Monday, October 7, 2013

30 Tips for Surviving Your First (or Any) Writing Conference


I just got home from Crossroads Writers Conference, and boy, are my arms tired!
Not really. But my voice is almost gone.

As we all know, writing is an activity that mostly occurs in solitude. You at your laptop, pounding away. Sure, we have Twitter and Facebook, but there comes a time in every writer's life where you want to meet real, live people who share your struggles and hopes and dreams-- and the people who can help you reach them.

And that's where writing conferences come in.

If you've never been to a writing conference or have had a less-than-stellar experience, hopefully this will help. If not, please don't find me at a writing conference and berate me. Good? Good.


1. Go for the right reasons.
For me, the best thing about writing conferences is meeting other writers. But you also want to find a conference that maximizes what you'll get out of it for your money and is appropriate for where you are as a writer and what you want to do. If you go to a conference for the sole reason of selling a book at that conference, you have a 99.9% chance of being sorely disappointed.


2. Do your research on the conference and authors.
Sad to say, but there are tons of people out there who will promise you the moon and take your money for what feels like no return. Before you sign up for a conference, do the research. See how long it's been around, who runs it, who the guests are, and who's coming back. If a conference doesn't go well, writers seldom wish to return. It's okay to stalk guests on Twitter or Facebook and see what they're saying or to Google "Delilah's 100% Guaranteed Book Deal Writing Conference 2012" to see what popped up on blogs after last year's con. Make sure it's legit before you invest your time and money. Make sure the speakers are people you admire and from whom you'll gain valuable information, or at least make sure they have credentials to speak to the topic. Be sure you're aiming up, that the con will give you new information on your next step. You simply want to make sure the con is going to help you with what you personally need. No matter how great a con is, if you write self-pub romance and go to a con for traditionally published thrillers and horror, you might not enjoy yourself. Or, honestly, you might discover your next great idea. It's all about managing expectations and also how much you're open to new things.

The Pocket Books panel at RWA Nationals 2013, including writer Shoshanna Evers and three editors from Pocket. 
This is the time to ask about the submission and publication process, NOT pitch your book.



3. See if there are scholarships, discounts, or volunteer slots.
Conferences cost money. Which isn't so horrible if you're a pro writer, because they're tax deductible. But if you're completely out of pocket, it might be a burden. Most cons offer scholarships, and if you don't see them listed on the site, email the organizer and ask. Many cons will do a discount period to encourage early sign-ups. Ask about that, too. And make sure you follow them on social media, as they sometimes do contests for registration fees or provide other ways to get in for less. If money is seriously a problem, see if there's a cheaper hotel one block away and if someone you like might want to share a room. Conferences can be crazy expensive, but there are easy ways to make them on a budget.


4. If you are shy, reach out beforehand.
As an introvert, social media is a huge boon to me. If you've met me and would consider me outgoing, it's because I was among friends or discussing a shared passion, like writing. And a big part of that comes from making connections on Twitter. Most of the authors who present at cons are active on social media, and a simple, personalized, "I loved your books and look forward to seeing you at the conference!" is a friendly way to start a conversation. Most cons are on social media, too, and you can see who they're talking to and pre-pave the way to conference friendships with other attendees, especially if they have a hashtag. If I know a couple of people, I'm going to feel so much more comfortable and excited. Set up a coffee break or lunch ahead of time, if you have particular friends you'd like to hang with or if you're intimidated by being alone.


5. Do not print out copies of your query, book, screenplay, or Glamour Shots.
Conferences are for learning and making connections. Even the ones that provide agent and editor meetings are for getting to know the person and discussing your hook; you're not going to sell a book at one of these appointments, I promise. If it is appropriate to bring any part of your work, they will let you know. For example, at JordanCon last year, they asked the authors to do a roundtable where writers could receive a critique of their first five pages, and that was very cool. But this is 2013, and no one wants to pay extra to lug home your 400-page opus in their carry-on to New York. Bring business cards that include your name, email, website, and Twitter handle, and maybe a little blurb that will remind them of what you write. The most effective one I've ever seen is by humorous erotica author Mina Vaughn, who has "kink with a wink" as her catchphrase. But there is no reason, ever, to approach someone at the con with a hard copy of your book. If they're interested, email it later.


6. Bring more clothes and shoes than you think you'll need.
I'm a pretty low-fuss girl, but I take as many clothes as I can carry to a con to make sure I look professional, but like myself. It's so hard to judge the dress code beforehand. Cute dresses and flowy shirts roll up very small. If you feel like you fit in, you're going to have so much more confidence, and there's nothing worse than wearing a cocktail dress/suit when everyone else is in t-shirts... or vice versa. Looking at photos of last year's con online can ensure you're at least in the ballpark. And although I'm a big fan of cute shoes, all my heels are by Seychelles because I know they're comfortable and won't give me blisters. You can't concentrate on business and work when you're crying from pain. And even if you guessed wrong and aren't dressed exactly like everyone else, smile and hold your chin up. I've been there, and you'll survive. At the end of the day, a good attitude can help you sail through a fashion flub. In any case, for either gender, it's hard to go wrong with nice dark jeans, boots, and a shirt that doesn't have Bart Simpson on it. Also of note: writing cons aren't generally the place for cosplay. Business attire and Friday business casual are the norm.


7. Be careful with food.
Don't get me wrong-- I love to eat. But I know which foods to avoid before and during cons. You're there to learn and network, and you can't do that if you have an upset stomach or are burping garlic on people. On the same token, fainting in front of an editor isn't good etiquette, so make sure you drink plenty of water and plan snacks and eat meals that will last, especially for cons that don't have restaurants or hospitality suites easily available. I pack a box of protein bars and nuts and can always rely on Starbucks for a banana. And pack mints!


8. Be careful with drinks.
It's true-- as awesome as the panels are, the best parts of the con often happen at the bar afterwards. That's where you can talk to authors, other writers, agents, and editors one-on-one with just a dash of alcoholic bravado. JUST A DASH. Nobody wants to talk to the crazy drunk lady waving her script around. And nobody wants you to barf on their cute shoes. I rarely turn down a drink at a con, but I always have a glass of water in between. And if I have to present before 10am the next morning, one drink is enough. But this is the time to ask the questions you really want to know and possibly hear some good stories. And although I shouldn't have to say this, most cons happen at hotels, and all the people at the hotel bar are not other writers you know and trust, so hold onto your drink just as carefully as you do in strange places. Also of note: when someone wants to dominate a writer, agent, or editor's time, they often offer to buy them a drink first. Which is totally okay, and which is why they are compensated to be there. But don't make it creepy or weird, and don't be hurt if they say no. Timing is essential.


A room party at Crossroads Writers Conference in Macon, GA, one of my very favorite cons for writers. Crossroads is great for lots of writer/attendee mingling.



9. Don't fall in the Sarlaac pit.
Every conference has one. Really.


10. Carry cash.
If you have ten people at a sit-down restaurant and a panel to catch in ten minutes, you don't want to make the poor waitress divvy up the check and run ten cards. I always bring cash and keep receipts. In larger cities, you might share a cab or grab some coffee from a street cart. I've also been in a place where I wanted to buy a book from the author and didn't have cash on hand, and I'd hate to miss out on a signed book I'd love.


11. Wear your name tag. Make it simple.
Given my preference, my name tag will say DELILAH S. DAWSON and then, underneath that, I'll write @DelilahSDawson so that people will know my name and my Twitter handle. For me, they're the same. But awesome author JT Ellison, for example, is ThrillerChick on Twitter, so I didn't recognize her at first and felt like a derp. If Twitter is your big thing, that's a great way to let people know the best way to find you. Unless you write under several pen names, try to keep your name tag very simple. At the least, focus on the name/genre people at that con would recognize. I've seen some, for example, that say:

Romance writer
JL Smith
Horrorgirl at Bookanistagirls
@RHJones
JHSmithJones/Facebook
VP of the Mississippi Mystery Society

And... I have no idea what to call her because she has so many names and so many different blogs and genres. Make it easy for someone to remember your name and what you write, if you can.


12. Meet new people.
It's why you're there. But for me, this is the scariest part. Luckily, at cons, it's so much easier, because you're both there for the same thing and can talk about writing and books all day. My go-to question is always, "So, what do you write?", and I can ask it with honest interest. If that one's done, ask them where they're from or how long they've been writing or where they got their shoes or what they thought of their last session. If you're at a con alone and looking for compatriots, find a likely group chatting in between panels or at lunch and just ask if they have a chair open. I am by no means a conversational god, but I can tell you that everyone at the conference feels about the same as you and would probably prefer to travel in packs. Even asking a leading question like, "Do y'all know anything about lunch plans? I'm starving!" can lead to an invite and a wonderful experience. You can also pre-plan on Twitter to meet people, especially if the con has a hashtag that others are following. And if the absolute worst happens and you can't find friends, it's a writing conference, and you get extra cool points for ordering room service and banging out 2000 words in the comfort of your hotel room. Which I've totally done.

Cherie Priest, John Scalzi, Sam Sykes, Leanna Renee Hieber, me, and Kevin Hearne on the Author Chairdancing panel at Phoenix Comicon in Phoenix, AZ. My friend Cherie invited me, and there I met Sam, Leanna, and Kevin, who are now three of my all-time favorite people. I first met Scalzi at Fandomfest in Louisville. We had a pleasant conversation, and then someone said OMIGOD DO YOU KNOW WHO THAT IS?, and I was like, "Um, no. He was really nice and funny, though." And then I found out. All good stories about being nice to people and making wonderful friends in the writing world.


13. When in doubt, introduce yourself.
Sometimes, you walk into a group of friends and start chatting but don't know anyone's name. Sometimes you get into a conversation and realize you already know each other on Twitter. Sometimes you show up in the same three panel audiences as someone who looks cool, and you just keep smiling at each other like goofballs. All of this is totally normally and still somehow feels awkward. The answer, for me, is just to stick out my hand and say, "I'm sorry; I don't know if we've met. I'm Delilah." You should probably say your name instead, though. And then you'll know that person's name. And there is no shame, should they say, "We've met before", in saying, "Well, it's good to see you again" or, as happens to me often, "Of course I know you on Twitter, but now I know you for real." Whether the con has 300 people or 3,000, no one can keep track of everyone, and some of us go by a lot of different names or don't have a recent personal photo as a Twitter avatar. You never go wrong wanting to shake a person's hand and then, once you've established how you know each other, going in for a hug. There's also nothing wrong with saying something like, "Are you Delilah?" if you think you know someone and want to confirm before launching into conversation.


14. On creeping.
I don't like this topic. I don't want to think that anyone reading this might be a creeper or might get creeped on. But it's going to happen, because conferences are about people who get obsessive and passionate, and sometimes, people who get obsessive and passionate can accidentally get creepy. And there are many levels of creepy, but in particular, let's just say that sometimes at cons, someone wants to get to know you in a way that makes you want to escape and hide, and that's not cool. It's not always dude on chick, either; sometimes, we get super excited to meet our heroes. Sometimes, creepers don't even know they're doing it. If you feel that someone is creeping on you, you must handle it in the way that feels comfortable for you, but please always make sure that you are safe. You have a right to exit any conversation, to turn down any offer for drinks or a meal, or to tell someone else that you are having a problem and use them as an escape route. If you think someone might be following you, do not go bravely into the elevator with them. Find someone, friend or stranger, explain the situation, and ask them to go with you. This hasn't happened to me at a writing con, but it has happened to my friends. Never put yourself in danger for the sake of being polite.

Of note for women: I have several guy friends at cons who would stand between me and a charging bull, if the bull stared at my chest too long. If you know James Tuck or John Hartness or a similar big-hearted teddy bear, develop a signal so they can rescue you if you look terrified or feel creeped on. I'm not saying we women can't stand up for ourselves. But I know what it feels like as someone who depends on appearing professional and polite when you can't extricate yourself from an uncomfortable situation without making more of a scene than you're interested in making. There's no shame in creating outside interference.


15. Go to panels.
Chances are that when I'm not on a panel or teaching a workshop, my butt is in a seat in someone else's panel. No matter how rad a writer you think you are, there is always another way to up your game. Last year at a con, I went to a panel on comics and graphic novels and asked several questions. I was so excited by what I learned there that I'm now trying to get into writing more comics and have my first comic out soon. If there's nothing in that session that's truly applicable, think about what you're going to need further down the line. Want to dabble in another genre? Need to know about the legal aspects of self-pub? At the very least, go into a panel that will be popular, like "Tips for Bestsellers" and start live-tweeting it. You might think you know everything, but you might learn something-- or pass the information on to someone in your tweetfeed who needs it. And use the con's hashtag so others can find you and your info.

A panel on humor at Olde City, New Blood, now Coastal Magic, a con for romance in Florida.

16. Take notes.
When you're listening to a panel, it can be so easy to nod along and feel your brain open up like fertile ground in the rain. And then when you leave, you're like... WHAT JUST HAPPENED I FORGOT EVERYTHING. So take notes, just like in school. Whether you do so in a notebook or on your iPad, jot down the things that will help you later. Livetweeting is great for this sort of thing, but you can be put in Twitter jail if you tweet too much, too quickly, and then you miss all the fun for the rest of the day. Please don't worry about disrupting the speaker by playing on your device if it means you're getting something from the session; just turn off the chick-chick-chick typewriter sound. Speakers love to see their words pop up on Twitter or Facebook, because that means our info meant enough to you that you wanted to share it.


17. Ask questions.
I know it can be scary at a con, whether because there are so many people or there's so much new information or because agents and editors literally have seven heads full of venomous fangs. But this is your chance. This is why they are here: to help you. You paid your conference registration fee, and you have a right to ask the questions that will help you up your game. Granted, those questions should always be informed, pointed, brief, and not rude, but it's understood that if a person is sitting in the hotel bar, they are making themselves available, however briefly.

Good questions:
Are you having a good con? You represent one of my favorite authors, and I'd love to hear how you started working together. Do you think zombies will come back anytime soon, because I know you edited that anthology and I really enjoyed it. Your panel on social media was wonderful, and I wanted to know a little more how you find the blogs you follow on tumblr and inspire them to reblog you so much. I'm having trouble with some self-publishing formatting and really enjoyed your panel, but you didn't speak to formatting for foreign countries; do you have any experience with that?

Bad questions:
So, are you married? Can we go someplace private to talk? Are you looking to represent a book about a were-mermaid from ancient Australia who falls in love with a blind vampire? I heard that author who writes for you is a total bitch; is that true? Your rejection letter sucked, and I'd like to get some more feedback on why you didn't like my manuscript. In that sex scene in your book, did you really try that thing with the monkey bars and the peanut butter? I went to your panel, but I want to tell you all the reasons that you are wrong. I brought my manuscript; would you mind looking at it? Will you tell me if my query is any good? Are those real?


18. Do what works for you, but don't let fear hold you back.
There's a fine line between doing what naturally appeals to you and breaking out of your comfort zone. Conferences are a great way to push yourself into doing new things that will benefit your writing life. Did a slot suddenly open up with an agent or editor that you don't know? Take it. Give your pitch. If it's not a good match, you get five minutes to talk with an agent or editor about anything you want, and that's a great deal. Did a writing group from Canada you just met on the way to your room invite you out to dinner at the Persian restaurant? Change shoes and go, and when they hop on the table to bellydance, join them. Did your Twitter friend hear about an amazing bar with a chocolate fountain and wants to call a cab and check it out? Leave the hotel and have an adventure. Did you get invited to a room party? Check it out! But! Did that panelist just give you what you need to fix your manuscript and you're totally on fire to write? If that's what means the most to you, go do it. Conferences are there to serve you, and if five hours in a quiet room away from your family to write is the best gift you can give yourself, then don't feel pressured to go eat an expensive hamburger and listen to the cozy writer from Kansas as she details her dog's sweater collection.


19. Swag-- do you need it?
Swag really worried me, at first, because I felt that I needed it, and I needed it to rock. But for conferences, in my opinion, all you really need is a tasteful business card with your contact information on it-- mine are from Moo.com because I like the weird size and the ability to use different images on different cards. If I'm totally honest, I take everything given to me at a con with a huge smile, put them all in a pocket of my bag, go home, and dump out the bag. I go through the cards and find the people with whom I wish to connect on Twitter or Facebook. I keep the pens and the wrapped chocolate. Almost every thing else I take to the swag room or leave on a table for someone else. I can honestly say I have never bought a book or contacted a writer based on a piece of swag; getting to know the author, liking them, and wanting to know more gets me to check out their book or blog. At a reader's conference, I understand swag is a big deal. But at a writing conference, I suggest sticking with a card and good conversation that would make someone want to keep talking to you.

My worst ever swag experience: A writer I did not know came in to her panel late, disheveled, and not dressed professionally. She pulled out a bag of plastic Easter eggs and began throwing them into the audience, where they ponged off people's heads. Inside them were candy and codes to her e-book. Later, she took a phone call while sitting on the panel. I did not even consider downloading the e-book code in the egg because she'd been so disrespectful of other panelists, the moderator, and the audience. Don't be the egg-thrower.


20. Let them know how to find you.
If you're an aspiring writer-- first of all, you're a writer. You write. But if you're not yet published, you need to make sure that anyone who meets you at a con can easily find you online. A business card is great, but what do you put on it, and where does it go? My cards include a gmail address, my Twitter handle, and my website. And that's pretty much it. I don't like phone calls unless they're about paying me, and I don't press people to use my Facebook author site, as Facebook only shows 1/3 of my followers any given post. As for websites, if you don't have one, get one. You can get a site on Blogspot or Wordpress for free, and you don't have to use it as a blog, if you're not ready to do that.  Just use the site to provide a biography, a photo, some information about what you write, and your contact information. Check out the websites or blogs of other writers you admire and see what they're doing, then do your version of that according to your skill set. It also bears mentioning that it can help to make all of your online handles match. If you're RomanceWriter3 on Twitter and write emails from JoeandCarolSmith.hotmail and have the website JojotheCorgi.com, it's confusing-- and very 1999. Get a free email address and make it professional. If your name is common, add a middle initial or the word author or writer. Example: JaneLSmithAuthor, JohnQPublicWrites, etc.


21. How to frighten people away.
Granted, these are just the sort of things that make me edge away politely or that ensure I won't be following someone on Twitter or looking up their blog. Your mileage may vary. You might think I'm a bitch. But I'm honest.

Don't pitch to every human being you can catch and talk about your book exclusively and obsessively. Don't tell someone in publishing that you don't read, you think publishing is dead, you hate romance, SFF is stupid, or that your book is different than all that other crap and will be a bestseller. Don't tell an author their books suck, you hate their covers, or here's what you would have done differently; interesting conversation or asking questions is good, but no one wants to hear how much they stink. Don't get drunk and bemoan all your rejections. Don't name drop like crazy. Don't talk sh*t about other authors or only talk about negative things. The thing is, people assume that if they like you, they'll like your writing. And if you appear unlikeable, no one will pick up your books or offer to help. And most writers love helping each other, providing introductions or recommending cons or books or suggesting agents to try.

Also of note: Personal hygiene is important. You know this, but I have to say it. Stay clean, don't be unkempt, don't overdo the perfume or cologne.


22. On self-presentation.
In many ways, a writing conference is simultaneously a party with your friends, a business meeting, a schoolroom, and a job interview. You want to be yourself, but you also want to be yourself at your best in a way that will draw people to you as colleagues and as possible collaborators. You don't want to dress too fancy and look like you're trying too hard, but you don't want anyone to walk away thinking you're sloppy and lazy, because whether or not it's true, they'll think your writing is sloppy and lazy. They say 'dress for the job you want, not the job you have', but you definitely shouldn't wear pajama pants like most authors are right now.

If you're trying to get a traditional publishing deal, you also might want to err on the side of normal and save the wacky for later in the realm of personal presentation. Believe me when I say that it's possible to look professional and still "you". That being said, if you've seen my dear friend Leanna Renee Hieber in her full Victorian outfits, that's legit her--and she rocks it and gladly tells people, "If you like the way I dress, you'll like my books." Find what works best for you but always be gracious and inviting-- and always be genuine.

The Carniepunk signing in Houston at Murder by the Book. 
Note what seven traditionally published authors are wearing.
(Me, Nicole Peeler, Jaye Wells, a reader, Mark Henry, a reader, Liliana Hart, and Kevin Hearne.
I want that red dress!


And here's how professional authors dress at Dragon Con, a comics convention.
Totally appropriate (and expected!) for DC. Not so much for RWA.
I don't know the lovely lady in purple, but then there's Lucienne Diver, John Hartness, me, Faith Hunter, and Tamsin Silver.


23. Sleep. Get some.
You know what's really hard to do on three hours of sleep and hung over? Learn anything. Getting enough sleep at a seriously great con while also staying out with friends can feel impossible, especially when there are informative sessions at 8:30am. Personally, I try to plan ahead and pick one night for serious carousal, usually the night after I've done all my presenting or when I don't have to present until late afternoon the next day. I always bring melatonin to help me get to sleep at cons, because I get so overexcited and my brain won't stop spinning and I have trouble turning it off. There is nothing wrong with going to bed early if you know you're going to have a long day. And there's also nothing wrong with running up to your room for a two-hour nap--just be sure to set your phone's alarm. And there's really nothing wrong with repeating the word COFFEE? until someone finally gives you some. Ask me how I know.


24. If something goes wrong, initiate damage control immediately.
It can be hard, when you've paid for an experience, to deal with the frustration of not getting what you paid for. But I firmly believe that most situations can be saved. If the conference is poorly run, just try to salvage whatever you can by networking outside of the panels and making connections. If a speaker is terrible, leave the panel and sneak into another one. If the people aren't appealing and you're not connecting at all, introduce yourself to new people or go to panels alone and learn every last damn thing you can. If something bad happens to you, figure out a way to make it okay. I once had a horrible experience with a signing in which the bookstore treated me wretchedly... but there was a cupcake store next door, so I walked right over there and sat down for a cupcake and pulled out a book to read. Now I remember the delicious cupcake more than the bookstore.

Although conference organizers can't do much for you in the moment, you have every right to complain, honestly but reasonably, afterword, through an email or letter, especially if you felt that it wasn't worth what you paid. Speaking as someone who's run events before, it's much better to say, "The keynote speaker was notably intoxicated, the hotel had bedbugs, and the provided lunch was not vegetarian, as per my request; it would have been preferable to hold the con in the much nicer hotel up the street that also has meeting rooms but only costs $10 more per night," versus "THIS CONFERENCE SUCKED AND YOU SHOULD DIE IN A FIRE." Let them know what went wrong, what you expected, and what they could do to ensure you'd return.

Not to get all Mr. Rogers on you, but although the experience is out of your control, how you react to it is firmly in your control. I've been to bad conferences, but they gave me a chance to commiserate with new friends, and in retrospect, those friends are totally worth it. At the very, very least, a few days in a hotel room can let you crank out a few chapters in solitude.


25. If someone helps you, thank them.
The conference organizers have spent all year planning the con and probably haven't slept in days. The volunteers have been smiling since 6am. The panelists flew in from LA on a red-eye and haven't seen their kids or pets in a week. So if you get a chance, thank them. If there's something in particular that you appreciated, going into detail about what you liked will make their day. When someone comes out of a presentation, no matter how awesome they are, they're often unsure if it went over well and they truly are glad to know that what they said or did made a difference. You can never go wrong thanking people, and you need to know that your kind words keep them going when things get tough.


26. If you liked a speaker, one of the best ways to thank them is to buy their book.
No matter how good someone's writing is or how much press you think they get, every book sale matters. Especially for new and midlist authors, these conferences are a way of getting our books into the hands of new readers and making connections with fans. There is no greater praise for a panelist than to say, "I really liked what you said, so I went and bought your book. Will you sign it?" And that's why I always leave room in my suitcase: I buy the books of the panelists whose words or attitude speak to me. And I love signed books by awesome people.

This is what my lap looks like on the way back from a writing conference or signing.
I love meeting great writers, buying their books, and telling everyone on Twitter about it.



27. Afterwords, follow up.
The conference might be over, but there's still plenty to do. Find the people you met at the con on Twitter and Facebook. Follow them and send them a friendly tweet letting them know it was nice to meet them and asking them how their experience was. If an agent or editor showed interest in your book, polish it up with what you learned and email it over, along with a reminder note along the lines of, "We met at BookCon last week and you expressed interest in my novel THE RETICENT MERMAID. I've done some revisions based on our talk, and the manuscript is attached." Tag people in  your photos, RT what they're saying about the conference, and keep the conversations going.


28. Blog about it.
Like I am! Seriously, though, if you learned things at conferences, writing up your experience is a great way to remember it yourself and get some blog traffic from other people who might want to go and see what it's like. Post pictures and talk about the speakers who really reached you, but try to leave any name-calling or incriminating photos out of it. Next year, someone might be Googling the con for the first time, and your post could be the one that convinces them to go. Which leads me to...


29. Be generous.
You're not the newbie anymore, but someone else is. If you can give them a hand-up, do. If you see someone at the con who looks shy, invite them into your circle. Introduce them. Ask them what they write. Share your resources, whether you know a great blog or another con that's close to them. I'm so fortunate to have met tons of wonderful, amazing, giving people on my writing journey, and I'm always anxious to help y'all if I can. Any questions? Just ask in the comments.

And give folks the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes, you might think someone is ignoring you at the bar, but they're seeing someone they only get to see once a year. Or maybe that author was a little short when you told her how much you love her book, but she just got a phone call about her mom in the hospital or she really has to pee. Almost every time I've gotten annoyed that someone had given me the cold shoulder, I've met them later under different circumstances and found them delightful. Authors, agents, and editors are all human, and they're doing the best they can.


30. Apply what you learned and move to the next step.
I meet amazing people at conferences who are holding back from that next step. They love their first draft too much to delete anything. They adore their book but are terrified to show it to someone else. They think they're ready to query, but they're scared of rejection. It's easy to fall into the trap of writing and revising without ever sending anything out, but that's part of the process. Jump out of that nest and fly, little bird! You can do it!

***

Anything I didn't cover? 
Ask away in the comments, and I'll do my best to answer.

8 comments:

David Coventry said...

Great post! The only thing I might add is to show up with a relentlessly positive attitude - everyone is coming to share something they love, so a little kindness goes a long way towards making connections. I heard some slightly silly pitches at ThrillerFest this summer, but I was really impressed by their enthusiasm and was at least intrigued enough to want to know more. Plus I was self-conscious about my own project, so I felt more confident talking about my work after "paying it forward" by listening politely to others and asking open-ended questions about their stuff. In contrast, the douchey guy who kept going around dispensing unsolicited advice on other people's writing was awfully unpopular at cocktail hour.

delilah s. dawson said...

Amen! Being polite and positive does wonders.

Miranda said...

Yay! You're so great ^_^

Virginia Brasch said...

So appreciate this post! Have been thinking about cons lately. Should I go? My book isn't due out for a few months, is it the right time to go? And possibly there's a bit of the newbie- know no one at all- jitters. Great advice & just what I was looking for.

Girl Friday said...

This is so brilliant and comprehensive - and SO timely for me, as am just about to go to my first ever writers' con, so thank you!

Catherine Scully said...

Such a great series Delilah! I want to send everyone this way to read it because all of the above is SO helpful to conferences attendees and panelists. So happy I finally got to meet you in person at Crossroads!

Shari Green said...

Such a terrific post! I'm heading off to the Surrey International Writers' Conference in a couple weeks, so this was very timely for me. Thanks! :)

Andrea Blythe said...

Fantastic post! I'm going to have to save this and give it a reread before the next conference I go to. For me, "13. When in doubt, introduce yourself" is one I could definitely work on, because I get shy about introducing myself to people I may not know.