The problem with most people’s approach to networking is that they think they have to come away with a book contract or at least an agent’s or editor’s or writer’s personal contact information. If you’re trying to make your ‘elevator speech’ or ’30-second pitch’ of whatever else you want to call it within the first few minutes of meeting someone, you’re trying to hard — and it will come across that way.
The reality is that you want to relax, find something you and the other person have in common, and make a friend. Have fun. Patience is the key; all that other stuff will come when the time is right. Is networking important? You bet your @$$ it is. But it’s also only one piece of a much larger equation. Keep it in perspective.
I got to be editor of Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show through networking. It’s true. It also took two years, and the question I asked most often was “Is there anything I can do to help?”
I got to edit the Magical Words how-to book the same way, except it took three years instead of two. As much as we all joke about it, when I was sitting with the group in 2010 at ConCarolinas, they were brainstorming about ways to reach a wider audience, and all I did was throw out an idea that I thought would help them accomplish that. I wasn’t secretly rubbing my hands together and hoping they’d ask me to join the group; I was sitting with a bunch of friends and trying to help them accomplish their goal. If we count that as the final step in a process that resulted in the birth a book, the initial step was when I met David for the first time at ChattaCon in 2007. And believe me, there were a lot of other steps in between, none of which had anything to do with publishing a how-to book.
The one thing all of my networking “success stories” have in common that clearly fall into the category of intentionally doing something is that I purposely put myself in a position to be around other writers. Conventions, conferences, signings, whatever. I’ve driven a looooooooong way to get in the same room with certain writers. Most of those trips have not resulted in jobs or assignments, and of the ones that did, rarely did they come from the sources I expected them to. However, most of them did result in good relationships with good people, and that’s what networking is supposed to be about. I would call that a success every time.