Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Are you ready for the Writers Digest conference?

I'm very much looking forward to meeting you at #WDC18, this coming Friday. I'll be giving two presentations.

The first is for queriers who are just getting their toes wet in the Query Pond (10:15am)

The second is for those who've sent queries out, have revised a couple times, but still aren't getting results. (1:15pm)

Of course you can come to one or both (or neither: there are some terrific panels happening at the same time!)

If you've never been to a conference here are some things to know:

1. Every single person there is as nervous and apprehensive as you are. Agents too. We're meeting total strangers, some of whom will be writing blog posts on how we interacted with them. Talk about nerve-wracking!

Your take away: don't think everyone else is cool calm and collected and you're the only one there who just might puke with nerves.

2. How much value you get from this conference is directly proportional to how many people you talk to.

Your take away: don't sit down and get out your phone to hide from everyone else. BE the one who greets the person sitting next to you. If they are standoffish, greet someone else.

Remember, a LOT of people are nervous and may come off as cold when in fact they are trying to not puke with nerves.

3. How much value you get from this conference will also be in how brave you are. Got a chance to talk to an agent at lunch? DO IT. (Don't ask if s/he'll read your query. That's asshattery at its finest. Ask about the book of her heart.)

4. Take business cards. Don't have time to get them made? Buy postcards at a gift shop on Sixth Avenue (where the hotel is located) and write your contact info on the back.

What's your contact info? YOUR NAME, your email, your twitter handle, your website. And if you're ready, the name of your book and one sentence about the book.

Janet Reid
The Query Shark Guide to Effective Queries
How to write an effective query letter

5. If a panel is not what you thought it would be, or you're not getting anything from it after about 15 minutes, go to another panel. (This is why you sit on the aisle) Leaving a panel is not rude. Being disruptive in your departure is.

6. Take notes at the panel! Keep the handouts. When the panel is done, go back through your notes to flesh them out while the information is fresh in your mind.

A note like: 30 days to follow up might not be as clear in a week as it is right now when you know it means "follow up on a query after 30 days if no response"
A note like "standalone is not cat" will befuddle you next week.
Standalone is not a category will be much clearer.

7. If you're pitching, prepare a very brief introduction to your book, and remember to STOP TALKING so the agent can ask questions.

Example: Hi, my name is Janet Reid. I have a non-fiction book proposal for how to write effective query letters. I am a working literary agent with a blog that has hundreds of thousands of page views, and is widely credited with being one of the best query resources available to writers.

Example: Hi my name is Felix Buttonweezer. I have a completed 98,000 word thriller, The Duchess of Yowl Takes on the Dogs. In it, the Duchess of Yowl must discover how spies have infiltrated the American electoral process, and must do it quickly as the mid-term elections are only days away. Unfortunately, her handler has been kidnapped by dogs, intent on thwarting the voting process and installing dogs in every elected office.


Each agent will have different things they want to know.

If you keep talking, they won't have a chance to ask, and at the end of three minutes, you'll just be sitting there wondering what the hell happened.

I often will interrupt a writer who can't seem to stop, but if they're not looking at me, or reading from a printed page, or have their eyes closed so they can recite from memory, it's hard to get their attention and say "hold on a second, let me ask you this."

Pitching is INTERACTIVE. Make sure you're not the only one talking.

8. Wear comfortable shoes.

9. New York is humid as hell in August and this week looks to be no exception. The hotel will be air conditioned to meat locker temps. Layers. Layers. Layers.

10. Don't stand at the top or bottom of an escalator or staircase. Always be aware of where you are in the flow of traffic. Nothing will make a New Yorker bark at you faster than if you stop at the top of the subway stairs to figure out where you are. (Just keep walking about five steps and you'll be fine.)

Any questions?


CynthiaMc said...

Sounds like a good time. Putting it on the "save up for" list.

I'm a long time subscriber to Writer's Digest (off and on depending on children's needs, car repair, what's recently exploded and how expensive it is to fix).

Since everyone graduated college (hurrah!) I've been able to keep my subscription up.

Taking a theatre hiatus (yeah I know I keep saying that) to finish at least one of my books. The F word (finish) and I have issues, but this time it all seems to be working out.

Pray for me.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Woof !
I want Felix's book before it's too late. Remember, every dog has his day and the day is NOW !

Lennon Faris said...

Well if I were an agent, I'd say yes to both those pitches!

Thanks for the great info. I hope to use it some day!

AJ Blythe said...

I'm off to conference next week. This is my tenth year of attending which is scary (the number has crept up on me - I had to count twice because I was sure it couldn't be right).

I can't wait. The conference is as much about catching up with my friends as it is about the learning these days. Not that I still don't have heaps to learn, it's just that I have such awesome writing friends scattered around the country this is the one chance we have to spend time together face-to-face.

Mister Furkles said...

For NYC: If you go to a deli for takeout, know what you are going to order before you get in line. Spit it out fast and when served, get out of the way of others who are ordering.

K White said...

"The Query Shark Guide to Effective Queries"

I went to Amazon to see if this was a book I could buy. Sadly, it wasn't. Please tell us it's on submission if not already sold and being published soon!

S.P. Bowers said...

So wishing I could come. Everyone have a good time for me!

Theresa said...

Great advice! Make sure to set aside some down time. This could be the time when you review your panel notes or it could be an extra few minutes to yourself in a bathroom stall. Take some deep breaths, play a few hands of Solitaire on your phone, then get back at conferencing. I hope everyone who is going has a wonderful, productive time (and is able to keep puking to a minimum).

Morgan Hazelwood said...

When I attend conventions, I usually feel comfortable blogging panel notes or posts derived/inspired from panels.

But, when it comes to panels that are actually story hours, workshops, or one-on-ones I shy away from sharing those.

Are there particular expectations for what is accepted to share and what is discouraged?

(But, yay! Glad to know, as per your guidelines, I'm doing basically everything right.)

Amy Johnson said...

I'm excited for everyone who will be attending upcoming conferences. Hope all goes great! I don't know if I've thought much about how conferences might be for the agents there. Interesting to consider.

Wondering if I'm the only one who read
the comment from Mister Furkles and mediately thought of that Seinfeld episode. Poor George, just trying to get some soup. With bread.

Amy Johnson said...

*immediately. Eergh.

BrendaLynn said...

Enjoy, all-who-are-going. I’ll be living vicariously through google search for at least a week.
I believe Mr. Somers is presenting as well. If he’s as funny in person as he is in print ...

Claire Bobrow said...

Thank you for the excellent advice, Janet! I'm going to file it away for the future. Everyone who's going to WDC - I hope you have a wonderful, productive, experience!

John Davis Frain said...

The hair on my arms is rising like I'm in the temperature-controlled meat locker. And I'm not even going.

I have got to figure out a way to get to this conference in 2019. If I don't, someone should be assigned to whack me in the shins with a hockey stick.

Have a super time, all who are attending. See you next season.

Turning over the sand timer to edit...

Panda in Chief said...

Sounds like all good advice. I bet I'm not the only one here who wishes Janet's book was a real one. Hint Hint.
Wish I was going to be there, except the part about NYC in August. Blerg!

And I also second the comment about Jeff Somers' presentation. I'm reading Writing Without Rules (or Pants) now, and it's a laugh a minute, as well as full of good advice. Well, at least it's full of advice that resonates with me. But I am a smartass, so, there you have it.

Still a bit high from a real life Reader meet-up with Claire. What great day!

Steve Stubbs said...

You wrote: "I'm very much looking forward to meeting you at #WDC18"

Who, me?

Sorry, with my vision as bad as it is, I will not be able to attend, but I will be there in spirit. Very best wishes to you with the conference and your business, and I hope you have a great time.

NYC is an irresistible place to go on long walks regardless of what time of year it is, so, yes, wear confortable shoes.

Timothy Lowe said...

11. Try to have fun. (never attended one of these shindigs but I thought it was a safe assumption.)

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Hint for escaping a panel without appearing rude:

Pull out your mobile phone and pretend to answer it discreetly. Of course nobody will have heard it ring, because you were polite and turned the ringer off before you went into the panel.

Mouth your silent apologies to those around you as you extract yourself from the row in which you were sitting. Keep phone up to your ear.

Beat a hasty exit quietly. Nobody will think you rude for leaving in the middle of a panel, but consider you being polite as you leave to take a phone call outside.

Many people are nervous to leave a panel once it's started. Reasons for nerves: fear attention will be drawn to them, the panelists will be insulted, possibility of stepping on someone's toes on the way out of the row. But do this correctly, and you will avoid any social faux pas.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Oh, and I wish I could go to conferences and conventions.

My disadvantages:

*Geographic isolation
*Lack of funds (if I have the time)
*Lack of time (if I am slaving away for Mammon)

Jennifer Mugrage said...

Theresa, I love it: "a few extra minutes to yourself in a bathroom stall"
Introvert Life Hacks

I am sooo jealous of you all. NYC is too pricey for me, but Cincinnati is nearby and I'll be going to the Writer's Digest IndieLab there at the end of September, Lord willing and the creek don't rise.

I picked it because it was too close by to pass up, but since registering, I have gotten an offer from an indie pub house. Serendipity? Or maybe just a juggernaut? We shall see.