How do you make the most of your conference experience? Well, I’ve attended five conferences in my stellar career (and even paid for at least two of them). And although the recent article in the July Orange Blossom and the editors blog on the subject covered a few of the basics, I also regret to say they missed a few. Stuff only “insiders” and “big wheelers and dealers” like me would know.
But since I love OCC, I’m willing to share. So here’s my own, personal “Seven Secrets to Making The Most of Your Conference Experience.”
1. Meet Editors
Whenever you go to conference, you should hang out with editors and only editors. (Okay, agents, too, if you’re really hard up.)
Now some people will urge you to try to meet your fellow writers, as well. Even (can you believe it?) unpublished writers. They claim by doing so you’ll have the chance to connect with others who understand what you are going through, and perhaps develop friendships that will support and last you throughout your writing career and beyond.
Well, who needs that?
What you need is to stay focused on yourself and make sure everyone else does, too. And hanging out with editors ensures people notice you. Believe me, whenever I’m with my editor Mary-Theresa Hussey of Silhouette (an executive editor, I’ll have you know!) and I wave and call out â€œYoo-hoo! Hi, there!â€ to people passing, everyone notices me.
Now, I admit, finding editors to hang out with before you are published isn’t always easy. If you are a member of OCC, you might meet a few in the OCC suite during the Book Buyers Best Champagne and Chocolate party Wednesday night, or during the scheduled interviews with our OB editors and podcast producer. Unfortunately, during these events, members are discouraged from interrupting or promoting their own books simply because (can you believe it?) it’s rude.
So, a much better solution than going to the OCC suite or attending editor workshops is to latch on to editors in the hallways. Again, this is not always easy. They’ve obviously been taught not to make eye contact, and can become distressingly deaf when you shout out, â€œHey, you! Editor! Slow down. Cuz I have the book of my heart here and–Wait! Please don’t run!â€
That’s right. Editors can run really fast–and they don’t give up easily. I once had to chase my own editor down two halls and up three flights of stairs before I finally found her cowering in a crowded elevator. (Thank goodness her desperate jabs at the button stalled the thing!)
Which brings me to my second piece of expert advice:
2. Wear Appropriate Clothing
Specifically, running clothes. Forget the professional suits and dresses everyone else will be wearing. Pack sweat pants and baggy T-shirts. High-heels? Give me a break–literally. Nikes are the answer when you’re chasing an editor. Don’t argue. Just do it.
And when you catch one:
3. Be Polite
Tell her you’re sorry as you help her to her feet. Keep hold of her sleeve so she doesn’t try to run again, but let her catch her breath. After all, while she is gasping is the perfect time to tell her–line by line, detail by detail–about your 18,000 page, single-spaced manuscript. Don’t quit repeating how this book is â€œdifferent, special, unlike any otherâ€ with everything marketing could want–the best â€œsuspense, mystery, Western, Regency, inspirationally erotic, sports story with a touch of romance thrown in” she’ll ever see until she agrees to read it. While she’s at conference.
4. Be Persistent
Now, once you’ve thrust the manuscript in her arms, you might be tempted to release her. Don’t do it. Try to hang on until she offers you a meal.
You see, all editors have HUGE expense accounts they use to feed their writers. Even unpublished writers have benefited now and again. Some writers get taken out to expensive restaurants for dinner, others are invited to lunch, some to brunch, some to breakfast. My editor and I traditionally meet at a candy bar machine in the lobby on the last day right before she leaves for her plane.
And while I’m munching on my Reeseâ€™s Pieces I practice my next piece of advice:
Okay, editors talk a lot. We all know this. And just because they deal with hundreds of manuscripts a day, study editing and marketing for years–yada, yada, yada–they sometimes pick up a few tips about the publishing business. When they share these tidbits, you should listen–because if you don’t you won’t know when to jump in to talk about your book again.
And also, surprisingly, sometimes you might learn something. At the last conference, Mary-Theresa hosted several writers to lunch in the hotel. When I grabbed a chair to join them, I discovered Mary-Theresa was sharing with the group the questions she asks her editors to consider before they decide to buy a project.
Well, the other writers (showoffs!) were taking notes, so I decided to do so, too. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a pen, and the writer next to me (thanks a lot, Angie Ray!) was disinclined to let go when I tried to wrestle hers out of her hand. Which brings me to my next piece of advice:
6. Take a pen and paper.
Yep, this is the answer. Because napkins rip apart when written on, and lipstick blurs. In fact, when I got home and two months later decided to unpack, I could barely read what I had written.
So also don’t forget to:
7. Immediately write down after conference information you might want to use later.
Like, for example, Mary-Theresa’s number. Does anybody have that? (Angie, do you?) Because Iâ€™d kinda like to get those questions . . . . .
Sandra Paul aka Sandra Novy-Chvostal has written ten books for Silhouette and also serves as OCC Co-President with Mindy Neff. She promises to bring copies of Mary-Theresa’s lost list to the July meeting; anyone interested in receiving a copy can get one from Sandy or Mindy.