Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Networking at National Conventions

Every writer talks about the networking they plan on doing at a national convention. They talk about the editors and agents they will meet with and the professional writers they plan on talking to. In the end, though, they end up going, having a great time, but failing to meet up with those people they wanted to talk to. Why? Because they weren't proactive.

Unlike smaller writing conferences, the larger scale national conferences are about meeting with people. You might not be able to get a meeting with a person for a long period of time, and you may have to settle with a 15 or 30 minute chat. But to get those meetings requires being proactive.

Now, before going any further, I have to stress that you will not be able to set up an appointment with an editor or agent, outside of the pitch sessions, so that you can pitch your story. But there are ways to make that connection and potentially have a chance to slip that pitch in.

The first is for all of the writing groups that are getting together for lunches, breakfasts or dinners (or even drinks). Talk to your chapter presidents (or who ever is organizing the affair) and get them to invite the editors and agents to stop by. Obviously take the time to offer them a meal, but if that isn't going to work, at least offer a drink and a handshake. We might not be able to meet for the whole time, but we might be able to swing by and say a few words. At least it is something.

The second is to keep an eye out for those editors and agents during the meals. Most of the writers I see are so eager to fill their tables with their friends that they forget about the editors and agents. Find them, invite them in to sit and see what happens. They might already have a previous engagement, but it can't hurt to ask.

I think the biggest thing you can do is just take the time to say hi to the editors and agents in the hallway. If you are standing in line, then talk. This is a conference where being a wallflower will get you no where.

The simple solution - just ask.


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