Monday, July 5, 2010

Conference Etiquette

by Raelene Gorlinsky

We’re halfway through the annual writer conference season, perhaps time for some reminders about how to present yourself at your best, as a professional writer, when interacting with publishing industry people at these conferences. The RWA magazine, RWR, just ran two articles about what to do and not do at conferences. We've had previous posts on this blog about conferences, if you haven't read them then check out:

Conference Vignettes

The Great Hunt

Some tips on presenting yourself as a professional when meeting (or trying to meet) editors and agents:

• Dress appropriately. This does not mean a full business suit, unless that is the standard dress for the conference as a whole. But it certainly also does not mean t-shirt and jeans. “Business casual” is what you should be wearing – nice slacks and top or a casual day dress for women, pants and collared shirt (button-down or polo) for men.

• Have your business card handy to give out. The editors and agents talk to hundreds of people at large conferences, don’t expect them to be able to easily recall your name and email address. Make it easy for them with a business card. And you can jot down your book title on the back!

• Wear your name badge. Let us discreetly peek at your name when talking to you.

• Be ready with a quick pitch at any time.

• Do NOT ever try to hand over a manuscript. If the person is interested, they’ll tell you how and where to send it.

• Do not interrupt an editor/agent when they are in conversation with someone else. Wait your turn.

• Do not try to snag their attention when they are obviously not “available”. If the person is dashing away, or about to start a presentation, or otherwise clearly occupied (and that includes in the restroom—a little privacy, please!), you won’t make a good impression by putting yourself in their way.

• Stay sober! Yep, the bar is a great place for casual conversation, for meeting people, for industry gossip. But the smart people are drinking soda or making one glass of wine last an hour. You want to be remembered, but not as a drunken asshole. Again, this is a business event, not your vacation or a “Let’s get smashed and stupid” night out with friends.

• Attend publisher spotlights. You need to know what each publisher is looking for, and it also provides an opportunity to meet the publishing staff.

Have a productive and pleasant conference experience!


Megan Burke said...

Really great tips - I think some of the more obvious ones are the ones forgotten in the excitment. Thanks!

Angelia Sparrow said...

I do more Science Fiction conventions than "writers only" conventions.

Things I've learned:

You can wear the jeans and t-shirt while setting up your dealer booth. Make it a T with one of your book covers on it, and not the one that says "Pan galactic gargleblasters make me fuck green women."

Even at a SF convention, dress well. Dress better than the fen. You're a pro now. I wear denim, but it's part of a steampunk look. I also wear slacks, skirts and blouses.

A warning: if your outfit makes you swagger into the room like the biggest butchest badass in the world, save it for after-hours party time, not for a meet & greet.

Limit the gushing. Yes, fangirl all over your favorite author, but only for a minute or less. That's really about all her embarassment squick will take.

Cleavage sells. If you are on the Junoesque side of middle aged, dragoon your stacked teen daughter. (mine sold a man two of my books. When he returned to complain they were gay, she sold him two of a friend's books) If you can carry it off, wear a corset.

Drink lots of water.