Workarounds–Friend of a Friend

Wendy Lawton

Blogger:  Wendy Lawton

Location: Books & Such Central Valley Office

Problem: Catching the attention of an agent and getting him to ask for a proposal or manuscript.

Traditional Solution: Write a smashing query letter, send it to multiple agents and hold your breath.

Workaround: One way around the oh-so-slow agent query is to come to that agent with a referral from one of his clients. Our clients become our best screeners. When I get a referral from a trusted client, I try to drop everything and give the submission my full attention.

Here’s the rub. You cannot put that writer on the spot by asking for a referral. And you cannot approach a stranger to do this. If the client is not familiar with you and your writing, he could never put his reputation on the line to refer you. His referral capital, so to speak, is only valuable if he has a good eye and the ability to offer a great possibility.

So, if you can’t ask directly and you can’t enlist strangers, how in the world do you go about getting a referral? It has to do with investing in other writers over a long period of time. When you first start writing, you need to join the community of writers online. You begin to identify writers you enjoy. You give them Amazon reviews. You write on their Facebook pages. You retweet their tweets. You attend their events and booksignings if you are close. You join a local critique group of writers who are a step or two above you.

As you get to know writers and invest in them, let them reciprocate. Let them read some of your work and get to know you. If the two of you click and the relationship is reciprocal–meaning you’ve given as much or more than you’ve received–it blossoms into friendship. It doesn’t hurt to let your friends know you are seeking referrals at some point. Let them tell you when they think you are ready.

You can tell this is not something you decide you need and then set out to make it happen. I’m not advocating using people. I’m making the case for honestly connecting with the community of writers from the very beginning. Your friends will help you work around some of these odds. It’s no surprise that so many of the published authors are friends–they’ve been helping each other for years.

Please share your story of a helping hand you received from a fellow writer. Was the relationship reciprocal?

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10 Comments

  • I’m not agented yet, but I’ve already experienced the benefits of plugging into an online writing community. A friend that I connected with via blogging offered me a referral to her agent once I get my query letter complete. Even though it doesn’t guarantee representation, I’m thankful for the opportunity to leap to the top of the slush pile. :)

  • Lynn Dean says:

    While standing in line waiting for an agent appointment (with Janet, as it happens) at my very first ACFW conference, I glanced at the nametag of the lady standing across from me and saw that she was from my rather small hometown. We squealed, “No way!” at precisely the same moment.

    That was the beginning of a great friendship and many instructive conversations over coffee. Ronie Kendig was miles ahead of me as a writer, and a more gracious teacher than she will ever know. I was sad when her family moved from our area, but within six months Golden Keyes Parsons moved in.

    God has been so good to arrange these intimate local crit groups in addition to online partners who have become a circle of peers that just keeps growing. Of course, I feel like I’ve received much more from them than I have to offer in return, but because stories are enjoyed on many levels, partners at varying levels can still offer insight.

  • Literally a month after I first presented a workshop, a published author (4 books at the time, 2 since) put his finger in my chest and said “you have to write this book.” Ever since he has been my biggest encourager, coach, and sounding board.

    Our core points are extremely compatible, and he looks forward to using my content as a framework for his future works and speaking engagements, so it is definitely reciprocal and complimentary. We’ve each earned the other’s trust through our conversations and discretion with what we’ve done/not done with the content of those discussions.

    Given his established platform, and mine is still growing, we have also had brief discussions of possibly a co-authorship of the book. God has blessed me in recent years with opportunities to meet a number of authors, and several of those have become friendships – friendships which I value far above any reference, endorsement, or business partnership.

  • Susan May Warren has been the best mentor ever to me! There’s not room here to list the ways she’s helped and encouraged me, but one example is the way she took time to pray with me minutes before she was to teach a packed class at ACFW last year.

    Last year when she began her online magazine, I was privileged to join her staff and give back in some small way.

    I can’t wait to see her on Thursday at ACFW!

  • Nicole says:

    I emailed an author after reading his first novel, the thriller Comes A Horseman. I loved this book and told him so. We began a conversation that led to him asking me to send one of my novels to him. I elected to send my second one. He loved it and wrote the endorsement/blurb that appears on the back cover of this self-published novel. He worked to hook me up with a top agent, but just as that agent and I began to communicate, he had to take on extra clients when another agent in their firm took another position.

    This author is exceedingly generous to unknowns, and we have become good friends. He still believes in my work. I’m grateful for his friendship beyond what I can express here.

  • I stumbled onto Rebecca Luella Miller’s website a couple months after attending my first Mt Hermon conference. I recognized her as someone I had met briefly during one of the meals.

    I loved her blog and started following it. It was the first time I had ever followed a blog and it opened up the whole blogging world to me. Eventually I got the courage to comment on her blog. Then I commented more and more often, enjoying the talk and sometimes debates that would occur at her blog.

    I attended Mt Hermon again this year and introduced myself to her. It was like finding a long lost friend lol. She has been a huge encouragement for me personally, helped me launch my own blog and site, brought me into the Christian science fiction and fantasy fold (yeah, we do exist :) and helped me with my writing.

    I know I haven’t done half as much for her as she has done for me (other than be a loyal blog follower). I just hope I can be a Rebecca in someone else’s life someday.

  • My friend of a friend is Shawn Grady, the talented writer who is represented by Books & Such. Shawn and his wonderful wife were in my Bible study for a few years and we had the joy of praying him through the early stages of his writing journey.

    With each prayer, I was convicted more and more by the Holy Spirit that I needed to blow the dust off some of my old manuscript ideas and get in the game myself. When Shawn invited me to join him at the Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference in 2009, that really opened the door. He was kind enough to introduce me to a lot of the people he knew.

    Shawn was a face-to-face contact, but I really believe that Social Media creates tremendous opportunities to develop relationships with other writers.

    We’re all in this together.

  • Wendy says:

    I’ve established some of those honest connections you’ve mentioned. I’m indebted to some author friends for their eyes on my work.

    Can’t wait to see where the next turn in the road leads me.

    Great post.
    ~ Wendy

  • Lori Benton says:

    I’ve also benefited from friendships with authors I emailed simply to tell them I enjoyed their novel, never expecting that email would lead to us becoming crit partners and friends.

  • Author/humorist Dave Meurer (or, Awethor, as he calls himself), dragged me to my first Mt Hermon conference, where I met the peerless Janet Kobobel Grant and she became my one and only best and favorite agent.

    Dave was my mentor, my critic, and my friend in the whole process. He continues to offer guidance and counsel.

    Thru him, I’ve come to know Cindy Martinusen Coloma and Cathy Elliott, both Books & Such clients. Small world (we all live in the same town). This post is right on. Friend of a friend…

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