It’s Not All About You – Or Me

Last Wednesday in response to my call for readers to contribute their own additions to the writers conference checklist, one wise person wrote, “Don’t make it all about you.”

I had been thinking of including that exact tidbit in my original list because it’s so important. But I ended up leaving it off my list because there didn’t seem time to explain this one. It’s a wise piece of advice, but the problem is that I’ve met earnest writers at conferences who have taken this whole “don’t make it all about you” to heart and then taken it to extremes.

At a conference, or in any social situation, the key to lessening your insecurity and self-consciousness is to stop thinking so much about yourself—how others might see you, what they’re thinking of you—and focus on others. Realize they’re more concerned about themselves than about you. To lessen your own discomfort, you can ask people questions about themselves, about their writing, about how their conference is going, etc. You can be genuinely interested in them.

With people who tend to make you more nervous (agents and editors?) you can remember their humanity. They have good days, bad days… even bad hair days. They have families and kids and the same stresses you do. You can also remind yourself that the whole reason they’re at the conference is to meet YOU. Yes, you. Cool, huh?

You can see things from others’ perspectives, making the experience “not all about you.” You can even adopt the attitude of “How can I bless others while I’m here?” Putting the emphasis on others.


Try not to take this too far. Only do it as far as it’s actually genuine for you. And don’t take the focus off yourself at moments when the focus is appropriately on you. In an editor meeting, it’s nice to begin with a tiny bit of small talk if you want, asking them how they’re doing or some other innocuous question. But don’t let it go overboard so that it seems like you’re (1) trying too hard to be flattering so that it feels fake or obsequious, or (2) trying too hard to avoid the reason you’re there—your pitch.

Keep reminding yourself we are all at the conference for a common purpose. We all love books! Agents and editors are there specifically to interact with you, so try to remember that when you feel nervous. Above all, you can focus on glorifying God through your words and actions, and blessing others with your presence. That way it’s not about you.

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Tiffany Stuart on September 17, 2008 at 2:54 PM

    >Strong point, well written.
    Thank you, Rachelle.

  2. Jennifer L. Griffith on September 15, 2008 at 10:22 PM

    >So TRUE!!!

    Safe travels. Good connections. Meet some friends. Have a great time at the conference, Rachelle!

  3. Chatty Kelly on September 15, 2008 at 7:42 PM

    >When I was vying for a position once, I told myself that if I wasn’t picked it didn’t mean I wasn’t the best person for the job. It just meant that “they” didn’t think I was the best person for the job. “They” aren’t always right.

    I also remind myself that a rejection doesn’t mean bad material, just wrong venue. I just SOLD an article for publication that had been rejected twice and “held” for possible publication, but never published once.

    It’s just finding the yen to your yang, so to speak.

    As for not being about me…didn’t Rick Warren say that? *grin*

  4. Catherine West on September 15, 2008 at 2:42 PM

    >See you in two days!! Did we find that Starbucks yet??
    I’m definitely going to need it, doing the early bird on top of whatever time difference I’m flying into. I’ll try to be lucid when we talk, but no guarantees!!

  5. lynnrush on September 15, 2008 at 9:49 AM

    >Great post. Oh, and JC, that was awesome. What a great reminder.

    I hope everyone had a great time at the conference.

  6. Kat Harris on September 15, 2008 at 9:10 AM

    >I’m with Mary.

    I need proof of your bad hair days.

    Let’s see the pictures.


  7. Mark H. on September 15, 2008 at 8:14 AM

    >Great post, Rachelle. And thank you.

  8. Mary DeMuth on September 15, 2008 at 7:51 AM


    Say it isn’t so. You have bad hair days? I thought angels did your hair every day, and that you drank holy lemonade to keep spunky. Please don’t shatter my perceptions!



  9. Courtney Walsh on September 15, 2008 at 7:50 AM

    >Perhaps I’ll print this out and stick it somewhere prominent for those agent/editor meetings! 🙂 Thanks so much!

  10. Pam Halter on September 15, 2008 at 7:42 AM

    >Rachelle, this is the best advice I’ve ever seen for meeting with editors or agents.

    Thank you!

  11. Anne L.B. on September 15, 2008 at 7:37 AM

    >Good morning, God! I know You don’t need my help, and I need that reminder.

    But You know how much I love for You to use me, especially when it’s to glorify You. Please keep me small enough to not get in Your way. Please be big enough in me for others to see You. I love You!

  12. KINDRED HEART WRITERS on September 15, 2008 at 7:15 AM

    >This is great advice. I’m still a novice when it comes to conference meetings, but I’ve quickly learned that the more prepared I am, the more relaxed I can be. I’ve found that meeting with the professionals can result in fun conversations.


  13. JC on September 15, 2008 at 7:12 AM

    >Good Morning! This is God. I will be handling all your problems today. I will not need your help — so have a nice day.

  14. Mike Dellosso on September 15, 2008 at 5:34 AM

    >Thank you for this post, Rachelle. Great advice for not only conferences, but for life! I needed to be reminded of this: focus on glorifying God and blessing others.