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Accidental Networking

February 13, 2016

At some point—at a point I’m rapidly approaching—I’m going to try to get this book published. I can count on one hand the number of friends or even colleagues I know who have published a book. I can count it on zero hands, too. Because I don’t know any.

The internet has a wealth of resources on where to start and how the process works, but from reading and talking to others, it’s clear I need to know people. For me, this is the most challenging part of this whole project. I just don’t like networking. One of the main themes of the very book I’m trying to publish is earnestness, so I’m extra self-conscious about anything that resembles insincere schmoozing. Networking, at least as I understand it, cuts against so many of the things I stand for: artistic purity, literary meritocracy, etc. If you’re even reading this blog, you probably know me well enough to know how uncomfortable any sort of careerism makes me.

But I’m also not dumb. I know that if I want to get this book published, I’ll need to swallow my pride and start talking to people with that specific purpose in both of our minds. I’ve got the What I Know stuff under control, and now I need to work on Who I Know.

The good news is it’s already started to happen, without any effort or even awareness on my part. The phase of research I’m currently in involves talking to, among others, lots of music writers, critics, commentators, editors, etc. And while some level of objectivity is key to these conversations, nobody writes about music for a living if they don’t love it, and people I’m talking to about the Elephant 6 all share some fondness and excitement for it. That means that a lot of the folks I’ve interviewed have told me how excited they are about the project. Part of my impetus to start writing this book in the first place nearly eight years ago now was how interesting the subject seemed to me, and it turns out that a lot of other writers agree (and believe there’s a broader audience for it, too). So while my only real intent for contacting these folks was to interview them about the Elephant 6, I’ve found more often than not that they have an interest in seeing it published. Some have even volunteered explicitly (and without any needling from me) to help make that happen, and beyond that, just from talking about the project with friends and acquaintances, I’ve made some valuable connections. A polite “What are you up to these days?” veers quickly to “My friend’s roommate works at a big publisher” or “My cousin is a literary agent.” Without even trying, I’ve amassed a ton of potentially helpful contacts in just the past few months.

Because this is a topic people care about—and because people genuinely want to help each other, which I often forget in the cloistered, solipsistic, journalistically detached world a writer typically inhabits—it really seems like I’m not going to have to do any of the schmoozy, networking things that make me feel gross to even think about. Maybe that’s shortsighted, or maybe I’ve already been corrupted in a way that would disgust my younger self, but it feels like the part of the process I was dreading most is going to be a lot easier than I expected.

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