• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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When There’s No Getting Over that Rainbow


Writers often ask me how important is it to have connections to get published. 100%. For as long as I’ve been in publishing I only know of two books that were discovered in the slush pile (though I’m sure there must be more) Ordinary People and The Twilight series. Not great odds. This is what I say: get connected! First, join a writer’s group and get feedback from other writers. You shouldn’t be approaching agents or publishers unless your work has been workshopped and revised. There are also excellent freelance editors who will edit, give feedback and make agent recommendations. Subscribe to Publisher’s Marketplace where you can see every deal and who represented it. You can see who the agent of record is and go to their websites, get their vibe, research their clients and get their contact information. You can read lots of agents’ blog for meat and potatoes advice. There are hundreds of writing programs, festivals, workshops. You aren’t going to meet your mentor or agent there first time out. But you will soak up a lot of information. I’m still friendly with writers I met at conferences 20 years ago. Part of your writing life and getting connected includes building your community.

Do you have a writing community?

8 Responses

  1. So true this. I found my writing buddy here. She wrote a cracking book, landed a fab agent & deal, then was gracious enough to let me drop her name when querying the same agent. Cut to to my book deal. Never would have happened without wandering into Betsy’s Fun House years ago. Merci Madame.

  2. Would I be cynical if my reaction was that these days, writers usually benefit from a community, but writers do not actually need a community, but they absolutely need a platform. We writers need potential book buyers, not fellow writers. Betsy, as an agent reading a query, would you rather learn that a writer had an impressive platform, or was in some writing group?

    • A really good comment. About ten or fifteen years ago, I pitched a novel to a senior editor and the first thing she asked was, “does the writer have a platform?” That day definitely marked a sea change for me. She asked that question before any other. In fact, my client had won a writing prize and graduated from a top MFA program. Her mentor, a big name writer, offered a blurb. It was a pretty good platform, but the question still rankled, as if it was all that mattered. In the years since, it matters more than ever. Additionally, now everyone had access to Bookspan, so you could look up anyone’s sales track. If your sales were below a certain number, it was likely to be curtains for you. Then social media exploded and all anyone wanted to know was how many followers you had on FB and Twitter and now Instagram and TikTok. I have clients with millions of followers and some have never gone on any social media. I have clients with tremendous academic credential and some with none. I have clients who have hit it big and others I can’t place. I’d rather take on a journalist who has published in the New Yorker rather than an obscure magazine, of course. The bar is very high. Yes, a platform is very important. I still think you need a community to help navigate this new world, to support you and read for you, and share contacts, and help you build.

  3. Absolutely do! I met two of the beta readers for my debut novel right here. They are more than just beta readers, of course. They have become friends who cheer me on, prop me up and let me whinge. Thanks to St Betsy for favours received. Meanwhile, wearing my other writing hat, I have connected with many flash fiction writers, first through an online course, then Twitter, and found such a warm welcome. Flash forward (ahem) five years and I have met many of these writers in real life, some of whom have become dear friends. I would be lost without my writing community and it all started here. How? Your blog was recommended to me by a writing tutor way back in 2012. Keep on keeping on, Betsy.

  4. Hate to burst the proverbial bubble, but here goes.

    Every single literary agent (Maria Carvainis, Andrea Brown, Al Zuckerman, Stephanie Kip Rostan) who represented me were fairly big-deal, and they each found me in the slush pile.

    My ultimate failure was entirely my fault. They gave me a chance, over and over again.

  5. Yes, I do. Through various memberships, etc., I have come to know a lot of writers/readers. The whole point of the community is for that support, the chance to talk “shop,” and learn from other experiences. It might not sell books (it will sell a few, b/c hey, what are friends for?) but, it will help you keep your sanity.

    The whole kit and caboodle here is spot on. Had it not been for the freelance editor I worked with – who had connections – I don’t know if my work would have seen the light of day out.

    The connections will come, unexpectedly, and surprisingly. Recently, a bookstore owner recommended my latest book to another writer. He happened to be the editor of Carolina Country Magazine. That turned into a short feature article. And some books were sold.

  6. Thanks to you, Betsy, I do. I don’t know if you realize what a transformational force you’ve been in my life. You taught me to write, and writing has given my inner voice some tangibility. It’s provided the edge I needed to carve out some living space where I can let my hair down and get a little mean about the things that piss me off. It’s what allows me to feel that my mind is worth exploring, sometimes even worth sharing. Some of the most important people in my life have come to me through you. Thank you, truly.

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