Dragon*Con’s been over for a while now, and many of you are probably tired of hearing about it. And frankly, I’m not planning on talking about the con itself today, so you can let that breath out now. I did notice, though, that in the last two weeks of posts about the con, a good many folks have commented on how scary it would be to talk to a writer/editor/agent/publisher even if you did get the chance to go to a big con. You’ve probably heard the horror stories – there’s one for nearly every situation. There’s the writer who follows an agent into the bathroom to pitch her novel. The writer who pays the chambermaid to let her into the editor’s room to leave chocolates and the first three chapters of her novel on the editor’s pillow. The writer who convinces the conference staff to give him the agent’s cell number. If you can think of it, it has probably happened.
You guys have been faithful readers around here for a while now, and if you’ve been paying any attention at all, you know what not to do. So what should you do? It’s pretty simple – behave the way your mama would expect you to behave if she was there watching you. But if I behave myself, you’re asking now, how do I make the agent notice me?
Well, this depends on a lot of factors. Do you have a finished manuscript? Has it been edited and read by people you trust? Have you listened to the suggestions with an open, emotion-free head? Is the manuscript the best you can possibly make it? Have you practiced a seven-second pitch? Can you say it on the spur of the moment, with a relaxed smile? We’ll assume the answer’s yes to all those questions (mostly because if the answer’s no, then you need to stop right now and go work on whichever of these didn’t get a yes.) You’re ready to approach an agent or editor. And you’re still nervous. I get that. We all do. Even those of us who have published multiple books and can walk into a con and talk to a few big names as if we’ve seen them drunk and singing “Oh Danny Boy” can still feel the terror butterflies. That’s kinda the point. No matter how successful a writer is, there’s always someone we need to approach who’s big enough to make us quake in our boots. Which means that while you’re nervous, you need to remember that the famous writer/agent/editor knows how it feels, too.
If you’ve arranged a private meeting with the agent/editor, be prepared. Have a copy of your pages with you, even if you already sent one in for the agent/editor to read prior to your reading. Have a business card with your contact information clearly printed on it. Have a pen with you to take notes if the agent/editor deigns to offer them. Treat this like a business meeting, because really, that’s what it is. The agent/editor is there hunting for someone they can work with. A certain measure of friendliness is essential, but don’t be too casual. You’re not buddies. Yet.
That’s right – I said ‘Yet.’ You may become buddies with the professional you’re approaching. It’s been known to happen, and when it does, accept that you’ve found a friend. Don’t try to force it. Friendship blossoms and grows with time, more time than a weekend con can provide. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be friendly right from the start. If you’re invited to go with the writer/agent/editor’s group to dinner, by all means, go. Be charming, and listen to the other folks at the table. You’re making connections, which is one of the most important things you can do with your con time. If you present yourself as a person worth knowing, you’ll be someone the writer/agent/editor is pleased to see the next time.
The most important thing is to keep calm. You may be so excited you can hardly breathe, but don’t let it show. Deep breaths are essential. If you can bring a friend with you to be your rock, do it.
I’d love to hear your stories. We tell the scary, For-God’s-sake-don’t-do-this stories all the time, but we don’t hear the happy endings nearly often enough. So that’s what I want today. Have you met anyone you admire, and had it go well? Made a connection that turned out successful? Tell us about it.