Gay romance fiction

Know-Who: networking that buys you time 

by Damon Suede

(A-game Advice was a monthly column offering practical tips for winning promo that fits your personal style, strategy, and measure of success.)


There's an old saying: it's not what you know, it's who you know…or more importantly what those people know how to do that you don't.

I'm an inveterate, shameless networker. I'm sure this comes as no surprise to anyone who's ever been within 100 feet of me, but I quite literally love meeting strangers and gabbing with folks and connecting different subsections of my colleagues so that everyone can get what they need before they know they need it. Just how I'm wired. There's something about putting two people together that can help each other that pokes my no-no.

In today's market, professional romance author has to wear about 111 hats: brainstormer, editor, researcher, sex therapist, vendor liaison, marketing whiz, PR flack, and IT savant. Every so often someone raises their head from the word minds and says, "It didn't used to be this way." In point of fact: it did. Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, Leo Tolstoy all had to figure out how to put food on the table and get their words into the right hands.

The technology has changed, the pace is radically different, but the jobs are pretty much as they were. Easy? Nowhere near. Being an artist is a hard dollar and (to my mind) the greatest job in the world precisely because it calls upon a fascinating array of talents and skillsets. Of course, it's great to add to your skill set or add to the bag o’tricks, but at the end of the day anything that isn't your butt in the chair getting words on paper should be secondary.

The important thing is to know what you don't know so that you can find the people who do. Many authors gripe about their covers; very few are professional photographers or artists with commercial design training and a working knowledge of visual trends in the marketplace at this nanosecond. Several of us know the difference between a metonym and a metaphor, an em-dash and an ellipsis, but that doesn't make us editors and certainly not of our own work.  It's the same reason we don't perform open heart surgery on ourselves or try to build a car out of raw materials to save a buck. We work with other professionals because we are professionals

Trial and error is all well and good, but only if you have a couple million spare years to go from banging rocks together to nuking a cup of coffee in the microwave. Other people have already learned to do things, and we avail ourselves of borrowed expertise every waking moment. If you’re convinced you did it all yourself, I have a life without fire, medicine, math, or literacy to show you. Humans evolved together because we worked together: social primates, yay! We stand on the shoulders of giants and we help each other invent the future one day at a time, if we’re smart.

Rather than worrying about the know-how, consider the importance of the know-who.

That takes a certain amount of discernment. We all have a circle of trust we turn to in these moments. How many times have you called a friend or a friend called you to ask, "Do you know a good proofer?" or "where did you find that luggage?" Humans are social primates and we rely on the tight network of our trusted tribe mates to get those answers.

One of the greatest gifts you can give your career is to know exactly what you do spectacularly well. Each of us carries around a bizarre hodgepodge of skills, obsessions, and enthusiastic allies which help us navigate the shoals of professional publishing. We are not insects; we all have freaky superpowers at our disposal, and even when they overlap no one can do things quite like you. Thank all the gods.

Truth is, we need people. We can't do everything all the time. Maybe you know how to change a tire, bake a pie, perform brain surgery, and construct a particle accelerator out of paperclips… But when are you going to find the time to do all of it?

This month, my challenge to you is a skill menu. Take a moment to catalog all of the bits and bobs that keep your career moving…creatively, commercially, psychologically, socially, professionally, emotionally, intellectually?

  • YOU: What are you great at? Make a brutally honest and comprehensive list of your skills and weaknesses. Which tasks are people always tapping you for? Are those the ones you're best at? What hidden talents have you not made public? What skills do you not feel comfortable sharing? Can you think of ways you could help the folks around you more often and more efficiently? Would your friends, family, and colleagues agree with your self-assessment?

  • FRIENDS: Who is good at what in your immediate circle? What tasks do you regularly hand off to your besties and why? Are those requests equitable? Are you sure? And are you getting the best results are simply the most convenient? How can you ensure you aren't taking advantage?

  • FAVORS: what tasks do you commonly barter for? Why is the trade fair and how does it help both sides of the transaction? What do you gain and sacrifice by not paying to have this work done? What limits are built into this relationship?

  • HIRES:  Make a list of the professionals you send tasks to regularly. What do they charge? What do they offer? What are the trade-offs? Who do you trust unequivocally and who comes with caveats? What is the quality of the work in comparison to the marketplace?

  • GAPS: Anything missing? Where do you let things slide? Which chores are you quick to ignore? What are the gaps in your professional arsenal? What onerous/necessary tasks do you avoid out of fear, incapacity, or ignorance? Who could help you solve these problems and why aren't you making that connection?

Don't forget your existing relationships! If you're traditionally published, many people on this list will probably be employees at that company. If you're a diehard self-publisher, don't forget that plenty of people in big five publishing have begun to learn the virtues of organic networking and outsourcing. Think about what you're trying to accomplish, the specific goals you have, so that you always tap the right person for the job. Think of it as a real life GMC: what do you want, why is it important, and why don't you have it already? By working with the right people you clear a path to the kind of success that means the most to you.

Once you’ve made those lists, it’s relatively easy to fill in those gaps and help other people to do the same. None of us have enough time or skill to do every job perfectly. Working together we not only solve our own problems but each other's.

Bonus points for honesty, gang. If you waste time fooling yourself, you will not be fooling other people and the results will be grim. Even better, if you're honest and they're honest the mutual impact can be life altering. Working cooperatively and reciprocally gives everyone a chance to build the career they want in a way they actually enjoy.

And the next time you find yourself paralyzed by a task, a request, a mind-boggling technical challenge, you won't need to panic because you'll know who can help.

A professional development article for writers by M/M author Damon Suede

Copyright 2017. Damon Suede. All Rights Reserved

Originally published as part of A Game Advice for the Romance Writers Report.

If you wish to republish this article, just drop me a line.