So here's my list of dos and don'ts at a conference. Probably nothing new, but it definitely applies to me.
When attending a writer's conference...
- Before pitching, learn everything about and talk to the agent to make sure it is a good fit. See my sad but positive story about pitching last year.
- Talk to people. Network is everything. And guess what? Most people want to talk. Of course do not stalk agents, especially in bathrooms or elevators. But they are fair game if they're sitting at the bar or mingling before dinner.
- Bring business cards. It is a great way to easily exchange relevant info with other writers, agents, etc. No scraps of anything required.
- Dress (at least) corporate casual but no prom dresses. I've seen the full spectrum. Keep it professional, even if it is a long day.
- Pitch. Have a manuscript complete first, but definitely pitch. Great practice, great advice, great opportunity. Do it.
- Bring a laptop if you got it. I scribbled on a regular-non-tech notepad last year. So yeah, I just barely dusted it off a few weeks ago. I had forgotten many of the great tips I had learned. This time, I may blog as I go. Much easier way to manage and categorize for later access.
- Volunteer. If it is a small conference, they often need help. This year, I'm a session volunteer which means I assist the speaker for the session. Does that mean getting them a water or something? Probably. But it makes my face familiar and it's an easy way to talk without it feeling forced.
- Bring mints and/or candy to keep it fresh and share with those around you. Fresh breath and a great ice breaker for meeting people. Who could resist my red vines or junior mints? Yeah, those might be a bit bulky...
I do do. (for all the 30 Rock luvas)
Don't (absolutely not. no thinky about doing.)
- Ask agents about what boy potty talk slang words you can use in MG. Arrrgh. I know, I did it. It was wrong. A bitty backstory: my husband and I were at a stale mate on whether you could use the term butt nugget in a MG novel. (I know.) I didn't think you could but I decided to ask the agent just to get a ruling. Horrible, awful, no good choice. It was like asking an overweight person when their baby was due. The agent's mouth dropped a little and said, "absolutely not." Yeah. Don't do this. Very bad, no no.
- Walk in late to a session. If it is a popular session, you may be out of luck because there will not be any seats. Plus, then there's no time to talk to others around you.
- Miss out on mingling before dinner, lunch or the keynote. Prime time to meet with agents in a friendly, less pitchy way.
- Hide out during session breaks. I saw a lot of writers doing this. I know it is hard to talk to people you don't know but you paid the money and there is nothing to lose.
- Dominate a conversation. Your job is to get information and or build relationships--not pop off about yourself. Be a great listener. If you've read How to Win Friends and Influence People, then you know. This is a key characteristic. Sadly, I have to work on this. I don't dominate but I over-empathize...which means I constantly interrupt to make a connection. Interrupting is just rude.
And now you know. And knowing is half the battle.
Do you have any tips for attending a writer's conference?