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You Don't Have to Be Well-Connected to Become a Bestseller

Mar 10, 2020

I’m in myth breakdown mode when it comes to the road to author bestseller-dom.

Today we’re tackling the myth of connections.

Over the years of being a writer, there’s one comment I’ve heard more than probably any other:

“Well, it’s easier for you,” the person will say. “You have an agent. You’re well-connected.”

I am.

Because I’ve been doing this for so long.

I Was a Professional Writer for a Decade Before Agents Came Calling

Here’s the connection I had when I was first launching my career:

Someone who worked for my dad had a daughter who was a costume designer on a soap opera.

That was as close as I got to knowing anyone in the media.

But here’s where I was inarguably, unabashedly lucky: I had parents who were willing to support me for six months when I moved to New York to intern for magazines.

If I hadn’t had that, I would never have gotten to know the magazine editor who hired me for my first job.

Most people, I realize, don’t have that.

Still, I was a basket case for years, burning most of the bridges I built during that period, and having to start anew at the age of 30.

That’s when I methodically set out to have the career I’d always wanted.

That’s when I pitched every magazine I’d ever hoped to write for, color copying and mailing what we then called “clips” to editors, not getting a response and then doing the same thing again to the same editors when I had new clips.

That’s when I cold called editors who barked at me for bothering them.

And that’s when I slowly, ever so slowly, built up enough clips to get long assignments and eventually cover stories and eventually a column and eventually my first book deal and eventually other book deals.

Before That, I’d Been Trying to Make it as a Screen and TV Writer

My writing partner and I would pen spec scripts of shows we’d never seen and romantic comedies we felt certain should star Kate Hudson.

Our manager would send these out and we would occasionally score “generals,” which was short for “general meeting” which felt short for “spending a half hour with an executive who’s being paid a lot of money and thus needs to justify a high salary by having jerk-off meetings with aspiring writers he or she will never hire.”

We got our manager because we bought a book called The Hollywood Creative Directory and sent letters to every single agent and manager listed who accepted blind submissions.

Out of the hundreds, four of them responded to us and asked us to send our scripts.

Two of them wanted to sign us.

One of them went out of business.

We went with the other one.

While that manager never got us a job, being signed by her was the beginning of my being allegedly “so well-connected.”

My point is this: most of the successful people I know started connection-less. Much like with talent, it’s all about what you do with what you’ve got.