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Making the Most of Publishing Networking Events

As we roll into Spring we are also rolling into conference season. Many of you will be planning to attend a major publishing event this year and while you’re looking forward to spending time with your writer friends, you’re likely dreading the networking that will be required of you. I get it. Writers are introverts and, even with a cocktail in hand, walking up to strangers can be difficult and awkward. It’s hard even for the more extroverted of us.

While I’m no expert I have some tips for making these events more enjoyable and, maybe, more importantly, actually successful.

1. Bring a friend. I often go to these events with someone myself. Sometimes we stick together, sometimes we drift off, but at least there’s always someone you can go stand with when you feel like you’re the only one without someone to talk to. In addition, it gives instant networking opportunities since we both get to introduce the other to people we might know, but she doesn’t. I

2. Bring a non-publishing friend, especially one that’s a little more outgoing than you. This person doesn’t care who the publisher of the company is, or even know, so she’ll talk to just about anyone. It’s a great way for you to meet people and feel a little more confident.

3. Set some goals. Go in with a plan. Maybe you’ll hunt down your editor, but also introduce yourself to five new people. You aren’t allowed to leave until you’ve done that. I tend to be someone who works better with a plan and knowing I have to get a job done makes me feel a little less helpless.

4. Wear something comfortable, or comfortably acceptable. While those pink shoes are amazing, they pinch and hurt and, well, make you feel a little less confident because you’re always trying to find a place to sit. Wear something professional and appropriate, but make sure it feels great on. A tough balance I know, but how you feel about yourself and the way you look will go a long way in how successful you are at networking.

This is easy coming from someone who enjoys networking events, but that wasn’t always the case. There was a time, when I was a new agent, that they were awkward. When I walked into the room and didn’t think I’d know anyone. Over time, I’ve gotten used to walking around the room and entering conversations, and to saving people who look a little lost and uncomfortable. So if all else fails, you can always come up to me and say hi.

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3 comments

  1. The most awkward thing about such events (I don’t mean writers conferences specifically, but conferences in general) is that people expect you to want something from them as soon as you approach. Which is not always the case. I don’t approach people with a hidden agenda, first I’d like to see how I feel around them. Maybe I’m super tense, and someone who looks like they can make people laugh is someone who attracts me. It’s a really bad feeling when you approach, they stop smiling or telling jokes, and look daggers at you in self defense. Regarding writing events, I imagine writers are there to chase agents, agents are (I guess) there for anything other than that since their slush pile already hits the ceiling, or they’re chasing editors. I guess editors are there because their publishers made them, LOL. I’d love to attend writers conferences, but, to be honest, I’d be more interested in what I’d have to learn than anything else. You know what would be super mega ultra interesting? I workshop on book promotion. Yeah, a place where editors and eagents help writers develop a super marketing and sales plan. I’m sure there must be such things out there, but I hear about them much less than about conferences.

  2. I suspect you’re right in some cases, but not all. Keep in mind that if we’re all nervous we tend to project so it’s possible the agent or editor looks like that because she has, well, resting bitch face perhaps. 😉

    Most writers conferences are about the workshops and panels. Networking is a bonus and if done right, you can learn a ton from that too.

  3. I agree with Jessica. I love the workshops. Without fail there are always one or two which are lightbulb sessions for me – and they make the whole weekend worthwhile. But I do try and network as well. Not just with agents/editors but with other writers as well. My first conference was terrifying and I was very much the writer hiding behind the palm in the corner. But over time I’ve conquered that and now I am a lot more confident at approaching people (although it helps I have an amazing group of author friends in attendance as well).

    With many of the editors/agents travelling half-way around the world to get here for conference, I usually interpret any odd expressions as jet lag =)

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