Conference season is upon us and while they can be fun, they can be extremely overwhelming.
My first conference was the National RWA one they held in Orlando last year. To say I was totally overwhelmed and wanting to cry by the end of it, is an understatement. However, I recently attended a smaller regional SCBWI one and it was WONDERFUL. It got me completely charged up to keep writing and I found myself hunting for another conference to attend.
In my opinion, if you’ve never attended a conference before, start small. You’ll be able to do so much more without becoming so overwhelmed you can’t function.
It’s also much easier to make those much coveted industry contacts with the smaller venues. The agents, editors, and other writers are more accessible and willing to talk with you.
But I warn you, don’t spend the whole time trying to pitch. Sure, if you run into an agent/editor and while you’re talking they ask what your book is about, tell them, but don’t expressly start the conversation with the hopes to pitch. They’ll know and it’ll start you off on the wrong foot.
Attend workshops based on the want to know the knowledge instead of wanting to know the individual teaching.
On the other hand, DO go up to the agents/editors. That’s why they are there. Don’t be shy. They feel the same way. If you’re like me, you’re terrified of talking to new people. Don’t be. They know what it’s like, and having great contacts can sometimes make all the difference.
So how do you go up to an agent/editor to strike up a conversation without appearing like a crazy person?
I recently asked Kensington editor, Megan Records, this question and her response was phenomenal.
“Flattery. “Hi. Sorry to interrupt, but I know you are so and so’s agent/ed, and I just wanted to tell you I really enjoyed *insert title of book by so and so*” (alternately “I really love the cover of *insert title of book by so and so*. I’m so excited to read it!”).This establishes two things: 1) you’ve done some research on us, so you aren’t just frantically looking around for anyone with “agent” or “editor” on their nametag; 2) you loved the book, and we loved the book, so we have some common tastes.It is also really easy for the agent/ed to accept this type of indirect flattery. Direct flattery, e.g. “I really admire you; you are one of my favorite agents.” is awkward/stalkerish and can be really uncomfortable if you are the type of person who isn’t good at receiving compliments (*raises hand*). But we are always up for gushing about our favorite authors.”
This really made me stop and think. And, of course, come up with this blog post.
But also note what she said, about doing your research. DO NOT just go up to a person because they have editor/agent on their nametag. Even if you’re not trying to pitch, it’s just as bad in the “oh they’re just using me for…whatever” category. Even if that wasn’t your intention.
Megan has a great blog post on it here. And my agent did one on conference networking here not to long ago. Since they speak more eloquently than I do, make sure to read their posts. And most importantly, have FUN! Conferences are a blast and a great time to meet other writers.