Hot Tips for Conferences
We’re in prime writers’ conference season and lots of people are giving their advice (some of it different from mine). So I thought I’d drop a few hints your way just to increase your chance of conference-success.
• First up, everyone says “don’t be nervous.” Agents and editors are just people, right? Sure we are. We’re just people. Don’t be nervous.
• Just this once, avoid the bathroom pitch. It’s okay to pitch an agent or editor in a one-on-one meeting, or at a meal, or any other situation in which they express interest. Agents and editors EXPECT to be pitched, they expect you to try and impress them with your wit and brilliance. But not the bathroom. I HATE being rude, but I’ve had to break out my snarky side upon being pitched while washing my hands. No matter how amazing your book is, the bathroom pitch ensures its certain death.
• DON’T pitch a novel unless it’s complete. If you haven’t written words 1 through 100,000 (or so), don’t bother. WAIT until it’s ready. This doesn’t hold true with non-fiction. A completed proposal, some sample chapters… call it good.
• If you’ve brought anything with you like a one-sheet, a business card or a proposal, ASK the agent/editor if they’d like to take it with them. Some will, some won’t. Personally, I tend to just say no to carrying anything extra. Whatever you do, DON’T bring your entire manuscript. You don’t want to lug it around, and neither does anyone else.
• If you don’t have a project that’s saleable and ready to go, you’ll have to decide if it’s worth your time to take any one-on-one appointments. Here’s where I differ with other agents out there. Personally, I don’t mind if some writers use their appointment time with me to float some ideas and get advice and input (as opposed to pitching me a saleable project). However, agents are primarily there to find clients, and some may not appreciate you taking up their appointment time with no possibility of a viable business connection. If you’re not selling anything, perhaps take just one appointment, leaving room for others who are actually ready to sell. Then take every other possible opportunity to get your questions answered: agent and editor panels, late-night-chats, meal-times, etc.
• Be kind. Be polite. Cover your mouth when you cough. All that stuff.
The basics of going to a conference are:
• Go there to learn about writing
• To learn about publishing
• To make friends
• Go to make some professional connections that may help your writing career in the future.
• Don’t isolate yourself–talk to people, get involved, get to know people. Don’t let your introverted writer side take over or you’ll waste your time and money.
• Most of all: Go with a goal. Know why you’re going (and this will be different for each of you) and then conduct yourself at the conference with the idea of reaching your goal. Are you going to get an agent? To get three publishing houses interested in your book? To learn about the industry? To meet other writers? To get a break from the family? Always wanted to visit San Diego? All of the above? Decide. Then do it.
If you have specific conference questions… or if you want to add to my (admittedly inadequate) advice… feel free in the comments.
Update: I’ve expanded on this in the comments if you want to read more.
Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/Zdf3zn5XXtU