Business Is Personal: 5 Common Networking Mistakes

by Emily Barrera / Flickr

by Emily Barrera / Flickr

Today’s guest post is by author and freelancer Christina Katz (@thewritermama).

If I had to give one piece of networking advice to give to writers, it would be this: slow down. Networking is not a race. The faster you rush, the more fleeting your success is going to be, and what folks are going to remember is how desperate you seemed in the process.

Of course, I still make plenty of mistakes on a regular basis, and I’m sure you will too. A certain number of mistakes are required for career growth. Fortunately, most people can tell the difference between the-ends-justify-the-means networking and “Oops, sorry about that. It won’t happen again.”

Here are common mistakes that many writers make—and I’ve made some of these, too.

1. Withholding information to get what you want, especially if full disclosure may change the outcome.

When you legitimately need a favor (whether of an old friend or a new one), ask for it in a humble, straightforward manner. That’s the best way to ask anyone for anything, anyway. For example, if you approach a known author to write a foreword for your forthcoming book, and you intend to have more than one person write a foreword, then this should be disclosed in advance. It might not affect either decision, but then again it might. Therefore the appropriate thing is to share your intention.

When you partner with people, and certainly when you ask for a favor, it pays to be forthcoming. Also, never assume that friendship is a shortcut to bypass your best effort, either when asking for help or offering help. I’m sure the last thing you want to do is put your friend in an awkward position or make her feel that you take her for granted.

2. Getting aggressive with your lunch or coffee invite.

Don’t decide someone you admire had better have lunch or coffee with you—or else.

Here’s the worst situation I’ve experienced: I’m on Twitter and receive a DM from a Portland, Oregon, woman whom I have never met and do not know. She invites me to coffee to chat and “pick my brain.” When I politely decline, she curses at me and blocks me on Twitter.

Like anyone else, I have to keep the commitments I’ve already made, and respect the needs of my family and myself. My advice to you, my dear writer friends, is to never behave like this person.

Or consider this: A speaker at a medium-to-large writers conference is typically kept on a break-neck schedule throughout the weekend so the organization can maximize his visit. Often the speaker has traveled from another time zone and is making the appearance on top of a busy work week, which will swiftly be followed by another. Sleep is typically lost, friends and family are put on hold, and travel does not always go as planned.

If the speaker is a personal hero of yours, should you expect him to make exclusive time for you based on your enthusiasm and past devotion?

No. Temper your enthusiasm and adjust your expectations. There is a very good chance that conference administrators have worked overtime to make speakers as available to attendees as possible. If you want to show your support for someone you admire, attend his talks, sign up for and even pay extra for a closed audience, like in a pitch or in a group pitch.

Of course, if you have an opportunity to stick out your hand, introduce yourself, and express your appreciation, without taking too much time, do so. Experts love to meet people who genuinely admire their work. He might even have a few moments to chat, but don’t be offended if he is running off to catch a plane or needs to call home to check on a loved one

3. Being sneaky with your pitch or ask.

Don’t sign up for e-newsletters or follow folks on social media so you can reverse pitch. When I get long sales pitches from folks who have just joined my e-mail list, I feel spammed.

It’s okay, of course, to make gentle offers to people who follow or friend you, but don’t pitch them more than you serve, or they will quickly tune out. Never send auto-pitches to people or post your announcement on their Facebook page. And if I follow you on Twitter and I get an auto-pitch back, that’s not connecting, that’s blind selling.

Build trust first, and don’t use social media to put others on the spot. That’s bullying. If you are concerned that your request could be taken the wrong way, add the line, “No pressure, of course”—and mean it.

4. Helping yourself to other people’s resources.

You wouldn’t leave with the silver if someone invited you to dinner. You wouldn’t pick all the fruit off someone else’s tree. The same courtesy applies to all online networking situations. So if you are friending and following people just so you can pinch their friends and followers, you should stop.

Also, never assume that your participation in a group or event is a leadership or marketing opportunity for you. You may be guilty of this if you habitually add people to your e-mail lists or social media groups en masse after events or group gatherings (online or off), rather than treating each person you meet as an individual.

Finally, watch out for the “fair game” mentality. This is the idea that someone else’s shared information is yours for the taking, just because the other person was naïve enough to share it. True networking is connecting with a person here and a person there, based on mutual respect that all adds up to a bigger group over time. Other people’s networks are not your networks. If you discretely pilfer other people’s resources, they may never know, but you will.

5. Being unable to say no or hear no.

If someone asks for something you can’t or don’t wish to give, you have the right to say, “No, thanks.” You also have the right to say, “Hey, thanks for your consideration,” if you ask and are turned down.

I once said no to a testimonial requested on a self-published book by a friend I hugely admire. I still respect the person, but I was not comfortable with my name on this particular project. And I have learned that saying yes when my gut tells me no never pays. Kindness to the point of caretaking other adults’ feelings will taint your relationships if you let it, and leave you miserably overcommitted.

As you keep the communication respectful and kind, no harm will be done. But if there is harm, at least you know you were true to yourself.

On a final note

Business is personal. In the long-run game, anyone who treats business as though it is not personal is going to end up stepping on toes and leaving a trail of poor impressions. In relationships where one person is more known than the other, never assume anything, and always ask respectfully for what you need, to avoid stepping on toes.

Maybe it’s time for us to realize as a social collective that relationship building is not guerilla marketing. Your success is not a done deal, and it’s presumptuous to treat other people like they are standing in your way or not doing enough for you. Success is a journey and the path is paved with the support of others.

There are two types of people others can easily recall: those who were exceptionally conscientious and professional, and those who were thoughtless and self-absorbed. Be the first kind and you will be remembered for all the best reasons.

Posted in Guest Post, Marketing & Promotion and tagged , .

Christina Katz has been coaching all types of writers for fourteen years both online and offline. She specializes in helping writers prosper within a constantly evolving publishing marketplace. Her mission is to inspire writers to take ownership of their writing careers without diminishing the joy and satisfaction they experience in the creative process. Christina offers video courses on helpful aspects of professional success, e-mail prompt challenges, and phone consultations for authors and aspiring authors by appointment. She lives in Oregon with her multi-talented husband, Jason, her delightful daughter, Samantha, and their four rather spoiled pets. Why not swing by for a visit?

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Heather Marsten

Excellent post! Especially #3 – I moved to WordPress from Xanga. Xanga has now put up all the old posts on a new server. I’m getting spammed right and left – usually a poorly worded generic complement and then a link that is definitely business related. Nothing personal or specific to my post or site. Can I say one thing that bothers me about some of the sites of professionals – I guess they want people to click through to their site for the click count, but I get annoyed when a person posts a paragraph that seems interesting, you… Read more »

Donna Shepherd

A most helpful and excellent post. I’ve scheduled this to share on my FB page. Thanks for the wonderful advice and admonitions.

Geraldine Nesbitt

Thanks for putting all this useful information into a really easy to read, interesting article. I have shared it and hope more people read and take it to heart.

Robin Mizell

Super advice, as always, Christina. Regarding #5, the same thing has happened to me several times when writers whose work I couldn’t offer to represent later decided to self-publish. It was terribly awkward to be asked, given that my feedback included criticism in the first place. In one case, the writer then tagged me as a project member on a social network. The only way to have the tag removed would have been to contact the writer and ask. On one hand, I appreciate the drive and ambition that pushes people to, let’s say, take risks. Those qualities absolutely are… Read more »

Robin Mizell

It’s exactly why so many literary agents don’t give much feedback to prospective clients and, consequently, aspiring authors find our silence so frustrating. I have a policy of explaining to a prospective client exactly why I’m rejecting something, if I’ve been allowed to read the full manuscript. It seems a fair acknowledgment of the privilege. Very, very rarely would I reply to just a query email with any advice or criticism. A few writers take my input and use it to revise their work, but I would guess they are by far the minority. Christina, I know you know how… Read more »

Nora Lester Murad

From my POV (aspiring author), there is definitely something strange in the writer-agent “dance” and it doesn’t feel nice. I guess it’s a product of too-many-writers-per-agent, but I do think a collaborative group of writers and agents could easily propose some better “best practices” for us all to follow. (And I’m happy to be part of that group.) For example, yes, writers should address a query letter to an agent by name and show they’ve done their homework, but shouldn’t agents also treat writers as individuals by 1) acknowledging a submission, and 2) sending a rejection? Automated is fine. I… Read more »

Robin Mizell

Sorry, Nora. You’re preaching to the choir here. I’ve never failed to respond to a writer’s query, if only with a form rejection. I’ve never (yet) missed a stated deadline for reading a manuscript and giving a prospective client an answer regarding representation. Rather than being annoyed by the writers who send me queries without reading the guidelines published on my agency’s website, I make special note of those who do comply, less than 10%. That’s not going to change. Furthermore, what many writers don’t realize is that literary agents face the same frustration with acquiring editors who don’t respond… Read more »

Sharon Short

Love, love, love this. Great post. I love the line about not being responsible for care-taking other adults’ feelings. So true! And this is timely for me. I recently wrote a column about a self-published book–not something I normally cover, but this was a collective effort by a group of women, and the group itself had an interesting story. Well, one of the women appeared at an event I was leading, unrelated to the column. She put me on the spot by asking WHEN (not if) I would have lunch with her and the other women so they could learn… Read more »

Sandi H.

I think so much of this comes down to how you view people in the first place. Do you see those with whom you network as individuals or as a way to further your own self-promotion? As the leader of a moms’ group, I even see this spill over into networking among moms. Are you making friends because you see these people as individuals you want to get to know or because you see them as potential clients for your home business? In business, if we treat others the way we want to be treated, we’ll show friendliness and respect… Read more »

Robin Mizell

Spot on, Sandi.

[…] by Emily Barrera / Flickr Today’s guest post is by author and freelancer Christina Katz (@thewritermama). If I had to give one piece of networking advice to give to writers, it would be this: slow down.  […]

Carol J. Alexander

Thanks, Christina. Great post. I’m gonna share it with a group I think could benefit from it. 😉

Sue LeBreton

Thanks for humanizing networking. Having experienced more cutthroat approaches in the past, I shy away from it but can see I can still be me and do this effectively.

Lynda Jo Schuessler

Wonderful post Christina. When we treat people with respect, we can expect the same in return and that is the way to build a business of any kind. I’m going to share with my Facebook friends.

Lexa Cain

I completely agree with everything you pointed out in your excellent article. It’s kind of a sad state of affairs that having common sense and behaving with consideration and maturity needs to be explained to people, but I’ve seen plenty who just don’t get it.

Maryka Biaggio

Great article. Good old common sense and courtesy to the rescue!

[…] Business is personal. Anyone who treats business as though it is not personal is going to end up stepping on toes and leaving a trail of poor impressions.  […]

Nora Lester Murad

I do have a question I’ve not known who to ask. On the one hand, I understand that agents get lots of email and don’t want to chat with people they’ve rejected. On the other, if an agent clearly takes time to write a personalized explanation of why they rejected by book, I feel like I should sent a thank you back. I don’t feel I need to thank agents for automated rejections, of course. But I do fear that thanking an agent after a rejection might just be one more unnecessary email they need to delete. How strange that… Read more »

Jane Friedman

I think I can say definitively that agents appreciate thanks-yous and other kindnesses, as long as there are no strings attached. (E.g., the thank-you come should not be paired with a request for more feedback, a referral, etc.)

Robin Mizell

Hi, Nora. I agree with Jane’s response. I’ll take a shot at answering this question, and maybe Christina will have another take. Literary agents are a diverse group, and we react differently and have various opinions on this point. It’s true that a thank-you is just one more email to process, which takes time, but if you receive a personalized explanation, most people won’t think it’s wrong to thank the agent for taking time to offer encouragement. The caveat? Don’t try to turn your thank-you email into a dialogue, UNLESS the agent makes it very clear that a further response… Read more »

Nora Lester Murad

Thanks Robin and Jane for your responses. I guess I was feeling a little insecure? I want to be polite, not because of the impression it will make, but because I’m trying so hard to resist the world’s pressure to be selfish and impersonal, and because I do care who I am in the world. So I will say thank you, and I will continue to respect the guidelines as best I can, and I will continue to ask for others’ perspectives. It was new for me, for example, to know that agents face the same problem with responses from… Read more »


So you’re saying if I badger and insult you, my odds are not good of getting a coffee date with you?? Just kidding. These are great tips Christine! Alexa


As usual, your straight forward approach cuts through all the noise and keeps me focused. Excellent article. Thank-you, Christine.

[…] 5 Common Networking Mistakes by Christina Katz […]

[…] Business Is Personal: 5 Common Networking Mistakes by  Christina Katz […]

[…] Her guest blogger Christina Katz lists what to avoid if you’re looking for help in “Business Is Personal: 5 Common Networking Mistakes”: […]

[…] Building your network also means connecting with other authors (hi there!) and anyone who can help you market. Make a list of people you’d like to connect with. It might feel fake to approach someone and say, “Hey, I think it’s important we build our relationship.” It’s not. Being intentional about building a relationship doesn’t make it fake. So get out there and network. […]