Saturday, March 05, 2005

Schmoozing & Networking

A question has been put forth by someone who will probably prefer to stay anonymous:
Many believe it's "who you know" that gets one ahead. Is there any validity to this? If so, what's the best way to network?

With a few caveats, I don't believe there's any truth to the first assertion. "What you have done" is far more important than "who you know." This in some cases can produce the appearance of an old boy's (or girl's) network in action; for example, if both Gene Wolfe and I pitch stories of similar length about similar subjects to the same editor at the same time, the editor is far more likely to buy Gene's story. But the reason for this is in no way sinister: rather, it's mere recognition of the fact that having A new story by Gene Wolfe on the cover will probably sell more magazines off the rack than having my name in the same place.

The test, I guess, is whether an editor will buy an outright bad story from someone they know instead of a good story from someone they don't, and while there's always room to argue over relative quality, no professional editor will ever do this. I can think of a few -- a very few -- cases where this has happened, but these have always involved either an editor who's about to lose his job or a publisher that's going down the drain. This isn't the record industry. Publishers don't routinely give book contracts to their girlfriends just to keep them from talking to their wives.

That said, I don't suppose networking can hurt; it may get your submission a faster read. Sadly, all the advice I have to offer takes the negative form, e.g., "Never get staggering drunk in the SFWA suite and spill your drink on Ellen Datlow. And if you do this anway, never offer to lick it off her."

Does anyone else have some more constructive advice?