Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Thoughts on Writing Conferences :: PNWA Wrapup

  • Do not expect to hand anything to agents and editors.  You will be emailing them and reminding them that they met you at _____ conference.
  • Be memorable... but not for the wrong reasons.  A little eccentricity is one thing, but too much can hurt you. 
  • Know the markets.  Know where you fit.  If you don't know, there's nothing wrong with asking and nowhere better to find people who can tell you.
  • Do not miss a chance at "facetime" with an editor or agent.  My appointment with the agent was about 10 minutes longer than it was scheduled because someone else didn't show.  I appreciate the extra time, but why would you do this?  Standing up an agent is just bad business, and the opportunity to sit down across from a publishing professional isn't something you should sneeze at.  Thanks for the extra time, but you seriously need to re-think your priorities (whoever you are).
  • Even agents who say that they don't rep your genre or style of work are worth talking to. Their opinion of your work or your pitch can be invaluable to your efforts to get noticed by the people who do want the stuff you have to sell.  Almost every agent I talk to has at least one story about a submission that was good but not their thing, so they passed it along to someone who did want whatever it was.
  • Be good enough to pass along.
  • Know what your story is about.  This is not a plot question, it's thematic and YOU WILL BE ASKED (over and over and over again).  If all else fails, imagine what the back of the book will say.
  • Talk about the writing.  With the agents and editors and with your peers.  It's the thing that binds all of us together.
  • Be enthusiastic.  It will come across even if you are nervous and scared.
  • An agent said to me "That's an ambitious story, I'm curious to see if you pulled it off.  Send it to me."  That is my goal.  I can't count the number of books I've purchased because I said the same thing after reading the back cover.
  • Do not lie.
  • Be ambitious.  There's nothing wrong with that.  If someone asks if you're a good writer, say yes.  Or if you're feeling spunky, say "No, I'm a great writer."  However, do NOT say that you wrote the next Harry Potter, Twilight, Davinci Code, or whatever.  The agents are sick of hearing it.  Tell them why your work stands on its own.
  • Admit if your project isn't done.
  • Carry samples of your writing.  Carry the best you have.  Be prepared for no one to ask you for it.  You have it with you because you don't want to not have it.
  • Talk to people, shake hands, pass out business cards to other writers.  Every time you meet someone, they're a possible contact.  It's called networking, but it's also called "Making friends with people who love the same things you do."
  • Most of the people in this industry are incredibly nice, helpful and kind.  Really.  It's amazing.  So if someone you meet is an asshole, move on.  You don't want to work with them anyway.
  • Remember that most of what you will be told about marketing (especially social networking, blogs, etcetera) is based on what worked for the last guy.  No one really knows what will work for the next guy.
  • Innovate.  One great reason to listen to people talk about what they've done is to look for what's being missed.
  • I heard three agents on an agents panel ask for Steampunk stories.  No one at the tables near me knew what that was.  Read about your industry and keep up with the trends if only so you can know why you're not following them.
  • Talk to the presenters.  Approach them for reasons other than getting autographs.  Come up with questions, engage them in conversation, buy them a drink or a coffee if you run into them in drinking/coffee circumstances.  They were asked to present to your conference because they have something to say and odds are they have more to say than there was time for in your sessions.
  • Take an improvisational acting class.  There's no better preparation for what you'll be doing at these conferences and future book signings.  The days of reclusive iconoclasts are over.  You must be able to engage.
  • The old adage stands "Be you, everyone else is taken".
  • Volunteer.  Help out.  Offer to pass out handouts in the sessions.
  • Pay attention, take notes, ask questions.
  • DO NOT approach agents in spaces where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy.  Elevators are fine, bathroom stalls are not.


  1. O lordy, I really hope no one got pinned down in a bathroom stall, or worse yet, a urinal!

  2. This is a really great list with a lot of good advice! A lot of these could be translated to other types of conferences as well. Very good!


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