After a week and a half to catch my breath, I can turn my mind from The A to Z Challenge and start looking forward to the Pennwriters Annual Conference being held in Pittsburgh this coming weekend. I'm beyond excited.
Conference are all about networking. Many of the writers I know met their agent or editor at a writing conference. Pennwriters, like many conferences, offer chances to sign up for a one-on-one meeting with the agent or editor of your choice. But that's not the only or even the best way to meet those people who hold such power over your career.
First off, do your research and know if the agent or editor you set your sights on is likely to be a good fit for your work. Look at their website and check them out on Twitter and Facebook. See what authors they've worked with. Are they part of a big organization or the head of their own smaller press or literary agency? Do you want one based in New York or closer to your home? Lots of questions to ask yourself. Are they long established or just starting out and perhaps willing to take on an unknown writer?
Most agents and editors will lead at least one workshop or take part in a panel with their peers. Attend the sessions given by your target agent or editor. Sit near the front, take notes and prepare some questions. Act and dress professional for the entire conference not just during your face to face meeting.
Often mealtimes mean finding your own seat. Try to get one at the same table as your target. Don't pitch your book unless they ask. This is the time to have your short elevator pitch ready. Or cozy up to the bar with that elusive agent or editor. Again, be friendly, not pushy. They won't be offended and will appreciate a free drink. Conferences are mini-vacations for them with some work involved. They want to find the next great bestseller. Make sure they want to work with the interesting, professional they met over dinner or drinks.
And don't expect too much. They're unlikely to sign you on the spot. They don't want any hard copy to carry on the plane home with them. But they might ask you to email it to them or submit it to their agency or house. You might find you don't click with the person you stalked for two days. At least you learned before anything was signed that you weren't a good fit.
My very first appointment with an agent at my very first writing conference was a huge shock. I can look back on it and laugh now but I was stunned at the time. The agent was very well-known in the field and I was excited to meet her in person. My appointment was her first one after lunch. She came in almost five minutes late to the room where I waited. She carried a drink in one hand, with the amber liquid sloshing over the sides as she set it down. Her slurred words made almost no sense. I couldn't believe it. I'd been so nervous and here I was, faced with a drunk who wouldn't even remember my name after I left. Very disappointing but it also taught me to remember that those agents and editors are just people too.
"Great people know how to take care of their people. For a great person does not become great by themselves." John Maeda
Have you ever pitched your writing to an editor or agent face to face? Was it a good experience? Do you have more suggestions of how to stalk an agent or editor at a conference? Care to share your worst experience at a conference?