevator with a lovely lady with a mass of vibrant red hair. She looked so cool and interesting and I was immediately intimidated, but I smiled at her and said hello, we chatted, and I helped her find the room she was looking for.

    Turns out, she was the keynote speaker for our conference - award winning author Kathleen Duey. Now, I doubt I would have burned any bridges by not speaking to her, and I also doubt she would remember me at all, but it was a reminder that you never know!