An Introvert’s Guide to Networking
I think this Daria GIF pretty much says it all.
When I was a kid, I was so shy that I used to hide my face under a couch pillow when adults came over to the house. I once dressed as a silent ghost for Halloween in second grade and talked to no one, not even my teacher.
As a professional writer, it’s not possible to hide under a bed sheet and pretend the outside world doesn’t exist. AS MUCH AS I WISH THAT WAS POSSIBLE.
Part of my growth as a working writer was realizing that I needed to learn the scary art of networking. So I talked to the most outgoing writers I know — my friend Eric Loo and my husband Brendan Hay — and learned from what they told me. (You can read Eric’s tips here and Brendan’s suggestions here.)
This past weekend I put my networking skills to the test by attending the annual SCBWI summer conference by myself. Granted, a writing conference geared toward YA and children’s book writers and illustrators probably isn’t the most intimidating crowd, as they are some of the nicest people on the planet who just love books. But still. I went alone, knew no one, and made it a point to talk to someone new every single day. I survived, ladies and gents, and this is what I learned.
- Introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you at a workshop. I’ve met great people this way.
- If there’s someone’s work you admire, politely tell them so in-person. Writers and artists appreciate this.
- When approaching an important person (like an editor or agent), compliment a project they’ve worked on and they’ll remember you. I was interested in talking to a particular literary agent and knew she repped a book that I loved so I told her that it was a beautiful book and she asked me to contact her when I was ready to query.
- Take a break when needed. For an introvert, it can be really overwhelming to talk and be around so many people. So every day of the conference, I made a point to find a comfy chair to hide out in and take a 20 to 30 minute break.
- Make small goals. If I went to the conference, thinking, I must land an agent, I would’ve peed my pants trying to talk to a literary agent. Instead I made my goal to make a list of agents who I wanted to see if they were right for me, and I did.
Phew! I’m glad I went. The conference was inspiring. I learned a lot. But I’m SO GLAD it’s over and I can be my shy self again.