By special request, we’ve put together a list of conference dos and don’ts. While this was requested specifically for the RWA National Conference, we think it can certainly be used universally.
Do: Introduce yourself to editors and agents.
Don’t: Monopolize all of one person’s time when it’s clear others would like to chat with her, or she’s obviously exhausted.
Do: Ask for a business card.
Don’t: Ask for a business card without making the effort to introduce yourself or at least chat the agent or editor up
Do: Ask if you can submit your work for consideration.
Don’t: Try to give an agent or editor a manuscript. No one wants to carry it home. If they want it immediately, they will request it.
Do: Wear comfortable shoes.
Don’t: Wear bike shorts and a T-shirt
Do: Sit near an agent or editor during banquets and get to know them.
Don’t: Give them the hard sell at the table while everyone is eating. You can approach them after the meal or in the lobby the next time you see them.
Do: Ask agents or editors what types of books they’re looking for these days.
Don’t: Tell them they’re wrong and why they should be looking for the type of book you’re writing.
Do: Attend conferences and find out as much about the publishing business as you can, even if you’re still hard at work on that first book.
Don’t: Pitch your book unless it’s 100% complete and ready to be submitted.
Do: Show up for your appointments on time, and be prepared.
Don’t: Be late and spend valuable time on explanations and excuses.
Do: Approach editors and agents during business hours in public spaces.
Don’t: Approach editors and agents in the bathroom.
Do: Ask if you can send a submission via the mail.
Don’t: Slip anything under an agent’s bedroom door.
Do: Practice your pitch before trying it out on an agent: Enlist the help of your writers’ group or other writer buddies.
Don’t: Come unprepared with a long-winded, hard-to-follow pitch.
Do: Try to keep to the allotted amount of time.
Don’t: Hog an agent’s or editor’s time.
Do: Remember that as soon as you try to sell your work you have entered the business world of writing. Act professionally.
Don’t: Act as though you are on the party circuit—finally free of family and obligations. Those stories get back to agents and editors and we remember the author who couldn’t hold her liquor.
Do: Feel free to tell an agent or editor how much you like the work they represent (but please know what you are talking about).
Don’t: Tell an agent or editor you are pitching to about another wonderful agent or editor with whom you’d like to work. (I love BookEnds, but I’d REALLY love to work with the William Morris Agency.)
Do: Ask and agent or editor about their work experience.
Don’t: Ask an agent or editor if they are pregnant until they’ve actually given birth.
Do: Bring a notebook and jot down anything that strikes you: You might not remember some important details in the flurry of activity.
Don’t: Rely on your memory for all those wonderful little tips you pick up at conferences.
Do: Make friends with lots of other writers. An important part of a writing career is networking!
Don’t: Be a wallflower.
And remember: People constantly move around in publishing. Be professional and courteous at all times. That agent you don’t like today might be the editor who could make an offer on your book tomorrow!
—Jessica, Jacky, Kim