I just found out my cousin is close friends with a high-ranking editor at a major house. As an aspiring author, I'd love to believe this could be useful one day, but I imagine there are a bajillion writers within a few degrees of every editor. How do you feel about friends and friends of friends in search of book deals? Is it business as usual, or is it all terribly awkward? Is there anything you wish authors knew about networking in publishing?Everyone in publishing (and especially in children's publishing) accepts it as part of their job that friends of colleagues, second cousins of friends of colleagues, and hairstylists of second cousins of friends of colleagues will use their "personal connection" to force an editor to deal with their manuscript (rather than an editorial assistant or intern). We don't accept it cheerfully, but we accept it. The world is all about relationships.
We also know that a personal connection is no guarantee at all that the manuscript will be better than the usual run of slush, and indeed it's often worse-- because the people who try this end-run are usually the rank beginners who not only know nothing about the industry, they also come with a bunch of wildly wrong assumptions about it.
Now, I'm not assuming you're one of these people. They don't find their way to my blog, because they don't see why they should be interested in publishing before they get published.
But you should know that it is through this lens of apprehension and mild resentment that your manuscript is likely to be read. If it's simply terrific and grabs the editor from page one, then your road ahead may be clear and golden. But if not, the editor may only read the couple of pages that will allow her to write a letter that shows she did look at the manuscript before rejecting it.
Now, I know, sometimes it seems like there aren't hurdles in your path to publication as much as mountains. I know, following the rules of submitting to publishing houses and agents sometimes seems like an enormous waste of time. But breaking the rules is equally so.
I post about the slush to try to convey to people why there are so many roadblocks set up in the way of hopeful writers: because many hopeful writers are simply delusional about what might get published.
It's like there's a mob of thousands outside your office, and you know from experience that a good half of them are loonies. And a spare few are people you would be thrilled to work with. How do you sift through them? Ask the crazy people to raise their hands? Ask the "good writers" to raise their hands?
No. You're going to have to interview them each in turn, and it's going to be a lot of work. And it doesn't help that there are a few of them waving their arms and calling, "I knew your ex-manicurist's rabbi!"