Wednesday, July 22, 2015

10 Tips for Encountering Agents in Social Situations

Gotta tell ya, I'm a tad nervous heading out for my first away game this year. (ThrillerFest, Bouchercon and LeftCoast Crime don't really count)

Why would I be nervous you ask?

Well, let's cue up the replay tape on yesterday's blog comment trail:

Ugh, I sometimes have nightmares about my first agent encounter at a conference. I ran into an agent whose blog I REALLY admire (not, thank all the gods, the illustrious QOTKU) at the cocktail party and managed to put my foot so far down my throat I was farting toes for days. (That's gross, isn't it? It is. And it doesn't even begin to cover my embarrassment.)

Said agent was chatting with some folks and when I introduced myself and expressed my admiration for the agent's blog and clients, it became mortifyingly clear that the agent was not super pleased with said client at that moment and DID NOT WANT TO TALK TO ME. AT. ALL.

So there I stood in awkward silence for a full minute before backing away and finding the bottom of a glass (or two) of wine with my writer buds.

I definitely could have handled that more smoothly. Next time! 

When I read that, my first reaction was Bad Bad Agent Girl! Several blog readers said pretty much the same thing.

But, do you know how easy it is to be that Bad Agent? VERY.

What could be fatigue comes off as not wanting to talk to the writer.
What could be preoccupation with something else comes off as not wanting to talk to the writer.
What could be mortification from an earlier conversation in which the agent put HER foot in her mouth (yadda yadda) comes off as not wanting to talk to the writer.

What could be a sudden urgent need to use the ladies loo comes off as not wanting to talk to the writer.

In other words, you shy woodland creatures assume that anything less than enthusiasm is somehow not wanting to talk to you.

That's a pretty stiff social burden to bear dear readers.

So, let's go over some ways you can interact with agents away from their Lair to keep your foot out of your fangs:

1. Do not initiate conversation about your book, your project, your query.

2. Do not mention you've queried the agent and been rejected, not even if you think you're being nice about it, or you learned from it.

3. Don't ask if they're having a good time. Generally speaking, conferences are work for us. Would you ask someone if they are having a good time when they're at work?

4. Don't ask if they're finding anything good. That can be a very loaded question. I've been to conferences where every single project I saw was unpublishable.

So, that's what NOT to do. Here's what you can do:

5. Mention the books by her client. The more specific you can be the better. Despite the example above, this is really the most direct avenue to an agent's heart.  Sure you can trip up here, in that the agent may no longer rep that client, but you have to take some risks. This is a reasonable risk to take.

6. Mention the agent's blog or twitter feed and that you've learned something from it. Again, be specific here if you can.

7. Ask what they're reading for fun. Most agents have a book in their bag. Hopefully they'll like it and you can talk books.

Once you've served up a conversational gambit, it's incumbent upon the agent to keep it going. It's rude for anyone in a conversation to simply say "yes" or "no" and leave you hanging like a flummoxed interviewer on Good Morning Carkoon. It's also rude to make you feel like you're a plate of chopped liver (as the agent in the example quoted did.)

If you find yourself with an agent who is sending off the "I don't want to be here" vibe remember it's NOT YOU. How could it be? All you've done is be pleasant!

Here's what to do, rather than stand there and feel awful or that somehow this is your fault:

8. Say "it was lovely to meet you. Thank you for coming to the conference. Will you excuse me? I need to attend to my friend over there" and wave in the general direction behind the agent (contrary to popular opinion agents do not have eyes in the back of their head). Then you step away.

 9. If you're feeling particularly kind, ask "is there anything I can do for you right now that would help you out?" If the agent  needs to go to the loo, or can't figure out where she left her glasses, sometimes an offer of help is just the thing.  You're under NO obligation to offer help. You're not some sort of handmaiden in the Temple of Agents.

10. If you're feeling particularly evil, and at this point, who wouldn't, you can say "Janet Reid's July 22 blog post told me not to take hostile attitudes from agents personally and man am I glad I read that.  Have a great day!"

I can assure you that at least once in this coming weekend an author will come up to me in a social situation and do either 1 or 2 or BOTH.  Since I have yet to figure out a way to handle that gracefully, and I know that authors remember Every Single Thing an agent says to them, now you can see why I'm just a tad nervous about Writers in the Wild myself.


Anonymous said...

It's nice to know you guys get nervous too :D We writers get caught up in our own concerns and sometimes I think we forget that you're people, too.

Even QOTKU's. :D

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

"I know that authors remember Every Single Thing an agent says to them..."

We were talking babies...right?

Like I have said since my lactation days, "they will remember nothing, you will remember everything."

Hopefully your memories are pleasant, proud and filled with recollections the likes of which you want to recall, often. If not, don't worry, they won't remember anyway because their little brains have not been fully developed yet. Um...we were talking babies...right?

Maybe there's no such thing as bad agents and nervous authors, just uncomfortable gas and farting toes.

Kitty said...

First of all, many thanks to Janet for holding her flash fiction contests. I can't tell you what a refreshing diversion they are from the outside world right now. Not to mention how they stir up Ye Olde Creative Juices. So, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

Second... I hope you get lots of #9. And have a safe trip!

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Love the cat and dog buddies.

I'd add to the list don't give your card to an agent unless they ask for it. But I'm no expert on writing conferences. When I had a chance to pitch a very good agent, she gave her card to everyone. Immediately an aspiring author tried to give her own, like it was a networking party. The agent graciously told her she could query via email.

AJ Blythe said...

Hi y'all, I'm back =) Had a fatal hard drive crash 2 weeks ago and am only just back up and running. Too expensive to get a new laptop, so had to get spare parts and as the computer is rather old it wasn't easy to do.

Perfect time to remind everyone to BACK-UP!! I am rather paranoid so have a cloud plus 2 external hard drives I regularly back-up to, so I didn't lose anything. But the thought of what could've happened.... oooh, sends shivers down my spine!

Back on topic: You aren't packing your Janet Reid body double to take care of the 1s and 2s at conference? And just reread that and realised it sounds like you've got a bathroom double, heehee.

LynnRodz said...

Oh gee, so you saw that episode on Good Morning Carkoon. I told Colin I needed to do the Late Night Show, I'm useless in the morning.

I kinda like #10, I guess that says a lot about me.

Anonymous said...

Hey AJ! I get paranoid about losing all my stuff,'s a recurring nightmare. Brrrr!

And I teehee'd at your loo double :D

Kitty said...

AJ, we've used the back-up service for years now. There's also The great part is, other than renewing your subscription, you don't have to remember to do anything because these services are always working in the background.

Tony Clavelli said...

#1 on the "Do Not" list reminds me of something from one of Spalding Gray's monologues where he was working on a project called "LA the Other" about people in L.A. who are not in the film industry. As a test, he stood outside out a grocery store and asked anyone coming out the same question:
"How is your screenplay coming?"
And usually gets answers like, "I had no idea how difficult it--How did you know!"

There are times when being an agent sounds super fun (you get to help decide what gets read! If you're lucky and good, you get to read it before anyone else does!), but those parties don't sound fun to me at all. I think the only way I could enjoy it is if everyone thought that I was some hotshot agent but I didn't know I bore a resemblance, and in reality I was just scoring free drinks and getting to talk about books I love while everyone is bizarrely eager to hear what I have to say.

DLM said...

Okay, first of all: eep, I did a Gossa-monster double take there for a sec. :)

Janet, thank you for this post! I had a pitch session with an agent once, she was clearly fatigued and I felt for her so much. It was last session of the day, I'd figured out by then my work probably wasn't a match, I went ahead very short and sweet, and thanked her for her time. I honestly can't even recall whether she requested, I think she did, but my main recollection of the encounter was how terribly dedicated one has to be to do this job.

Even as an attendee, I am EXHAUSTED after a good conference. You are "on" the entire time, and even if you love being around people that is incredibly demanding. There is also the constant tension of "what this MEANS" with almost every single conversation you have - there is a magic in hope and the possibility of meeting Just the Right Professional, but there is also intense stress. The emotional impact of every word you say seems magnified, and even simple chats with your writing friends and strangers who don't hold the power of publishing in their hands can be a bit fraught.

Basically, it's a high school dance spread over days. Will I dance? With whom? Will I be awkward? How? Will I look like a moron on the dance floor? OH NO, THE WATUSI IS BIG THIS YEAR, AND ALL I DO IS THE POGUE.

It's wonderful to go to the dance. You come home singing "I could have danced all night" even as you keel over from the inevitable migraine. You LOVE meeting everyone even as, suddenly, being an old hermit spinster provides the absolute joy of a completely. silent. house, populated only with fuzzy love and purring and wagging.

I cannot wait for my next Conference. I also know I won't wish it could go on forever!

AJ, welcome back and here's hoping it's smooth electronic sailing for you!

Scott Sloan said...

Janet says…

"I can assure you that at least once in this coming weekend an author will come up to me in a social situation and do either 1 or 2 or BOTH."

I highly recommend a particular method for these types of situations, which I call the "Spastic Squirrel" technique.
Simply announce that you're feeling especially inspired by all the unbridled creative energy flowing around you, and that you will, until further notice is given, answer all questions through the medium of interpretive dance.

Bonus points if you know what interpretive dance is.
Double bonus points if you can pull off a move or three with a straight face.
The Grand Pooh-Bah of bonus points if you actually mean 'un-bridaled' when you say 'unbridled'… for your own private amusement, of course!

If the offending personality in question actually hears the difference in the two words, merely by the way you say them…
Then might I, Your Most Gracious Majesty, the QOTKU, humbly suggest taking a second look at that bone-head in the crosshairs?

That has a nice ring to it.
I might need to revisit that one.

Unknown said...

Great post! So essentially, you're saying be a kind and generally pleasant human being? And that, strange as it may seem, agents don't appreciate intros that open with pleas for help or desires to use you to make boatloads of money? So essentially, treat an agent like you'd treat your mother-in-law -- unless you hate your mother-in-law.

The Captain

Donnaeve said...

AJ! I know that feeling well. I've got new devices now (only about two months old) but my other laptop which I LOVED almost had the hard drive crash. (almost is key word - so not as catastrophic as your situation) Fortunately my most important items were backed up + my brother in law is an experienced Desktop Engineer with oodles of parts and what not at his house. He was able to re-build mine and I had it another year before hubby took pity on me and went out and bought these handy dandy new thingies.

On topic. This is not going to be helpful, but as I read QOTKU's comments, it seems writer's conferences have the potential of being one of the most socially awkward experiences EVER - unless one goes prepared and with expectations appropriately adjusted. I'm sure being a seasoned attendee has to help to some degree, but no one can control the antics of others. (i.e. the ones who do #1 and #2 or being on the receiving end of someone doing #1 and #2 - and as I read that it sounds weird but it's staying in) I suppose it's not different really than any other social event where one is expected to know how to act, and there's always going to be the chance somebody doesn't. All of the Reiders should b/c there's a LIST. Whoop!

It's funny because as adults, we should be able to speak to each other in public without making each other uncomfortable.

Strangely, a writer's conference is starting to remind me of a funeral... (Ha! How's this for a comparison???)where you FEEL the need to say something memorable while striking an appropriate air of support. I've heard over and over, you don't want to say, "let me know if there's anything I can do," because the person who's lost a loved one isn't going to call you up and ask.

It sounds about the same with a writer's conference, know what NOT to say and know how to exit gracefully.

DLM said...

Brian, was thinking of you this morning - I need to get back to the critical reading! For I have feelings. Feelings in particular about a scene with a whisk. :)

Anonymous said...

I don't approach agents and authors when they are talking to other people. Maybe it's accepted, but I think it's rude. If I recognize someone and they glance my way, I'll wave at them. If they want me to join them, they'll invite me. Otherwise, I'll catch them later.

I see people catching agents or authors on elevators and going all fanboy or girl on them and it just makes me cringe. It's amazing how many times someone will strike up a conversation with you if you just make a polite remark. "That scarf is beautiful. The colors just pop." "You know, there's something about a man in a kilt. Here's my room number." Well, maybe not the last one.

Beth H. said...

I remember reading another post from QOTKU along these lines a few months ago. It inspired a conversation with my husband:

Me: I was reading an interesting post on QOTKU's blog this morning. It addressed in part if you should try discussing your work if you find yourself in an elevator with an agent.
Husband: Hmm, that's a tough question.
Me: Actually, it isn't.
Husband: It isn't?
Me: No. Don't do it.

For some reason, the idea of pitching in an elevator or similar brief social interaction has become a popular idea. I guess the thinking is that this might be your only chance to speak to that agent. Rather, if you try pitching in this circumstance, you've all but assured that it will be your only chance to speak to that agent.

Unknown said...

I'm with Julie on the spontaneous (sincere) compliment, mostly because one would have to be an asshat not to respond in some positive way. But also, because that kind of offering has a beginning, middle and end.

It's a two-fer: You can quell that part of the writer-brain that is yelling at you, "JESUS, GOD. SAY SOMETHING BEFORE THIS THING ENDS," and possibly break the ice if it should be broken.

I had this go the other way at a Grub Street event and I'll never forget it: I sat down and was past nervous, and the agent looked right at me and said "Yours was the best synopsis I read this weekend, hands down."

True or not, it cost her nothing and changed the entire experience for me.

DLM said...

This post has inspired me to register for the James River Writers conference. I blame Janet and all of you darn people. Going around inspiring folks without ANY regard for the consequences!

Dena Pawling said...

I think the teachings of PETA [people for the ethical treatment of AGENTS] are instructive:

[With acknowledgment and apologies to PETA]

PETA was founded in 1980 and is dedicated to establishing and defending the rights of all AGENTS. PETA operates under the simple principle that AGENTS are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment [lol]. PETA educates policymakers and the public about AGENT abuse and promotes kind treatment of AGENTS.

PETA believes that AGENTS have rights and deserve to have their best interests taken into consideration, regardless of whether they are useful to humans. Like you, they are capable of suffering and have an interest in leading their own lives.

The very heart of all of PETA’s actions is the idea that it is the right of all beings — human and AGENT alike — to be free from harm. Our world is plagued with many serious problems, all of which deserve our attention. Cruelty to AGENTS is one of them. We believe that all people should try to stop AGENT abuse whenever and wherever they can.

In today’s world of virtually unlimited choices, AGENT exploitation is simply unacceptable. We can eat better, educate ourselves better, clothe ourselves better, and entertain ourselves better without torturing and killing AGENTS [except in manuscripts].

Come to think of it, the word AUTHORS can be substituted for AGENTS also.

Have fun at your conference/s Janet. I hope you are treated ethically =)

DLM said...

Registering just now, I contemplated skipping the agent one-on-one sessions, but went ahead with the "I'm an omnivorous reader!" as my #1 choice. In my experience, the ones who think they read anything rarely turn out to - and the ones who'll pick up ax-wielding histfic are thinner on the ground still. So my plan is that thing with "I brought doughnuts - how's the conference going?" and perhaps some discussion of writing or publishing or that amazing poet we heard at the opening plenary session - or just a "hey, want to run away for the next seven minutes? I hereby donate my minutes to you."

Susan: that is wonderful!!!! I'd get by on that for ages.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Am deep in envy territory. What with Terri mentioning (yesterday? day before?) that Janet will be in Wisconsin and you all writing about registering for conferences and Janet writing about social duse-and-don'ts.

Dean: Ha! What a fresh take.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

ooops, that's suppose to be Dena. Not Dean.

Jenz said...

Another tip for writers at conferences: In social situations (before or after panels, during lunch or cocktail hour), look out for other writers standing nearby and looking awkward or lonely. Several times I spotted someone like that standing near whatever group I was with, and I invited them in. At the least, you're going to get to see their face light up.

I learned this by other people inviting me in at my first conference, and it's a really great feeling on both sides.

kaitlyn sage said...

Welp, I go from being all lurky to inciting commentary from the QOTKU herself in under a month. That's enough to make a furry critter's head spin!

I think the part I keep forgetting about the whole encounter is exactly what's been said by all you lovely folks and Janet in her post. I was nice, and the agent's reaction probably wasn't about me.

DLM, I love the comparison to a high school dance. That feels particularly apt.

Theresa said...

I don't attend group functions without cue cards, and now I have some new ones to write. Great advice!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

AJ and Donna.
A few years back I read a Rachelle Gardner blog about back up. She recommended Carbonite. 60 bucks a week. Who can't afford 5 bucks a month, so I did it. They back everything up twice a day. When I got my new computer they downloaded everything. No extra charge. It' s great.

Donnaeve said...

With the new devices, I have a cloud. I like clouds.

Actually, "I really don't know clouds, at all."

Cindy C said...

Okay, I've added this list to my items to pack up as I get ready for MWW. I can practice my opening conversational gambits as I drive to Muncie. Maybe I'll go with the old standby, weather.

"Isn't the weather great?" OR "Doesn't it look like sharknado weather out there?"

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

In your shoes, for #1, I'd find a way to redirect the conversation. Something like "Oh, I make it a practice to never take pitches/discuss projects socially, but X Day and X Time I'm doing X Workshop/session, have you registered for that?" If they have not, express regret and suggest alternatives at the conference. Or for "next time".

For #2 "Hi Ms. Reid, you might remember REJECTING MY GENIUS on X date and I just wanted to make say hi and no hard feelings." I might also suggest similar redirection. Keep it polite and impersonal, but do not engage. Things like "I do hope you've gone on to query widely after my dastardly dismissal of your dazzling literary darling."

Because no, you don't want to have those conversations. It's awkward and I cringe to think of being on the receiving end of such comments from authors.

Unknown said...

DLM! Yes you do need to get back to me on the whisk! I had a critical assessment that didn't fully make sense on that and I'm thinking you're picking up on the same things! But also, I need to get through your piece too! I've been lurking the last week or so trying to get myself on schedule with edits again!

So much coffee....

Christina Seine said...

Dena, that was awesome!

The whole time I was reading Janet's post, I was thinking, "Agents are friends, not food." Probably because I watched finding Nemo (again) with the kids the other night. But also, I think writers can be a little predatory at these things. I definitely saw a few people with a desperate gleam in their eye when I attended a conference last year.

AJ, welcome back! So sorry to hear about your computer, that stinks. =( And it reminds me that I really need to back mine up. My MS is on a thumb drive that pretty much goes where I go, but everything else would be lost if mine crashed, and that's a terrifying thought.

One thing to bear in mind at conferences is that it really isn't all about the pitch, or even meeting agents. At the conference I went to, I did pitch, and I did get requests, which was beyond amazing. I don't think I stopped grinning for a week. But after the euphoria wore off, I realized that the best things I came away from were 1) the manuscript critique I purchased in advance (the critique was brilliant, she totally "got" my book; it would have been worth it if I'd paid double) and 2) the workshops. I learned A LOT from those workshops, So much so that between those and the MS crit, I revised my book, streamlined things, fixed the broken stuff (at least I hope so) and now, nearly a year later, I'm ready to go again. So my advice is to suck up every word at the workshops. If you have a friend there, split the workshops up so you can compare notes later. If you don't go with a friend, MAKE one! Jenz's remark about talking with wallflowers is brilliant (and kind). I made wonderful new friends at last year's conference, and it really made my trip a lot more fun.

Eileen said...

I love the idea of Handmaidens at the Temple of Agentdom. Would there be t-shirts or some kind of uniform? Would we have a union? Ample access to whiskey? Would virginity be required? These are the things that keep me up at night.

Craig F said...

There are times when following some else can be a bad thing in its own right. Sometimes the people you are in line behind are so awesome that you quail like a woodland creature.

Other times the person before is a PrimaDonna. There are also times when you fly and find out you luggage is having a better weekend than you. Consider the poor agent who was to meet said writer at the Muncie dog and poetry show. The manuscript of that writer (the one with three pens worth of red ink in it) was safely packed in her luggage. That luggage however gets to spend the weekend in Paris while the agent is stuck in Muncie and in close proximity to a primadonna writer who is in the process of blowing a head gasket.

Anonymous said...

I guess I must be in the minority. I don't stress about talking to agents. I don't like pitching, but I just don't worry about interacting with agents.

Most conferences will go out of their way to give you opportunities to meet agents and authors.

Agents aren't surrounded by security guards. There will be chances to meet them if that's your heart's desire.

A best-selling author was on an elevator with me once and looked completely bedraggled. I said, "Forgive me for saying so, but you look exhausted."

"I am. It was a long flight and I'm still catching up. Are you enjoying the conference so far?"

"Yes, sir. I'm quite looking forward to your workshop. Hopefully you can catch a bit of rest here and there."

He smiled genuinely. "Look forward to seeing you."

He greeted me each time he saw me for the rest of the conference.

"If you're feeling particularly kind, ask "is there anything I can do for you right now that would help you out?" "

Yep, I think it was Denver a new agent who had never been there was looking for something. I asked if I could help and, wonder of wonders, knew what she was looking for.

Being kind never goes out of style.

I can't help but feel many agents and authors must feel like pinatas everyone's trying to get a swing at. Maybe that's uncharitable, but I've watched so many agents and authors just get swarmed with people. I know it goes with the territory, but it must get tiring.


I completely agree. I go to the conferences to learn. If I make contacts even better. Schmoozing with friends is the topping on the cake. I don't think pitching is the best way to get an agent, so I wouldn't waste my money if that was my objective.


Absolutely correct. We gather up the singles along the way and assimilate them into the borg. They may wonder what they've gotten involved in, but at least they aren't alone. One of the advantages of the hive mind is the divide and conquer mentality. We can't all attend all workshops, so we decide who's going to attend what and make sure we get all interesting panels and workshops covered, then share notes later.

AJ, you were missed. With summer here, I assume people will be taking vacations. I just didn't think it would be from the computer. Sorry to hear about that. Mine crashed a couple of weeks ago and techy son had to fix it. It's an R2 Aurora Alienware so it's ancient. I'll just keep replacing parts. I like the Dune look on my desk.

I back up docs frequently, but should get the carbonite. I have Dropbox, but they lost all my vampire files. Everything starting with V poofed like it had never been there. Tech support couldn't find it.

Back to the conferences. Y'all have fun. Relax. Agents are people. Make friends. Learn stuff. Take lots of notes.

I'm tempted to go to the Wisconsin conference, but I would have zero reason to other than to pester QOTKU.

Melissa Guernsey said...

Love your posts...#10 made me laugh...#9 made me remember a hostile customer who calmed down and explained that she had "lost" a loved one recently and was overwhelmed...everyone is on a journey...

Unknown said...

Donna, I've looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow..

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Donna, you and Joni, I love it.

Laura Mary said...

"Maybe there's no such thing as bad agents and nervous authors, just uncomfortable gas and farting toes."

Gets my vote as the next blog header!

Amy Schaefer said...

I'm envious of all of you out on the conference circuit, but I can't say I'll miss the atmosphere of social awkwardness that seems to prevail. It is a tough combination of perceived agent/writer power inequality, and the simple fact that writers tend to be champion introverts. Nonetheless, it sounds like a great chance to take a deep breath, get over yourself and have a good time - while picking up some good advice to boot.

So, to agents and writers alike: good luck and have fun!

Colin Smith said...

Only 39 comments? What's up with you all? Do you have lives, or something BETTER to do??! ;)

Given today's post, and my comments yesterday regarding my ineptitude when it comes to cold conversation with people (i.e., initiating conversation with people I don't know), I can foresee the following exchange the first time I meet Janet:

ME: Hello, Mighty QOTKU, Holder of the Keys to My Freedom from Carkoon (that's the formal greeting, btw--it's obligatory for all exiles).

JANET: Hello, Colin.

ME: Ummm... I love Gary Corby's books..!

JANET: Yes, I know.

ME: Ummm... I love your blog and read it every day!!

JANET: Yes, I know.

ME: Ummmm... errr...

JANET: (Waving over my shoulder) Oh, there's Jessica Faust. I must speak to her. Don't forget the shuttle back to Carkoon leaves at 10. Don't be late!

However, I did speak to the English guy sharing Jury Duty with me this week. I actually initiated a conversation with him. And it went okay! Baby steps. Baby steps... :D

Donnaeve said...

Well, Amanda,

Dreams and schemes and circus crowds. I've looked at life that way, sometimes I still do. Now old friends are acting strange (Reiders!)
They shake their heads and they tell me that I have changed, well I have.

Something's lost but something's gained in living every day.

Colin Smith said...

I just received a used book I ordered, and I notice it came from Sugar Land, TX. Which makes me think of the wonderful Stephanie Jaye Evans. Is there another novel forthcoming from her? I like her books too. DARN! Now I can't use that as an ice-breaker...

Donnaeve said...

Crap shoot! How'd that happen. I wasn't done yet!

To borrow from W.R. I love me some Joni Mitchell. :)

Colin - you're a hoot! Don't worry. My conversation with QOTKU might go like this:


QOTKU: Donna?


QOTKU: What are you drinking?

Me: Triple shots. These ones is my thirds.


QOTKU: *eyeroll* I guess she forgot her list.

John Frain said...

One thought to bring with you to Muncie.

Dave Letterman, alum of the fine Indiana town, called it the eighth wonder of the world -- it's the only hole above ground.

That was likely before Waffle House moved in.

Terri Lynn Coop said...

Being a lawyer, I hate asking questions I don't already know the answer to. So, before I go to a con where there will be . . . omg . . . agents . . . I'll likely have researched every one of them, know a thing or two about their premiere clients and be able to pull out some comment about one of said clients.

Another handy opener go to is, "Such a pleasure to meet you, first time in [con city]?" If it's the first time at a big event, like BoucherCon, you can freestyle a bit, "Such a pleasure to meet you. This is my first year here and it's crazy!" You know, talk to them like they are actually human and stuff.


KrisM said...

Helpful (and timely) post for me. Thanks! Out of curiosity, why do Bouchercon, Thrillerfest, etc. not count?
Cheers with a scotch.

Anonymous said...

Good job, Colin.

I was babysitting this morning and reading my Civil War journal. The young lady was a teen in New Orleans at the beginning of the war. She makes an entry about a man who mocks her and repeats back things verbatim she has said previously to prove her inconsistent in her opinions and flighty. There's a footnote that she mentions him other times in the diary and how much she dislikes him. Even years later as an older woman she recalls how he made her feel.

She doesn't dwell on his looks or his words, but rather how he made her feel.

Perhaps that's the whole secret of dealing with people. They may not long remember your smart wardrobe, clever or even awkward words, but they will recall how you made them feel.

CynthiaMc said...

I met Jessica Faust at a writer's conference years ago. Someone asked her something along the lines of why should she pick her for an agent. Jessica said "Because I will fight for your book and I will get you more money." I thought "That would be a good person to have on your side." She was feisty. I liked that.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

If I were standing in front of Ms. Janet, unintroduced and on my own, I would say everything right, would make her laugh, she would genuinely enjoy our interaction and she would ask ME for advice.
That is, if she didn't notice I peed my pants and laughed so nervously I snorted boogers out my nose.

Janet Reid said...

Actual transcript of conversation with Colin:

Colin: I'm looking for Janet Reid, do you know her?

ME: I don't but I've heard she likes to give other people her name tag to divert any stalkers.

Colin: *looking down at his name tag* oh wait, I'm Janet Reid!

ME: I'd like to discuss my 450,000 fiction novel written in second person haiku with you. Here let me start with what 890 agents told me about in their rejection letters. I queried alphabetically of course.

Colin: Carkoon, take me away!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Jessica Faust is awesome.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Janet Reid is awesome.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

God is awesome.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I think I'm safe.

Christina Seine said...

Or, you can simply cut through all the awkward small talk and present your Dream Agent with a gift:

Christina: Um ....
Janet: Can I help you?
Christina: Um … dooba wug.
Barbara P: Oh dear. Are you special needs? Do you need help?
Christina: (Breathes in paper bag) Dog. Bog. Lovey blog.
Janet: Security!
Barbara P: I think she’s lost her dog ...
Christina: No, shark!
Janet: Security!
Christina: Shark!
Barbara P: She's … barking. Wait, you lost your dog? You are a dog? She's not breathing.
Christina: (remember to breathe from paper bag) Queen!
Barbara P: Your dog is ... green?
Janet: I need a scotch.
Security: (Arrives huffing) Girl, I am NOT your bartender.
Christina: No. Pitch!
Security: (Gasps) What’d she just call me? (Gets out tazer)
Janet: Jack Reacher, take me away!
Security: (Tazes Christina)
Barbara P: Good God, what is that smell?
Janet: Help!
Security: (holds nose) I canNOT work like this.
Christina: It’s …gift. Smoked salmon. (Retrieves smoking package from pocket)
Barbara P: Oh, it’s smoked alright.
Janet: (muffled sob) No more. I can’t take it.
Random conference attendee: Hi Ms. Reid! Love your blog!
Janet: (stares blankly)
Barbara P: Some people! Let’s get you out of here.

Anonymous said...

"ME: I don't but I've heard she likes to give other people her name tag to divert any stalkers."

The truth. That's what set Peroxide Patty off on a rant. The mod directed a question to Janet. Janet made a joke about who she was, which was another agent, who had swapped badges with her. Can't recall who it was now, but I think Janet described the agent. We laughed. I mean it was obvious Janet didn't have long hair or whatever the description was.

Peroxide Patty exploded. Agents aren't allowed to joke and let Janet, (who the heck is Janet anyway?) she wasn't appreciated.

I haven't been that irked in a very long time and I hadn't even been drinking yet.

Nitwit. Her boorish behavior didn't improve during the conference. She tried to hog the time in q and a sessions. blegh

Anonymous said...

Ah, Christina, that was epic.

Anonymous said...

And...I've just discovered a small publisher that requested Far Rider has also published Jane Austen and Leo Tolstoy. I would be in good company at least. I'm just not sure how a book with cat pictures and funny captions from Pride and Prejudice qualifies as being written by Jane Austen.

Christina Seine said...

Julie, that is AWESOME. Congrats!!

And, thanks! :D

Colin Smith said...

LOL--Janet, Christina...!

*Makes mental note: if at a venue with Janet Reid, double-check name tag every 10 mins.*

But... wait... if I get to be Janet, does that mean I can revoke my own exile??? Or does it mean I get more respect when I return to Carkoon? I know it's only a name tag, but those people will believe *anything*...

Christina Seine said...

Oh wait, I just read that again. Cat pictures and funny quotes, huh? What did they publish of Tolstoy's? Banana Karenina? War and Peas?

Sorry. That's what I get for vommenting while canning. I guess the pressure got to me.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I don't know what most "industry" people look like, so nametag swapping is a joke which would be lost on me. Granted, I used Elka as my Internet avatar pretty much across all sites I belong to, so I don't blame agents, editors, etc. if they don't use pictures of themselves as avatars. I don't like pictures of myself, and feel they needn't be publicized widely.

Unknown said...

I think my interaction would be mostly like this...

*stands at table waiting*
Janet: Can I help you?
Me: yes.
*long pause*
Janet: uh... This is the part where you speak intelligible words...
Me: I only have four.
Janet: you just used four.
Me: make that eleven.
*longer pause*
Me: sharks can't ride brooms.
*bows and exits*

Anonymous said...


I'm pretty sure Jane Austen didn't really write this book with Can I Haz Cheezburger pictures with her lines from Pride and Prejudice. I have no idea how they get by listing her as the author. The Tolstoy book is apparently a collection of inspirational quotes he liked and they are listing him as the author.

Methinks this outfit is a little shady.

Dena Pawling said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...


"I don't know what most "industry" people look like, so nametag swapping is a joke which would be lost on me."

When the mod says, "Janet would you like to take that question?"

Then an agent with let's say Rachelle Gardner's (it wasn't, but can't remember who it was) name tag says something like, "Yes, I am the talented and beautiful Rachelle Gardner with the long brown hair." and strokes her short hair, you get it's a joke. I'm ruining the joke, but it was funny at the time. We all laughed aside from Peroxide Patty.

Besides, most conferences have pictures of most agents and authors on their sites. A savvy author will know who is supposed to be on the workshops and panels they are taking.

So, you know, when you pay good money to attend a panel you don't stand up and demand to know who Janet Reid is because you've never heard of her.

Dena Pawling said...

Here's how my conversation with Janet would go:

Me [squinting at name badge]: Brooks Sherman?

Janet: Yeah, um, well, [reminds self to switch with female agent next time] that photo of me on Twitter is kind of old. I... um... got a new hair style.

Me: No kidding! Oops. [extracts foot from mouth] Um, hi! Well, uh, have you seen Janet Reid?

Janet: I thought I saw her way over there [waves hand in general direction of the exit].

Me [stumbling thru the throngs toward the exit while squinting at name badges]: Ah! There you are. I love your blog.

Colin: Gee, thanks! Which parts do you like best? Flash Friday? Music Monday?

Me: You gave me a mention in the last flash fiction contest. Made my day.

Colin: Um? What?

Me: Wait? Flash Friday? Music Monday?

Colin [squints at own name badge]: These things are so darn hard to read upside down.

Conference organizer: There you are! [grabs Colin's arm] You're needed on the query panel. Starts in five minutes. Hurry!

Colin [reading his badge]: Janet Reid?! Huh? Query panel?

Conference organizer: Funny. You don't look like a shark.

Colin: Shark?

Me [fanning self]: I talked to Brooks Sherman AND Janet Reid!

Anonymous said...

Wait. Bouchercon doesn't count? Oh, thank god. I've been getting all worked up about attending and . . . IT DOESN'T COUNT! I mean, I signed up and paid for it and everything, so you'd think the decision has been made. But I've been debating the pros and cons of actually leaving the house and foisting myself on *gasp* other people. And trying to figure the likelihood of me saying exactly the things I'm NOT supposed to say, which at this point is sort of like not thinking about pink elephants, because they're all listed RIGHT THERE and now I can't unsee them and I just know those will be the first and second things out of my mouth if I meet an agent. Or anyone, really. I'll be pitching other writers. And asking the bartenders whether they're having a good time even though THEY'RE CLEARLY WORKING. Plus I've heard you're not allowed to attend that particular conference if you don't know how to properly pronounce the name. Which I don't. Really, I've been envisioning a disaster of epic proportions only to now find out . . . it doesn't count.

What a relief. And, also, sort of a disappointment. Maybe I will just stay home. The cat is quite indifferent to my socially inept behaviour, as long as I feed her. Hmmm. Do agents like cat treats?

Colin Smith said...

Dena: LOL! Though it would be kind of interesting to sit on a query panel in Janet's stead:

ME: Did you say it's a 450,000 word fiction novel written in second person haiku? Wonderful! I've been looking for something like that. Please send the entire manuscript to me--JetReidLiterary at gmail dot com--and I promise you I'll reply with full editorial notes in a week.


Colin Smith said...

kd: I interpret "Bouchercon doesn't count" to mean: "Bouchercon isn't work; I'm there to indulge my love of the genre." Which means she can relax, and so can we. :) That's my hope, anyway.

Anonymous said...

Colin, you might be right. Then again, your powers of interpretation might have something to do with your extended stay on Carkoon. It's hard to tell at this point.

Anonymous said...

Lest anyone not realize I'm kidding around, I *think* the reason those cons don't count is NOT because it's not work (it's totally work), it's because she's attended them so many times and knows so many people who also attend year after year, it's comfortable. Unlike, perhaps, the con this weekend where she's expecting it to be mostly strangers. That would make me nervous too. Sort of like... B'con. *gulp*

Colin Smith said...

kd: Seriously, though, Bouchercon isn't a writing conference, so (as I understand it) Janet isn't there as an agent; she's there as one who loves mystery/crime fiction. Now, it does benefit her professionally since it gives her an opportunity to meet authors new and old, find out about up-and-coming titles, and get a feel for where the genre's heading--what's hot and what's not, etc. But she doesn't have to hear query pitches or schmooze with industry pros, so she can chill and hang with us at the bar. :)

AJ Blythe said...

kdjames, attended them so many times and knows so many people who also attend year after year, it's comfortable. That's exactly how I feel about my upcoming conference (4 weeks and counting). This will be my 7th year attending. The first year was terrifying and I only crept out from my solitary confinement behind the palm trees when there was food. But now I have a small bunch of awesome people to hide behind the palms with (what can I say, we're all introverts) =)

Chatting to editors and agents has never been an issue. Actually, chatting to anyone is never a problem once I get started. It's the getting started bit I have an issue with.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

I'm in the same boat as Amy, Lost in Carkoon. Next year I plan to swap my flat (any takers?) and swim NYC's August broth to attend the Writers Digest Con. I saw there is a manuscript wish list twitter feed. #WDC15

What I'd say to Janet: .

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LynnRodz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LynnRodz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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DLM said...

Julie, I'm like you, I don't get nervous either. The energy is up a bit for me naturally at a conference, but not in that taxing way.

Christina, BRAVO! That. Is. Gorgeous. Thank you for the laugh!

If I ever go to a conference where Janet is participating, I'll just bring Gossamer along. He has Magical Charisma that will draw her to him - and no conversation required.

Actually, I kind of imagine him running toward her in slo-mo through a field of flowers - and no ME required. I may have to rethink this whole plan.

LynnRodz said...

Memo to self: Stop commenting at 3 or 4 in the morning.

A day late (now 2 days late) but that's all right. There's been a number of scenarios about how a first meeting with Janet would go. Here's mine:

Me: Hi, Janet, I'm Lynn. Would you like to share this bottle of wine? *holds up bottle*
Janet: Finally, with just a few words, someone has my undivided attention. Let's go.

Megan V said...

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