Conference Strategies: Making New Friends

Professional Ghostrwiring Story time…

Earlier, I promised some tips about making the most out of the time you spend at writing conferences. To that end, I’m going to share an epic saga of hope, disappointment, action and ultimate victory. I hope you find it as useful to read as it was useful to do…

Agents and editors come to the major writing conferences, and most let you buy some one-on-one face time with them to pitch your project. It’s like buying any warm lead for any sales gig — worth the money if you can afford the entry fee. I bought five of them at the Willamette Writers’ Conference — three for Friday, one each for Saturday and Sunday.

My first two on Friday went poorly, with the agents not particularly engaged but with nothing useful to say about why. I left the second one discouraged, wondering if my young adult novel was just a bad idea. I went back to my hotel room ready to take a nap, or just chill and watch TV.

I then decided to get my ass back into the conference and talk to people — which is where the major benefit of a conference comes from anyway.

I got in line to buy a coke, and noticed I was standing behind a woman who’d given a talk on turning non-fiction writing into professional coaching. I said hi, only to discover the two of us shared a number of life experiences, interests and values.

An hour of chatting later, I was so energized that I totally nailed my next pitch meeting — and in the interim, my new friend introduced me to somebody who’s probably going to get me a speaking gig. And she’s going to introduce me to her agent about a nonfiction project I’m starting.

All that out of a chance meeting at a conference.

The moral of this story is simple:

To get the most out of conferences, talk to people. Talk to lots of people. And keep talking to people. Even when you don’t want to. 

Kind of hard for us solitary, unsocial writer types — but absolutely vital.

How about y’all? Do you have any stories of conference success, failure or frustration to share? Tell us all in the comments below.

3 thoughts on “Conference Strategies: Making New Friends

  1. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been to several writers conferences and found that oftentimes, agents and editors enjoy getting to know writers–they’re a lot more approachable than we think. At the last conference, I struck up a conversation with an agent during lunch and we ended up talking for the next hour. As long as you don’t bombard them with details about your book, they seem happy to chat. This agent gave me such great information and advice–it was amazing. You just never know who you’re going to run into–it’s so important to make that effort to introduce yourself to others, because chances are, they’re there for the same reason.

  2. No . . . but she invited me to send her the first 25 pages of a novel I wrote and gave me great feedback. It didn’t lead to a deal, but her advice was certainly appreciated and helpful. And if I ever have another project down the road that fits into her realm of interest, I know that I can send her a query. It’s all about making lasting contacts.

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