Aspiring professional writer? Let me help you out.
I spent a lot of time with the Reddit/r/fantasy crowd at Worldcon, and many of them are burgeoning fantasy writers themselves. We engaged in the weird courtship dance that is business networking, trying to socialize, avoiding the topic of writing, always with that uncomfortable undercurrent: They wanted the professional contact, but didn’t want to come out and say it.
I remember being in that situation myself, and I still am in that situation all the time, when I’m talking to a writer I want a jacket quote from, or I’m trying to schmooze some interviewer or podcaster trying to get on the show. These are friends and colleagues, people I have a genuine non-business interest in, but the business aspect of it colors the whole conversation. You can hear it breathing right on the other side of the door. That feeling sucks. You feel greasy. You feel like a sycophant.
So, this past Worldcon, I turned to one of these folks and said: “Let’s cut to the chase. I know what you want from me. You want me to introduce you to my agent. No problem, I’ll do it. Now, you don’t have to be uncomfortable anymore and we can just hang out.” And it worked. The tension lifted, I was as good as my word, and we spent the rest of the con as friends.
I wish someone had done that for me when I was cutting my teeth. Well, I can’t leverage my connections for everyone, but I can do this:
* Starting tonight, I will occasionally make myself available for 15-30 minutes on Skype to anyone who wants to chat with me. Want to ask me for writing advice? Business of publishing advice? Want to give me the elevator pitch for your manuscript and hear my opinion? Want to ask me questions about plot, prose or character problems? Hell, want to talk about your workout routine? I’m all yours. If you’re already a pro and want specific career advice or want to talk shop? That’s fine too. Here’s how it’ll work:
– I’ll tweet the link to this post, along with the time I’ll be available.
– Anyone interested can email me at myke (at) mykecole (dot) com asking for the slot. First come, first serve. If you miss it one time, don’t sweat it. There’ll be others. I’ll respond to the person who gets the slot with my Skype information.
– If you got the slot, I’ll only give it to you again if no one else asks for it the next time around. I want to give as many folks an opportunity as possible.
– You’re respectful, not creepy and not inappropriate. I’ll be the same. I’ll also be professional and gentle with any criticism (though I will be honest). You come ready with what you want to accomplish in the conversation. When I say it’s time to say goodbye, it’s time to say goodbye.
– We meet on Skype and chat.
First slot is tonight at 2100 (9PM) EST. Email me if you want to talk.
I wish someone had done this for me. I think some straight talk could have saved me a lot of trouble along the road to my writing goals. Well, I can’t go back in time and change that for myself, but I can offer it to you. Hope it helps.
See you on Skype.