Sometimes – It’s Who You Know

Rachelle Gardner

Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

Earlier this month at PubSmart, I co-taught a workshop on “setting yourself up for success” at the conference. I offered the idea that the participants’ most important connections would be with their fellow writers, not the agents, editors, or other professionals.

Other writers are your fellow pilgrims on the writing-and-publishing journey—the ones who can still be there for you five or ten years into your writing career. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of building genuine relationships with writers who are in a similar place as you on the writing path.

We in the publishing world spend a lot of time talking about things like:

• The best thing you can do for your platform is write a great book.

• Publishing isn’t about who you know, but what you write.

For the most part, these are true statements. Nevertheless, networking with other authors can be tremendously valuable:

• Sharing the journey gives you access to information you might not have had otherwise.

• Author friends can share marketing ideas and offer endorsements.

• Hanging with other authors (online or in real life) gives you encouragement that you’re not alone in this crazy writing life.

• At the right time, a recommendation from a writing friend to an agent or publisher can change your life.

networkingLike all agents and publishers, I receive far more submissions than I can say “yes” to. But occasionally, one of my clients or colleagues will email me independently with a recommendation for a particular writer. I trust that they’re giving the referral because they believe the writer is ready for publication and that they’d be a fit for me. So when the writer’s submission comes through, I’ll give it more attention. A large percentage of my new clients come with referrals or recommendations from someone I already know.

Don’t underestimate the potential value of knowing other writers. You never know when it might come in handy. Writers’ conferences, writers’ groups, critique groups, local writer organizations, and online hangouts such as Absolute Write can all be places to begin networking. And this blog is a great start!

Of course, knowing all the right people won’t do you a bit of good if you haven’t paid attention to the most important thing: writing well. But once you can do that, your relationships might make a difference in your publishing journey.

Are you friends or critique partners with other writers? What do you think of the idea that it can help you?


Sometimes in publishing, who you know can make a difference. Click to Tweet.

Yes, you need to write well – but networking is also important. Click to Tweet.



67 Responses

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  1. No doubt that knowing a writer who is influential and has some great contacts may help you get published by a major publisher. (I wouldn’t count on it.)

    More important, however, is the wisdom in this quotation:

    “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.”
    — Marcela Landres, former Simon & Schuster editor

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Ernie, I was trying to convey the idea that it’s valuable to get to know other writers who are brand-new at the same time you are — NOT that you have to get to know people who are already influential. The idea is that a few years down the road, you and your writer friends will have reached that influential level together, and will be able to help each other at that point.

      As far as the quote about “who knows you” – yes! I’m saying, get to know fellow writers because they can be the key to “who knows you” later on.

  2. Anne Love says:

    This blog, ACFW, mentors, and critique partners who are also my dear friends and prayer warriors—I couldn’t live without them! They inspire and enrich my life.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Anne, I’m so glad you’ve found a helpful support system and enriching group of friends! This is what makes it all worthwhile.

  3. Over the years, writing/critique groups have been invaluable to my growth as a writer. The friendships I made along the way enriched not only my writing but my life. I’ve only attended a few writers’ conferences but those too were amazing experiences.

  4. The ability to be open to a genuine relationship with fellow writers, to be able to take advice and criticism, and to accept help, may well be a vital turn on the path to learning to write professionally.

    Today’s online communities, and the real friends we may never meet, are a true blessing. I was part of a ‘real’ writer’s community in the late 70s and early 80s associated with the College of Creative Studies at UC Santa Barbara, and it was nothing so enriching as what we can find now. The clique-ish-ness made high school seem like a paragon among enlightened communities, and if what you wrote wasn’t “in”…you were toast. (This experience left a bad taste, and I abandoned creativity and ‘creatives’ for years.)

    For myself, I’ve already found success as a writer – I actually finished several novels, and beta readers whose opinion I respect have enjoyed them. That’s more than I ever thought I might do.

    But if my work one day is seen by a wider audience, its visibility will come from the fact that it – and I – were held aloft by giants.

    My friends.

  5. This is excellent advice. Other writers have provided me inspiration, tips, a shoulder to cry on, etc. Networking aside, they’ve become my friends.

    • Being willing to cry on someone’s shoulder when you have to is the hardest obstacle to overcome, but it’s that admission of shared humanity that turns an online presence into a friend.

      When we leave this place, the connections we make won’t matter.

      The friendships will, because love is, I think, the only thing that endures.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Dina, I hesitate to use the word networking, because it has such a commercial connotation, and what I’m really advocating is what you said – nurturing genuine friendships. What a blessing they are!

  6. COLUMBA KNOX says:

    Howdy, Ma’aM,

    There is a Querying website that declares—
    secret of success is spending time with those
    who write exactly what you are writing about.

    BARNSTORMING(1920—1924—1929)Time Period;
    turns out that Agent Kent has an author that has a book about that time period; Karen’s
    success can be helpful to others writing about
    that time period. Though success is not the only thing about this. The fun of talking about that time period with those writing about
    that, is motivating///inspiring.

    What are your thoughts about that time period???

    Do you have authors who write about that time period???

    Any places on the world wide web that you can think of for writers’ gathering for that time period???

    Happy non—humidity to yah………

    Sincerely, Indeed,

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Honestly, I question the wisdom of that quote. I don’t think it’s a good one to follow! You’re not going to find a group of people writing “exactly” what you’re writing, and you wouldn’t want to. That’s my take, anyway.

      • COLUMBA KNOX says:

        They mean historical fiction, for example;
        that is what they mean by same type of writing………

      • COLUMBA KNOX says:

        And exactly is the proper word —

        With respect to that time period,
        Here is hoping others are writing exactly
        about barnstorming………
        That would be exactly agreeable with the quotable………

    • One thing you should do, in writing about that time period, is immerse yourself in the aviation technology of the day, since it drove the subject you’ve chosen. Detail, in this case, is vital. Technical errors will bring the Vultures of the Amazon Review faster than anything.

      I’ve worked on airplanes of this time period for years, and the obduracy of their design, as well as the clumsiness of their performance, has been a constant source of frustration. Romance does fade when you wonder if you’re really going to clear those trees on takeoff.

      But…this was all they had, and the perspective of Now has to leavened with the freshness of Then.

      There are a lot of good and generous people who lovingly restore these recalcitrant beasts to the air, and I hope you’ve made their acquaintance.

      • COLUMBA KNOX says:

        Thanks, again, for adding your thoughts about the that time period (1920—1924—1929),
        aviation. You did that at a previous blogging and thought you were replying and forgot to click the reply button. Will be checking those websites that you had declared.

        Technology, indeed; JN4—D “JENNIE” and a CountrieGirl—-they have their similitudes;
        and knowing that can save a pilot’s life.

        You typed, “I’ve worked on airplanes of this time period”; Write About BARNSTORMING.

      • Rachelle Gardner says:

        Thanks for this reply, Andrew. Very helpful.

  7. Much has been given to me since finding this blog site. The love, acceptance, and support has been overwhelming … and I can’t wait to meet everyone in person.

    I’ve been a secluded writer for over eight years … didn’t know that other writers were connecting. I missed out on heart-breaking years of support and knowledge. But I know God’s timing is simply perfect.

    A crit group is what I am lacking. I’ll be praying over that.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Sometimes the online community can be as beneficial as face-to-face contact. You’re doing the right thing!

    • Hayley Shaver says:

      I’ll critique your work if you want me to. Tell me where to find you online, and I’ll be in contact.

  8. This is filled with so much truth. A friend of mine, on Facebook, who I’ve never personally met recommended my first novel to her publisher. I was published the following year.

    Great advice here!

    Thank You for sharing.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Thanks for telling us, Randy! That’s exactly what I’m talking about. It happens more than people realize.

  9. Never underestimate the value of friendships with other writers. Aside from the fact that they “get me,” my quirks, characters talking in my head, that compelling need to write down a scene idea right now…..having other writers who walk the same road I do, encourages me to keep moving forward. And, hopefully I do the same for them.

    I’ve been blessed to have a few writing mentors who help me improve my craft and who help me become more savvy about the industry. I wouldn’t be where I am today as a writer without writer friends.

    • A lot of us would not be where we are today in writing and faith without you, specifically, Jeanne.

      You make a difference.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Jeanne, you bring up a good point about other writers “getting you.” It’s rare to find others “in real life” who really get what it’s like to be a writer. This world we inhabit is pretty unique! I’m glad you’ve put yourself out there and formed lasting and valuable friendships.

  10. Rachelle, I agree that it’s important–on a number of levels–to make friends with writers who are at the same stage as you. I still maintain an online relationship (and occasional face-to-face one) with writers whom I met at my early writing conferences.
    But it’s also nice to become, if not friends, at least good acquaintances with more experienced writers–not for what they might someday be able to do for you, but rather to get occasional advice based on their own trip down this road to writing. Thanks for some good advice.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Yes, Richard, you’re a great example of someone who’s become friends with writers all along the spectrum. I’m sure they’ve enjoyed and benefitted from your friendship! Thanks for pointing out your experience in this area.

  11. I agree with your thoughts, Rachelle. I’ve already benefited from relationships formed with other writers, and I hope some have benefited from their friendships with me. I can definitely see how those relationships could help down the road.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Yes, I think the further down the road you go, the more beneficial the relationships can be. I’m so glad you’re forming friendships in the writing world!

  12. Jim Lupis says:

    I agree with you Rachelle, being involved with other writers can only help. For me, the encouragement is good, but more importantly it stirs my creativity. I find when I start trading ideas and stories my creative adendline gets pumping.

    I am actually a firm believer in it is not what you know, but who you know. By that I’m refering to JESUS.

  13. My book contract came out of networking–an author in my local writer’s group had read some of my work in a critique session the group did. A few years later, she sent me a note, saying she was now a fiction editor for a publishing house, remembered my writing, and wanted me to send her something.

    Six months later, she called me with an offer.

    I’m SO very thankful for that!!!!

  14. This makes a lot of sense as I can see that the group of homeschoolers that I hang with. We’ve started at a similar time. We are in a similar season with our children, and the resources that we are able to pool is quite amazing. I wonder how I find a writing community like this.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      The analogy to your homeschool group is perfect. You can really see how much more you know by pooling information and resources – plus you have the support of people who know exactly what you’re going through. Priceless!

  15. Oh yes — I definitely agree with you! Befriending others on this writing journey has done so much for me personally. Like you’ve said, I’ve learned from them, not only regarding crits on my work, but also regarding the behind-the-scenes in the publishing world (for those friends of mine who are published, and before I was agented, I learned lots about being agented and what that was like). And I have a support system like nothing I could have imagined. It’s hard to believe I haven’t known them my whole life (even though it’s only been a few years). Whether they ever help me get a pub deal or not, they’ve already changed my life.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Lindsay, I’m so glad you’ve experienced this. Personally, I think the friends I’ve made in this business are what make me love it so much. Isn’t it fun to be friends with people who understand what you’re going through? I’m sure you’ll continue to make friends as the journey continues.

  16. I still feel awkward asking other writer peeps for help, because I don’t want them to think I’m taking advantage of them.

    But here’s a “who you know” trail…

    Let me preface this with the fact that my work involves Navajo history, beginning,specifically between 1864 and 1868,with the event known as The Long Walk, and the Bosque Redondo prison camp.

    In January of 2012, I started reading Michael Hyatt’s blog, then Rachelle Gardner’s blog, then this blog. I got to know a few people from Rachelle’s and then here as well. One person was Kiersti Plog. We gravitated toward each other because we both write historicals based on Navajo culture. Kiersti put me in touch with Mark Charles. Mark writes a blog called The Wireless Hogan. ( Mark answered a few if my questions, then introduced me to his father, Ted.
    Ted answered hundreds of questions, then extended an invitation to visit him and his wife in New Mexico. In November of 2013, I rendezvoused with Ted and Evie near Albuquerque and we drove to Bosque Redondo, near Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Without breaking any specifically indicated laws, we made it onto the grounds of the Bosque Redondo grounds.
    Where 500 mescalero Apache, and 9500 Navajo were brought at gun point, from 1864 to 1868, and held against their will.

    One of those prisoners was a little boy named Tsi’tnaginnie (Sit-nah-gin-ee).

    And guess what his grandsons’ name is?

    Ted Charles.

  17. Rachelle, this post is perfectly timed for me since I’m participating in my first blog tour this week re: #mywritingprocess. A writer/blogging friend, I’ve gotten to know over the past year, invited me.

    I realize after reading this post that it was wise to say yes. This is something I need to work on. I’ve always been a loner except for super outgoing friends who’ve never given up on me. I cherish them and their prayers.

    It’s been a gift to read your posts and the comments here. I especially enjoy the regular writers who always make me smile (I’m sure we all know who I mean).

    Blessings ~ Wendy ❀

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Wendy, it’s common for writers to find it difficult to get out there and make “writing friends,” when it doesn’t come naturally. Online is the perfect place to start. Good for you for saying YES to the blog tour!

  18. Cathy West says:

    Yes. Networking is important. Who you know is important, no doubt, because that’s just the way the world works. Building relationship, creating community, that’s where the real magic is. I’m not likely to invest my time and energies into getting to know someone if it’s clear from the start that they really just want an endorsement or recommendation from me. Sadly, this is something many new writers fail to grasp. I was also there and guilty as charged – I thought, if only so and so would read this…surely they’d pass it along to editor X and all my dreams will come true. Not likely. Once I got past the desperation of wanting to become a published author, I was able to view authors, agents and editors in a different light. They’re people first and foremost, and potential friends. Any recommendations I’ve ever received have grown organically from the friendships established with people God has seen fit to put in my path. Friends I still rely on to this day to keep me sane. Sure, it takes effort to reach out and put yourself out there at first, especially if you’re introverted like I am, but don’t ever do it with an ulterior motive. That will come back to bite you. Do it because you’re genuinely interested in that person and what they’re doing with their life. A new friend is a great reward. If you find out at some point that they just happen to be a literary agent and want to represent you, hey, that’s cool too. (true story). 🙂

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Yes, I know for a fact that your agent vastly appreciates your friendship! And I know the other friends you’ve made have not only been terrific supports for you, but you’ve also been wonderful for them. Genuine relationships make all the difference.

    • Leon says:

      Rachelle this is an excellent blog post. This sentence summed it up for me:

      ” The idea is that a few years down the road, you and your writer friends will have reached that influential level together, and will be able to help each other at that point.”

      Hi Cathy, I like your website. The homepage is fresh and inviting. What you’ve shared here is valuable advice.

  19. rachel m says:

    I would never have had the guts to finish a manuscript if it hadn’t been for an author friend I was FIRST a fan of. If i LOVE a book, I will write an author and tell them and in this case I had written the author a few times GUSHING about her books. Soon we became facebook friends and a year later she asked if I wrote anything on my own because I love reading so much. From there, she became the best encouragement, connected me with her agent and now we’re agency mates. I never would’ve joined the ACFW or gone to conference without her encouragement. This friendship is awesome because it was borne without expectation or the intention of a symbiotic endgame for both 🙂 So, I guess my moral of the story is, if you love a book TELL the author! review their books and who knows what might come out of it 🙂

  20. I could not even attempt to work in this industry without my writing chums. I have a wonderful critique group online, plus now I have an in-person one that meets twice a month. Many of my writing friends are people I’ve been friendly with for the past six to eight years. It’s fun cheering each other up and encouraging each other when things are rough.

  21. Alexis says:

    Great advice, Rachelle! Thanks for sharing!

    How much time does it usually take for a new author (like me) to sign with literary agent?

    What if I cannot afford to go to writers’ conferences at the moment. What are other ways besides what you’ve already mentioned to become discovered and get a book deal?

    I appreciate your blog! You’re very talented!

  22. Years ago when I got involved in my first critique group I was afraid I’d be jealous if someone else got a book published before I did. But when one of them (John Olson) got his book published and it won a Christie award I felt like a proud mother watching her kids succeed. The relationships we build with other writers not only help us professionally, they help us personally, too. Writing is a solitary job, but writers are communicators so we need each other.

  23. Sondra Kraak says:

    I’ve enjoyed becoming familiar with other writers online and when I sense I have something in common with one, I’ll write to introduce myself and maybe ask a question based on their experience.

  24. Sometimes it’s also where you come from, because “nothing good ever came out of Nazareth”.

    A few years ago I was attending a technical session at an American Concrete Institute conference, dealing with the use of high-strength reinforcement in concrete columns in earthquake zones.

    The committee chair made the comment that no large-scale tests had ever been done on ultra-high-strength reinforcement; just some small-scale stuff in Japan.

    It was interesting to hear, because I’d lately completed a major large-scale testing program on…wait for it…the use of ultra-high-strength reinforcement in large-scale specimens. The paper had been published in the Structural Journal of…wait for it again…the American Concrete Institute.

    Seems that no one had paid it any mind when it came out, because the work had been done in San Diego, and at the time San Diego researchers were assumed to be marijuana-befuddled surfers who could not complete a sentence without at least two repetitions of “like, you know”, and who would address all and sundry as “Dude!”

    It was, like, you know, so, like, biased, you know…Dude!

    • I’ve always wanted to attend an ACI conference, but haven’t been able to. I suspect, since you had “lately completed” and so I assume lately published, the lead time for conference submittals, peer review, etc. meant that the papers passed “in the mail,” so to speak.

      • No, it had come out a couple of months before.

      • For the national conference I present at, the IECA, smaller and newer than the ACI, for the annual conference in Feb the abstracts are due the previous May and the papers due in July. So the work leading to the paper must be done nearly a year ahead of time. Surely the ACI has as long or longer lead time.

      • The paper was published in late 2003, and the conference took place in 2004, in San Francisco. ACI’s lead time then was something under a year, as the paper was accepted in early 2002 with revisions due that June. The experimental programme itself was completed in late 2000.

      • Should have been more clear – it was a journal paper rather than a conference proceeding. I apologize.

  25. Steve Novak says:

    We have a group of four who have been together for about four years. Encouragement is the greatest benefit. Honest, tough, but fair feedback comes from knowing and trusting each other for a long period. I would not be where I am at with my writing without them.

  26. Every writing group I’ve joined IRL has died, and all but one of the on line groups. Am I bad luck?

    But one success that I had being a mentor, when I started a writing group at church: A retired lay missionary woman attended, hoping to get some help preparing her missionary stories for sharing with her family. I helped her to see that her stories made a book, which our denominational pub house would want. She didn’t believe me, but I pushed her and held her hand through the process, becoming her main editor, coach, and encouager. Using what I’d learned from eight years of publishing failure, a explained and lead her through the query/proposal/submittal process. She made me push “Send” when it was time for that. After a ten month wait she learned it was accepted, for Jan 2015 release. She’s still up in the clouds.

    So the mentored is published before the mentor.

  27. Rachelle…Thanks so much for your comments. I am a new writer and love the idea of connecting with other writers. I will check out “Absolutely Write” Do you or anyone else know of other online communities I might check out for writers like myself who write about the integration of Christianity and Psychology in practical and powerful ways? Thanks!

  28. I personally know seventeen dogs in our neighbor hood.

    That must count for something – huh?

  29. Oh, the value of a writing group! And blessing. And joy. And inspiration. I have been fortunate to belong to an online group for nearly ten years. It has been wonderful to watch all of us grow and become published, some with more articles in magazines, some with books by traditional publishers and others who have chosen to self pub. The best comment one told us was, “I would have given up writing if it wasn’t for you all.” We have become best friends and support and pray for each other in every aspect of our lives.

  30. I have several writer friends, and it is so important to me to have friends who are on the same journey.

  31. Kathleen Auth says:

    I’ve been part of a writing group for more than a dozen years. We have great respect for one another, and we value and trust each other’s critiques. I would also urge all serious writers to join a writers’ club if possible.

  32. luvlawz says:

    Hi all,
    I thought this post was really thought provoking. It can be hard to connect with people who are already established in their writing careers. However, being able to connect with people who are at the same point in their career as you are, is a great way to keep motivation going. A nice way not to feel alone in this as you plug away at it. Thanks for the tips, Rachel!

  33. So, here I am, stumbling through the door feeling late to a party that I’m never sure ever actually gave a start time on the invitation, nor was an invitation provided, so I suppose I needent worry about my late arrival. I did stumble upon this page after doing some searches for agents. You see, I am a writer who, until only the past 8 or 9 months, kept my words locked away in my head. I began with my blogging journey, which I adore and write to a surprising still growing audience several times a week. I also, took a plunge and (gasp!) self-published my first book in a memoir series. I have had little luck with it since its release a month ago. Sales consist of friends, and friends of friends all obliging me because they bought into my writing over the past several months over on my
    Blog. My book however, although written in a similar tone, is full of a very touchy topic- mental illness and the abuse of children at the hands who suffer in silence from it. I wanted to release this story as my debut to the world, but I fear I may have done an injustice to my former self’s memory and a life I’ve overcome by not being equipped with the right tools and self-publishing it in haste. Woe is me, right?! Well, not exactly. I’d prefer to think that stumbling into this party, here tonight was the universe telling me perhaps I am not late at all, perhaps Inwas meant to show up right now and begin to learn what I must to do this thing well- and perhaps my invitation was not withheld after all, but rather just lost in the mail. So glad to have found you anyway. Best~ Julie B.