Conference Season

What’s on the iPod – Congregation by the Foo Fighters

Today’s long over due post was sparked after a Twitter conversation with my author-buddy Erica Rodgers after I retweeted fellow Corvisiero Agent Sara Negovetich’s blog post (HERE) about professionalism in querying.

Tis the season for Conferences. In fact, Romantic Times Booklovers’ Conference is going on right now in Dallas. RWA National Conference is in a little over 2 months in New York. There’s also local conferences for me like Midsouth SCBWI and Killer Nashville Mystery Writers’ Conference, and so, so, so many more regionally across the US.

I thought a little post on conference etiquette and such would be useful.

A few things you should keep in mind when you see and agent out in the wild…

Agents love conferences just as much as authors. We want to hear about your work. We’re looking for great books we can sell, and meeting face to face and hearing how excited you are about your work is just awesomesauce.

Agents attend conferences for several reasons. We’re there to meet with editors and find out what’s getting them excited in publishing and to tell them about our clients’ work and get them excited about it.

Agents may have an opportunity to meet with their clients face to face – for the first time in many cases. This is important to both parties because they want to celebrate successes or talk about new projects.

So what I mean by this is that there are good and bad times to approach an agent to pitch your book.

I think everyone has heard the horror story from like 2009 when an agent was pitched in the ladies bathroom. I trust everyone knows this is just impolite and crosses the line.

So when is it okay to pitch?

Well it’s not called an elevator pitch for nothing. Some hotels have ungodly high floors. You may be on the elevator with agent or editor. Start a little conversation, something impersonal. Allow the agent or editor to ask you what you write – that’s your clue to mention/pitch your polished, ready to submit manuscript.

Another great opportunity is while standing in line. The line for the Starbucks in the hotel lobby. Sometimes the buffet line at lunch or dinner – if there is one – can be good. Just remember it’s food time and we all want to eat. But a brief hello or introduction or compliment is a great conversation started. And sometimes just talking and not launching into your pitch is good, too. By just chatting, there’s no pressure and it creates a great memorable moment that you can mention later in a query letter. Sometimes making a connection is better than trying to pitch your book when you have jumbled nerves.

In fact, let’s go on a tangent and talk about making connections. In fact networking is really what attending a conference is most about. Yes, there are wonderful, insightful workshops and panels, book signings (I fangirl constantly). But conferences are most important for networking. Meet people, meet other authors who read what you like to read, or write in the same genre, or live close to you. By networking you are creating your future cheerleaders. Other authors who truly want you to succeed and want to talk to you about your book and theirs.

A few more things to consider when attending conferences:

Maintain a professional demeanor, pretty much at all times. You never know who’s listening or watching.

Remember that you are representing your brand. You are your product, the salesperson and CEO of you and on display at a conference. Even if you haven’t published or signed with an agent. Even if you are still writing your first draft. You are now a brand. Keep that in mind. (My next post I will get a little deeper into Author Branding and how the next wave in marketing really has to focus on this). Know your tag line. Know your brand hook.

Be prepared. If you’re attending a conference, there’s most likely a chance to sit in front of an agent and/or editor for a few scheduled minutes and pitch your book. Notes are okay, but don’t read straight from them. Memorize your pitch before you meet. It’s okay if you skip or mess up. We’re not going to disqualify you for that. In fact we’re listening for a well developed story. We’re listening to clue words that really make your query unique, something that piques our interest or stirs something in us.

Most of all enjoy yourself. Conferences shouldn’t be your hard earned money wasted. Attend workshops. Strive to learn at least one thing new – especially this for more seasoned authors. Meet as many new people as possible. Find a new critique partner or beta reader. Bring home at least 10 new books and split them up, a few from your fave authors you just had to get, a few acclaimed in your genre, and at least two to three in a genre you don’t write in and would never think to read. Example, if you write romantic suspense pick up a light-hearted YA romcom. Or if you write dark, edgy, gritty find a summer beach read in the erotic romance genre. Shake it up!

Did I forget anything? Have some suggestions to make the most out of your conference? Leave a comment!



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