Once upon a time, I found myself in the wonderful position of writing a supplement for the GURPS WWII line. GURPS WWII: Frozen Hell covers the Finnish involvement in three wars within World War II: the Winter War of 1939–40, the Continuation War of 1941–44, and the Lapland War of 1944–45. There is precious little written in English on the actions and interactions of the Finns in WWII, and I took my title from the best of those few: A Frozen Hell, by William R. Trotter. I also wanted to ask Mr. Trotter to write the foreword to the book. But at the time I could not sift the Internet into yielding his contact information.
So I put a plan into motion to have him contact me…
I had gotten interested in the topic when I picked up Trotter’s Winter Fire at my local library. (I might even have stumbled across it while prepping for GURPS Monsters a few years earlier.) The novel was great, and I found that Trotter had also written a non-fiction account of the Finnish war experience too: A Frozen Hell. It was just as engrossing as the novel. So when the WWII line of GURPS books was being formalized, I offered to write the Finnish book.
So far, so good. Washington–Centerville Library was great at getting the various books (and film!) I needed to bring the book to life, and as the writing was drawing to a close, it occurred to me to ask Mr. Trotter to write a brief bit of intro for the book. But, as mentioned, the Internet at that time would not give up his email address. So I tried to attract his attention to me.
I created The Trotter Blotter listing everything even slightly related to Mr. Trotter’s opus as an Amazon ListMania list. It was shorter then, and missing even some of the older books, but the inclusion of the 1974 Word Processing by Thomas Johnston Anderson and 1999′s 66 Frames by Gordon Ball were proof that I had put more effort in than simply reformatting an Amazon search. (Google Books and Amazon’s own “Search Inside” feature weren’t around back then, but the Library of Congress website and some news searches helped.)
That was it. I tinkered with it a little, but it only took a couple of weeks for the email to come in. William R. Trotter, or Bill in day-to-day life, reached out to say thanks and to provide some additional information on new entries and corrections to what I had. I made those changes, pitched the idea of a brief intro, and we were set.
This is an illustration of one of the classic “rules” of networking: offer value to the people you’re networking with (or that you’d like to network with). If you’re only bringing up what they can do for you, it’s likely to be a short discussion. And it’s fine to have your own interests in mind too—there’s a line between mutual backscratching and using people, and I guess it has more to do with how miserly you are with your gifts to them. Be helpful, be good at it, be happy to be good at it, and trust the people you’re networking with. You might still be misconstrued and occasionally burned, but it seems to be a recipe for long-run success.
I got to meet Bill later at an Origins convention a few years later, I got a couple of books signed, and we chatted over dinner. I told him this story of how I set up the Amazon page to lure him in, which he appreciated even in hindsight (“… and I fell for it!”). He also liked the title enough to ask to use it on his website Trotterbooks.com, so you can find a different “Trotter Blotter” there now.
You can also check out my GURPS WWII: A Frozen Hell Designer’s Notes from Pyramid magazine; it’s one of their free sample articles. The book itself is also available in PDF from e23: GURPS WWII: Frozen Hell. And if you like any kind of weird fiction, do yourself a favor and check out Warrener’s Beastie by Bill; not Finnish, but still fabulous.