February 16, 2011

Networking II: Connecting with Writers

In my last post, I suggested that editors, particularly freelancers, should form a strong peer network. Some of those that replied (thank you for doing so!) suggested that editors should also network with writers. That was to be my next post, so thank you for getting the conversation started! (Note: I’ll only cover writers here, not other potential clients. That will have to wait for another day.)

Networking with writers is important, as they are, of course, potential work leads. It also helps us as editors learn more about the writer’s experience—and what’s important to them in their journey to complete and publish their work.

You’ll need to do some legwork, though, to get your name out to them. It seems to me that writers and editors should mix often and easily, but most editors I know haven’t found this to be the case. 

Where to find them?
In comments to my Feb. 11 post, Kyra Freestar noted that she’d attended science fiction and fantasy writers’ conventions to try to meet writers.  And commenter Mindy suggested “…attending organizations where the writers attend. In Seattle, you might attend SCBWI (Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators), Pacific Northwest Writers Association Meetings, or RWA (Romance Writers—Seattle or Eastside). You might consider presenting a workshop with tips for writers about editing manuscripts at one of the organization's conferences.”

My thoughts exactly!

Advice I regularly give my class participants: If you want to work in a niche area, think about how you can get to know some of those writers. For example, if you’re interested in editing mysteries, or perhaps travel, look for a writers group that specializes in that. If they’re local, offer to come to a meeting and give a talk about editing. It's a perfect way to meet authors and learn about what they’re looking for in an editor, if not landing an editing gig.

Along those lines, couple of years ago, my business partner and I gave a talk to a group of small/self publishers in Seattle. Afterward, we handed out a few of our business cards. About a year later we heard from one of them—an author who had written a wonderful account of a bike trip through Finland—and he hired us to be his editors. It was one of my favorite projects.

If there are no groups like this near you, you can always try introducing yourself to writers in another way. If a faraway group has a website or newsletter, why not offer to write a story or column, about editing, for them? 

Or consider connecting with writers via networking sites like LinkedIn or even Facebook. (It seems more writers are developing sites there; I don’t really have much of a business presence on FB, but a couple of my author clients have found me there and friended me; we do keep in touch informally this way.)

For example, Dawn from Northern Ireland commented to my Feb. 11 post that she started a Facebook page, ScribeTribe, specifically to meet other writers and editors. I’d love to know how that works out.

You could try trolling blogs, too. Many editors and writers have started or contributed to them (case in point, this one); I’ve posted to a few other blogs myself, and I’m presently working with an author who’s posting his works (edited by me) on a very professional blog of his own.

Finally, you could try attending book- and writing-related events such as Wordstock in Portland (www.wordstockfestival.com), or The New Yorker Festival in NYC (www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/festival). There are events like these all over the world, with talks about all genres of writing, and many have mixers where you could potentially meet writers.

What to say?
Then there’s the question of how to interact once you do meet a writer or attend a writing event. Kyra Freestar, in a comment to my Feb 11 post, noted: “I do find myself unsure sometimes how to contribute to a conversation about writing among writers, such as at a convention or writers workshop.”

My first thought would be to just listen and learn about their work methods, and think about what seems important to writers: What’s new or what are the sticky issues? What are they all talking about? What are they asking about?

Then, simply ask questions. We all want to know what writers think of editors and editing, and this would be the perfect opportunity. After introducing yourself as an editor, I’d ask questions like: How long have you been writing? Has your work been edited (professionally or otherwise)? How did you find your editor? How was the experience? What are your plans for your current work/what publishing route are you considering? Do you plan on working with an editor? Why or why not?

My feeling, from working with several writers, is that they’d be happy to have such a candid conversation. After all, the goal is for us to be working partners, right? So to me, it seems important for us to get to know each other’s thoughts and feelings about the relationship, including how it could be improved.



  1. We're lucky in the Northwest to have a large number of writers' groups and conventions. You mentioned going to the PNWA meetings, Kara, and I would also suggest their big writers' conference in August in Bellevue, Washington. The Willamette Writers conference in August (www.willamettewriters.com)is another that draws hundreds. On a smaller scale we have Write on the Sound in Edmunds in October. It can be useful for editors to offer themselves as speakers at these events. A group of us did a panel for the Hugo House publishing conference in Seattle last April and had conversations afterward with writers.

    I was just looking at the PNWA conference site to get their information and saw that this year they have a large segment of the program on e-publishing and marketing. So not only would that be a good place to meet writers, but it would probably be interesting to learn about these new publishing trends as they apply to book authors.

  2. Boskone (sf convention) just had a panel on copyediting:

    Saturday 2pm Writer vs. Copyeditor -- Lovefest or Deathmatch?
    Theodora Goss
    Teresa Nielsen Hayden (M)
    Jo Walton
    Let's discuss process and roles, how copyeditors can help, when they can go too far, points of contention, and more. Red pens may be
    flourished, but let's hope not blood-red ...

    Helen Schinske

  3. I like the panel format myself, whether I'm attending or presenting. Watching a panel, I get different perspectives and personalities. Also I like to watch people interact with each other on a panel. And presenting--I represented copyeditors at the panel Barbara organized at the Hugo House conference, and it was fun. If I'd deluded myself into thinking I could present a whole session on editing by my lonesome, think it would have been no fun at all.

  4. Tamara Sellman, at Writer's Rainbow, has posted a remarkably long list of Pacific Northwest writers workshops and conferences:


    Many conferences schedule their panels and speakers far in advance, so it's nice to be able to see the whole year at once in order to think about topics and make plans to apply.

  5. I was just checking on the Western Washington Society of Children’s Bookwriters and Illustrators in preparation for the blogging I’ll be doing next month on YA editing and came across this info: On May 10, the Professional Series meeting will be REVISION/WORKING WITH AN EDITOR by author Anjali Banerjee.

    The meetings take place at Seattle Pacific University, Demaray Hall, Room 150. Registration is at 6:45 PM, program at 7:00 PM. Meetings typically include two 45-minute sessions or a 30-minute “mini-session” and a 60-minute main program, with a brief business meeting between. Cost for nonmembers is $10.

    Might be an interesting place to jump into the kids and YA writing scene.