Pub Rants

Exploding The “Must Have Connections Myth”—Guest Blogger Megan Crewe

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STATUS: For a Monday, it was actually fairly quiet. Only one major issue to solve.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? RASPBERRY BERET by Prince

I thought this a pertinent and timely entry in light of a lot of recent discussions I’ve seen in the comment section of agent blogs lately.

Megan’s debut hits shelves this week—all done with nary a networked connection.

I think every aspiring writer hears this message at least once: You don’t have a hope of getting published unless you’ve got connections. I saw it pop up on message boards and websites as I was preparing GIVE UP THE GHOST for submission to agents, and couldn’t help feeling nervous. After all, I’d never talked to an editor or an agent in my life. I didn’t even live in the same country as most of them! And my close writer friends were currently unagented, so I didn’t have a referral, either.

But I’d also read posts by authors talking about getting picked out of the slush pile, and agents mentioning their excitement at finding a gem in their inboxes, and that gave me hope. So instead of digging into my savings to fly off to every conference I could manage, I simply wrote a query letter, revised it, and started sending it out.

Three and a half years later, I have an agent, a publishing deal, and a book that just hit the shelves. I met Kristin in person for the first time this past May, two and a half years after we started working together.

I know now that there’s nothing to worry about–people receive offers of representation and book deals without any prior connections all the time. I did, many of my writer friends did, and I’ve happily told this to writers who’ve said they’re afraid they won’t be able to find an agent or get published because they don’t know anyone.

Unfortunately, I realized offering my experience isn’t enough. Why should anyone believe me over those claiming that it’s impossible? Maybe my case was just the exception.

Which is why, last month, I set out to collect solid data. 270 fiction authors from a variety of genres filled out a poll asking them about their experiences selling their first published novel. With the results now in, I say with assurance that the idea that you need connections to get published is nothing more than a myth.

62% of the agented authors who responded got the agent who sold their first book through cold querying–no prior meeting, no referral.

72% of the authors sold their first book to an editor they had no connection to (either by cold querying themselves, or submitting via their agent).

You can find my full discussion of the poll results here.

Can connections help you out? Of course! But if you don’t have them, don’t sweat it. I’m a Canadian author who signed with a Denver agent who sold to a New York editor without my having any prior connection to either of them, and that novel can be found right now in stores across both countries. If I can do it (along with more than a hundred other authors who answered the poll), there’s no reason you can’t, too.

39 Responses

  1. AstonWest said:

    I’d be interested in a breakdown of the 62% who didn’t have connections, and how many of those had no prior published credits either.

    I’m not sure what the 72% statistic is trying to prove. Perhaps the author had no connection, but did the agent (in those cases where an agent was used)?

    What can I say? I’m a numbers guy…

  2. Megan said:

    Glad the post’s provided some hope! That was my intention. 🙂

    Aston, if you check the link to my original post about the poll you can see the full breakdown of the results, which’ll give you more of the numbers you’re looking for.

    A few (not all, or even most) of the adult SF/F authors commented that they’d made short story sales before getting published which they knew helped them get their book noticed. I (and most of the YA/children’s authors I know) didn’t have any related publications before my book was picked up. I think it’s another one of those things that can help, but aren’t required.

    The 72% breaks down into 28% of the total cold queried the editor on their own and 44% reached the editor through their agent.

  3. ryan field said:

    This is a great post. One of my best friends, for years, is a long time Lit Agent. He has all the contacts anyone would ever need. But, we’ve NEVER mixed business with friendship.

    I found my own agent through queries and constantly working on publishing credits. It wasn’t easy, especially when one of your best friends is an agent (talk about weird Karma), but it was worth it.

  4. Jenna said:

    Fantastic post. Very inspiring for all of us out here in aspiring-author-land who’ve been hearing all those horror stories and depressing tales about how knowing nobody gets you nowhere. Glad to know it’s just a myth! 😀

  5. Gordon Jerome said:

    Well, don’t I feel like an ass.

    I was wrong on at least two counts: Apparently Kristin does read at least some of the comments left on her blog, and she does–at least in one case–handle ghost stories.

    Why do I get this feeling there’s already a form rejection letter stamped and ready to go and pinned to a voodoo doll wearing a white shirt and tie. It’s this feeling I get.

    To quote Micheal Keaton from the movie Night Shift: “I’m feeling a lot of love in this room…I don’t know, it was there a minute ago.”

    Seriously though, I normally don’t read YA, but I bought a copy of this book a few minutes ago from Amazon. Hardback and less than twelve bucks; not a bad deal. There’s even some sample pages to read, and Megan Crewe, I must say, seems to write some pretty good prose. I can’t vouch for the story yet, but I’m looking forward to reading it, maybe do a review at Amazon on it.

    What’s on my Itunes right now? What else? Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word, Sir Elton John. God, I hate the taste of crow.


  6. Julie H. Ferguson said:

    I have been saying this for years. I am delighted that Megan has proved it and delivered some stats as well.
    I shall use your stats at a presentation I’m giving on Saturday, crediting Megan of course.

    Really worth saying – TY!

  7. DebraLSchubert said:

    Megan and Kristin, Great post! It’s always nice to know you don’t have to be a friend of a friend to get your foot in the door. Thanks for sharing the good news. I’m going to tweet this link on Twitter. 😉

  8. Daisy Whitney said:

    Hi Megan and Kristin:

    Great post and very encouraging. I’ll second all the comments and the results because I too found my agent via an email query and she went on to sell my YA novel! Now, agents — we want them to have connections! But that’s the point — you need an agent because they know the editors and they know how to find the perfect fit for your book.

    Megan, your book looks great and I hope it hits the Kindle store soon!

  9. Natalie Whipple said:

    Great post. I can second your sentiments too, as I’m yet another agented writer who had no connections before. My dear friend also had no connections when she snagged her agent—she’s publishing in 2010. It does happen, rather frequently.

  10. Diana Paz said:

    I’m constantly lurking on here and it looks like Give up the Ghost is what’ll pull me out. In response to Gordon, I can vouch for the story. It’s so good I want another helping! I’d love to find out more about Cass someday 🙂

  11. therese said:

    Thanks for the great post Megan & Kristin. I personally didn’t need the numbers, the story was enough.

    I have felt bogged down with all the “branding, networking and industry savvy” an author needs now to get published. This is followed by the “marketing, selling and networking” the author needs to do after the sale.

    Yes, I am aware that as an author I am a business. For me, it’s a really simple business plan, the most basic structure.

    Create an awesome product, present it professionally to customers. Follow up with another awesome product comparable to the first. And so I am now inspired again, to relax, and continue to create that awesome product. Because those with the connections, they will come… 🙂

  12. Anonymous said:

    Congrats to Megan! I was in a bookstore this weekend and saw this book in the YA section, proudly faced out. Great job!

    I wasn’t aware that other people thought you needed connections in the industry — any agent blog will tell you different. But who knows? Lots of people want to make excuses for their stuff not selling, and maybe that is an easy one.

  13. Wildfire said:

    Ouch, Anonymous, a little harsh.

    I’m not using “it’s who you know” as an excuse. The other published writers I know don’t use it as an excuse, either. We keep on honing our craft and keep on querying.

    It’s discouraging, though, when we read about others getting their first manuscript published when they knew someone in publishing or knew someone who knew someone. We begin to wonder if it’s all about east coast/west coast connections. I wouldn’t blame agents and publishers for adopting this attitude. They’ve got to know that you can deliver the baby on time and that you are willing to edit your baby to boot. It’s a business to them, and it’s a huge risk dealing with an unknown quantity.

    Congratulations to Megan. And thank you, too, for the encouraging words and giving us thus-far-unpublished-writers hope that we can get our fiction published without contacts.

    And thank you to the agents and publishers who are willing to take a risk on the unknowns.

  14. Marshall Buckley said:

    @ Alan
    “This does not give me hope”

    Why ever not?

    I’m currently in the submissions to editors stage having secured an agent for my first novel with no previous connections other than sending out lots of queries – yes, there were lots of rejections, but our agent actually showed an interest within a couple of days of all the queries going out, and we signed within a few weeks.

    I’d say this gives a lot of hope, I just don’t understand why you would think otherwise.

  15. Ulysses said:

    Thanks, Megan. As a fellow resident of the True North, I often find myself worrying that geographical isolation from the center of the publishing universe will make it more difficult for me to sell my work.

    You’ve been very reassuring.

  16. Sarah Olutola said:

    As a Canadian writer with no connections and no money to make said connections, this gives me hope like you wouldn’t believe.

    Thank you for this post and congrats Megan! I’m already putting this book on my To Fangirl Over List.

    Hope I join you there in Published Land one day 🙂

  17. Anonymous said:

    Wildfire — I said “lots” of people, I didn’t say “you.” 🙂

    Heck, my own stuff isn’t selling at the moment, either. It’s not from not knowing an agent.

    –Anon 7:47

  18. M.J. Roberts said:

    Great post! You can add me to your stats as well. I am a Canadian author, who is represented by an NY Agent. I didn’t go to conferences and I had no connections.

    I’m still waiting for word on my submission, but in the meantime, I’m working on my next project.

    Good luck to everyone!

  19. J. R. McLemore said:

    Now this is the kind of thing that gives me motivation. I’m still in the revision process for my first novel, but I’m already trying to learn as much as I can about creating an effective query letter and obtaining an agent. I’ll admit, I’m still quite a bit nervous though.

  20. Kylie L said:

    Hey, I’m an Australian author with no prior US connections whatsoever, and my debut novel found a great NY agency (Foundry) and a superlative NY publisher (Doubleday). It happens! It’s real! Took me 10 years of writing to get to this stage, but it’s allllll worth it.

  21. Samantha Clark said:

    Great post! Perserverance is key. And it’s always a great reminder to see that these things rarely happen overnight. Thanks! And congratulations to your both on Give Up the Ghost.