I'm a member of a local Sisters in Crime chapter and our usual meeting date is on a Thursday night, which happens to coincide with the Thursday before the big regional conference in our area. All kinds of cool agents and editors who represent and publish mysteries are attending (alas, you are not!).
We would like to invite several of those agents and editors to come and speak to our group Thursday evening but wonder what we could possibly offer (besides transportation from the hotel to our meeting site) that would be attractive to a group of agents who are about to plunge into the hubbub of a three-day writing conference.
We could promise not to pitch them and just sit quietly and admire their expertise. But I assume they would rather be at the hotel bar, talking shop with each other. Or perhaps the conference organizers offer a special reception that night?
Well, if everyone in the chapter buys a copy of a client's book, I'm already there.
In other words, give me something of value, and I'm all yours.
The first thing you want to do is find out if any of the visiting agents are members of Sisters in Crime. It's a whole lot easier to persuade an agent who already understands the incredible value of a SiC membership (which is available for gents as well) to come hang out with y'all.
And I've actually done this...sort of.
Some years back, when I was canoodling with Penn Writers, the local SiC chapter met for dinner at the conference site; I joined them. We had a rousing good time, and some of the Sisters I met there became true friends (hello Joyce Tremel!)
But honestly there's not much in it for the agent particularly if they have to travel away from the conference site (after a day of travel TO the site!).
If you've got a super spectacular something (like the best bourbon bar in the world) that's an enticement.
But generally you're asking for a favor and you'll need to be clear about what exactly you're asking. Come have dinner and just hang out? Do a Q&A?
The other thing to remember is that even though I'm at a conference, I'm still working. Client needs don't drop off cause I'm hanging out with Sisters in Saskatoon (sadly.)
That last night before the conference may be a time I've set aside for last minute items that popped up while I was travelling. Or for reading stuff for the conference the next day. Or putting the last minute touches on a conference workshop.
Think about what you have to offer that's distinctive, and then invite.
Do NOT be hurt if the answer is no. Conferences are exhausting for us (ok, for you too!) and adding to the schedule may not be high on our list.