More on Writers’ Conferences
I know a lot of you will be attending writers’ conferences, so I wanted to mention a few more things here.
First, I can’t overstress the importance of having a verbal pitch ready. There are numerous opportunities at conferences to give a brief pitch of your book, sixty seconds. This can be at a meal (where the person hosting the table often asks writers to share what they’re writing) or any number of other occasions. You’ve heard about the “elevator pitch,” right? Well, this last conference I took a bonafide elevator pitch, in an elevator. (I’ve received plenty of hallway pitches, bathroom pitches, dinner-table pitches, etc.) It was fun! Anyway, I was proud of this woman who pitched me because she had her elevator pitch polished and ready to go. I enjoyed it… and that’s the reaction you want agents and editors to have. So, polish those pitches!
Second, rather than toting along your proposals and manuscripts, consider bringing One-Sheets of your books. (Just Google one sheets and you’ll have plenty of examples.) However, many agents and editors will take a look at your proposal or the first few pages of your manuscript if you bring it.
Here are a few questions I’ve been asked, and some answers.
If I have an agent, can I still meet with editors at a conference?
Definitely, YES! Hopefully you are talking this over with your agent, too. But this is a relationship business, and the more you can get yourself in front of editors, the better. Your agent may have already submitted your manuscript to an editor… and once that editor meets you, they might be impressed enough to go back to the office and take another look at your proposal. (Be sure you tell the editors that you’re represented.)
If I have an agent AND I’m contracted with a publisher, can I still meet with editors at a conference?
Probably not. You don’t want your publisher seeing you meeting with other publishers. You are free to talk with them at meals, etc., but no one-on-one meetings unless you and your agent have worked it out ahead of time.
What if my work is under consideration with one or more agents and/or editors?
If nobody has committed to you, i.e. offered representation or a book contract, you are completely free to continue pitching yourself and your work to whomever you like.
What about meeting agents who have already rejected my work?
Once, I was at a conference and spent some time with Kristen Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency. It seemed like every writer who came up introduced themselves and immediately said to Kristen, “You rejected me.” It was always said with a kind of half joking smirk, that came off like, “I’m mad at you but I’ll say hi to you anyway.”
When someone says, “Hi, I’m Susie, I sent you a query and you rejected me,” there’s really no good response. I don’t recommend it! If you get into a conversation and you want to bring it up, it’s fine, but there’s no sense opening with it. First, the agent may not remember your project or your name, which is understandable because of the volume agents deal with. Second, it sounds combative, or defensive, or something. And it puts the agent on the defensive, like they have to rationalize why they were unable to represent your project. Third, since agents have to pass on much of what they receive, you’re certainly not alone and you don’t need to feel bad.
Should I worry about how I look or what I wear?
This question has caused a lot of controversy in certain circles lately. Appropriate conference-wear is business casual. Woodsy or camp-type settings are more casual while the ones taking place in nice hotels tend to be a bit more business-y. Just remember to present a professional look that says “I am serious about being a writer. And if you want me to be out in public at a book signing or do a television appearance, I will make you proud.”
This can be accomplished in many, many ways. It’s obviously an individual thing. But please don’t make the mistake of thinking, “All that matters is what’s on the page.” It’s just like a job interview. Sure, it’s your skills that count, but the image you present has an effect on people’s opinion of you. It’s not about designer clothes. It’s about making your outside accurately reflect to the world who you are on the inside. Smart, professional, funny… whatever image you want to convey, make sure your exterior helps you instead of hindering you. (If you are already recoiling at the fact that I brought up clothes here, please remember how people’s outer image has a huge impact on how they present themselves to the world—their confidence, their professionalism, sometimes their entire demeanor.)
Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/WTWvcuIpm1c