Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jenny Bent has some good advice on writing confereneces

Jenny Bent has one of the smartest things to say about writers attending conferences I've ever seen. One item in particular is brilliant:

Volunteer.

Do whatever you can to come into lots of contact with the attending agents. Be the hospitality person or drive them to and from the airport. Volunteer to get them diet coke (okay, that one's just for me).

I will confess that I did once ask someone at a conference to run out and get me an egg and cheese sandwich and I've never forgotten them (in my defense, I was really pregnant at the time).

But here's the secret: DO NOT PITCH THEM. Be super nice and friendly and help them out as much as you can, but do not pitch.

Two things will happen: either they will be so curious about the fact that you didn't pitch them that they will ask you what you write, OR, they won't ask you, but later on you can e-mail them and remind them who you are and then pitch them and they will like you so much, in part because you didn't pitch them, that they will be favorably disposed towards your work.

It's all about the personal connection, it really is.

14 comments:

Summer Devon said...

A publisher (I think it was Anna G from Tor?) once said during a talk that she'd never accept a drink offer from a writer she didn't know because she was worried she'd meet up with a vengeful rejected person who'd put something in it.

Summer Devon said...

and I'm almost certain she wasn't joking....

Amber Argyle-Smith said...

This has worked for me on a number of occasions.

Mira said...

For those who see writing as a business, this is excellent advice.

I read her whole article, it's very good. Although, on why agents dread conferences, did she really mean to say: it's the workload, xxxx? That was, um, slightly offputting.

Michelle said...

This is so true! (The original advice, not the thing about the drink!) I was a volunteer on the manuscript committee at an SCBWI conference. Basically I was a timekeeper for the critique sessions. During a break, I mentioned to one of the editors, who was also an author, that I had read her book. We talked for a few minutes and she handed me her card and asked if I'd like to send her my manuscript. She didn't end up making an offer on it, but she did offer specific suggestions instead of a form letter when she responded.

L.A. said...

I have volunteered at my local writer's conference for Agents and Editors Day for three years. I had nothing ready to pitch, so no problem restraining myself from doing anything other than fetching food and water. When I was finally ready to sign up for a pitch session, I was a lot calmer knowing who was in the room and that they ate and drank just like the rest of us. :) Great advice.

Eduardo said...

Ohmigod. This is one of the funniest things I've ever read. Is this the Onion? Already jostling for next #AGENTFAIL competition?

laughingwolf said...

wise words... all

jennybent said...

Mira, it's a joke. There was a famous sign up in the Clinton campaign headquarters which read "It's the economy, stupid." Ever since then, people have used it in various incarnations.

Liana Brooks said...

I've seen that advice before. This is an industry where it pays to be nice and smile.

Mira said...

jennybent - oh!! I didn't get that. Sorry. I wondered. I liked the rest of your article alot, and that seemed like a wildly different tone. I just thought maybe you were really tired or something.

Thanks for clarifying and for the words of advice.
:-)

Maria Lima said...

I agree 100% with this. The reason I made the friends I made and got to know writers, editors, agents, etc. is that for years, I volunteered on committees, then on the board of several conferences.

You get to know people as people that way. If you're a polite, helpful and professional person, they'll remember you, too. :)

That said, I always add the caveat that you *must* be sincere about volunteering for the love of books/writing/the genre - NOT because you're in this to suck up. I promise that the author/editor/agent at the other end of the suck up is absolutely aware of what you're doing.

/soapbox :)

garridon said...

So true. I've run the pitch room at my regional conference (just last weekend) for the last four or five years. I volunteered for it when I saw how badly it was run and knew I could do better. I applied my experience of being friends with an actor. He's always being stopped by fans and peppered with questions when he goes to a convention. He takes a respite with a small core group of fans who treat him like an everyday person and talk about cats or traffic, not the show. I figured the agents would be bombarded with pitches and manuscripts, so my focus was on simply making them happy during the pitch sessions. That meant keeping writers without appointments out; keeping everyone on time; providing cookies and soda; getting a train schedule--we even gave an agent a ride to the train station one year.

I was greatly surprised when we had a couple of returning agents who immediately recognized me--after a year!

moonrat said...

this is so, so true. if an author DOESNT pitch me i'm so curious i ALWAYS ask. and then i feel grateful toward them for not putting me on the spot.