Yesterday I posted briefly about how awkward it can feel to be at a conference, as an editor, and not know anyone. In the comments, Keira asked:
I always feel like editors and agents get mobbed so much (no wonder they dona??t wear their nametags) that theya??d be happy to have a quiet drink without someone accosting them and wanting to talka??even about commonplace things. Ia??m always trepiditous of approaching someone unless Ia??m introduced or I have a question after their workshop. What in your opinion is the best way to approach an editor or an agent who doesna??t know you and whom youa??ve never met before?
First, I should say that I sometimes go without my nametag not because I’m trying to hide who I am or because I don’t want anyone to talk to me, but because seeing my nametag seems to have the effect of making people uncomfortable and less likely to talk to me, or to feel awkward (true story). I figure if I’m without nametag, conference attendees who don’t recognize me will instead just think I’m forgetful and will assume I’m another author they can be comfortable and casual with.
I should also say that there’s a difference between approaching an editor or agent at a conference who’s clearly meeting with someone (at a quiet corner in the bar) versus approaching an editor or agent who’s at a social function at a conference, like a cocktail party, dinner, lunch. We’re there to talk to everyone at that point, not just one person, so it’s okay to approach us!
Here are some conversation opening suggestions. First, introduce yourself (please don’t just walk up and start talking and force us to stare at your chest to see who you are). Then:
* Tell the editor/agent you follow their blog/Twitter/Facebook and mention something recent they may have posted that you enjoyed.
* Or ask them about their kids (if they talk about them, like I do, on their social media).
* If you know who the editor/agent works for, comment on a recent book they published or represented.
* Ask them if they’re enjoying the conference
* Ask them what projects they have coming up that they’re excited about.
* Ask them what they’re reading
* Converse with them about area events, things to see/do.
* Do not talk about the weather.
* Offer to buy them a drink (get the agents and editors drunk. Maybe they’ll dance on the bar later so you can take pictures for Twitter).
* If they’re wearing something you like, comment on it (jewelry, clothes, shoes, makeup, hair. We’re as easy as the next person when it comes to flattery).
* Don’t pitch your book. But if they ask what you write, answer concisely. If they then ask about your current work in progress, be prepared not to ramble for five minutes. Give a 2-3 sentence answer. Then stop talking. Give them a chance to ask questions!
* Compliments, flattery, sincere interest in their work, lives or other casual conversation is appreciated. If you know you have a common interest (love of Julie Garwood historical romances, addiction to shoes, Etsy and purses, a fine appreciate for cooking and baking), even better!
* Offer to give us a ride to/from conference and airport.
* Issue an invitation!
Some of my best conference memories are because an author issued an invitation to me either at or before the conference. I attended a conference years ago (at least five) but I still remember a particular aspiring author because she was sitting at my table at the dinner presentation, and she invited me to go with her after dinner to meet some friends and attend a local jazz festival. We hadn’t met before that meal, but she knew I was there for the conference and might not know anyone there, or in the area. I had such a great time and was really grateful to that author.
Similarly, one of the Carina Press authors, Fiona Lowe, knows I’m coming to Australia in August for their conference, and that my husband is coming with me. She offered up her husband to take mine to an Australian football match while I was busy with conference activities (as it happens, I have that afternoon free so we’re all going, hurray!) It was thoughtful of her to think of something my husband might enjoy and offer to arrange it for him.
So those are just some examples of how to break the conversational ice. Honest, we’re just like your author friends, so don’t get too nervous and worked yourself up. The only agent I know of who bites is Jessica Faust. You might need to watch out for that one. But otherwise, we’re all quite safe and nice, and happy to talk to you! Except in the bathroom. That’s usually just awkward.
Conferences are on my mind right now because I’ve been doing a lot of them this year. I have a few short posts planned about conferences from an editor perspective.
For the editor (or agent) who’s not naturally extroverted (and even for those who are), going to conferences where we don’t really know anyone can be…challenging. Not only are we giving up a weekend (or longer) with our family, still having to return to a full work week after the conference, but we’re also entering into an experience that can feel uncomfortable and awkward. We go to cocktail parties, dinners, lunches and other social conference events and are forced to mingle. Remember that feeling of entering the high school lunch room, standing there with your tray, wondering where you could sit, who would talk to you? Riiiight. Now you understand.
So we’re actually grateful when people talk to us and draw us into conversation. It’s so much better than standing in the corner alone, feeling like you’re back in high school. Really.
Last year, I really believed the Columbus, Ohio Romantic Times convention was the best ever. There was a wonderful atmosphere, the hotel was fantastic (both in venue and in staff) and the events themselves stellar. But I honestly believe this year was just as great, if not better.
Now, to be honest, I was…more than incredibly busy (if I showed you a picture of my calendar, it would show time blocked out from 8am to midnight each day) and I didn’t get to enjoy some of the conference events as much as I would have liked. I’ve vowed not to book myself quite so much next year, so I can enjoy more of the workshops and events (I am super bummed I didn’t get to see Dean Koontz speak, for instance).
But I could still get a sense of the energy and tone of the conference, from the panels and workshops I was involved in, and it was…amazing.
Wednesday night, we had dinner with some reader bloggers, and it was one of the best dinners I’ve had at any conference I’ve ever attended. What do you get when you bring together people who love books? Conversation about books. Dinner went from 6:30p to 10:30p and we never. shut. up. We talked about books for four hours straight! It was wonderful and energizing and just…utterly fabulous. I didn’t get a picture but there were a few others who did, and you can see one here on Lori’s blog. Thanks so much to Barbara, Lori, Tracy, Renee, Katie, Amber, and Sarah for a memorable evening. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
I’m not going to talk about every single meal I had and with who, though they were all fun and full of great conversation (and yes, some gossip), but I also got to meet with a few agents individually. Poor Kevan Lyon, who let me harangue her about something (not really, it was in fun), Kim and Jessica from BookEnds, who were so gracious in letting me pick their brains on a personal matter. And Laura Bradford, who I’m so grateful continues to have meals with me at conferences, even when I’m a harbinger of gloom. All of those ladies, and the other agents I met with, were just as smart as you might imagine from their Twitter and blog accounts.
So most of my week was absorbed with meetings and meals and panels and workshops. I went from one thing to another. On Wednesday, I gave a workshop and found I had an LA Times reporter in my audience. He wrote what I think is a positive article on romance here (and though I’m not attributed, I would be the one who gave the “sage” advice). It’s hard not to be nervous when there’s a reporter in the audience, but he seemed genuinely interested in the material, and asked some great questions at the end.
But on Saturday, my day slowed down. After a leisurely breakfast with a longtime industry friend I adore, I headed up to the Book Fair to take pictures. And take pictures I did. You can see my entire photo album here (sorry, no captions right now) but here’s my favorite picture…my meeting with Catherine Coulter.
I silently squeed and let my inner fangirl loose for a minute while meeting her. She was everything you’d expect: gracious, charming, funny and personable. Also, she was wearing really cute shoes, which made me like her even more.
After that, I ran around and took pictures of many, many authors (did I introduce you to the online album of my pictures?) but I have to admit to having another moment when I took pictures of, and spoke with, the Days of Our Lives actors that were present. Though I don’t watch it anymore, I have fond memories of DoOL growing up, and I always will. It was amazing to see actress Suzanne Rogers and think “Oh my God. It’s Maggie.” She looks exactly like I remember her looking twenty years ago, as do the actors who play Doug and Julie Williams (they are also married IRL).
Last, from the booksigning, I have to share this picture of Patrick Rothfuss, who I met for the first time at the conference, and found to be an interesting guy to speak with. I bought his un-children’s book (un-children’s is my term) The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle. It’s a bit subversive, the story is delightful and the illustrations killer. I later gave the book to Megan Hart, because I thought she and her family would appreciate it. If you get a chance, you should check it out. It’s pretty fun.
I also took pictures of the Mr. Romance contestants at the Book Fair. Later that day, Sarah convinced me that I had to go to the Mr. Romance competition (instead of napping or living on the sofa in the bar, either of which I would have happily done). I love the Mr. Romance competition not so much because of the competitors (sorry guys!) but for the audience reaction. Entertaining. This year, Sean McDermott sang. Lucky for you guys? I got video.(oh, and it should be said, he was a total pro and such a good sport when the sound system failed the first time he started singing. Major props to him for that).Um…warning…there is pelvic thrusting in this video.
And here’s one of my favorite pictures from the Mr. Romance competition (I was taking from my iPhone, so couldn’t zoom) of the eventual Mr. Romance 2011 in a toga, and one of a very tired competitor (Shane) taken after the competition. These guys really worked hard over the week. (thanks to Megan for the correction on my picture order)
The last order of the night was the Carina Press cocktail party, where we gave away an iPad2, had fruit, champagne and cake pops, and forced attendees to interact with out authors. It was pretty fantastic 😛
And then it was time to cut loose at the last party of the week, the Harlequin Party. There was dancing! And I got to dance for the first time all week. It was pretty clear to me that I wasn’t the only one feeling a bit of relief at the end of the week, the Mr. Romance competitors seemed to feel less pressured than they had all week.
All in all it was a great conference. Next year, it’s in Chicago, one of my favorite places to visit, so I’m determined not to overschedule myself, to actually take some time to enjoy both the city and the conference.
This weekend, Saturday, April 16th, I’ll be doing a presentation for the Nashville (Music City) RWA chapter. The presentation will be three hours (lots of speaking from me!) and we’ll be talking about Carina in particular for the first 45 minutes or so, and then the other 2+ hours will be spent talking about publishing in the digital age: DRM, contracts, royalties, self-publishing…you name it and we can talk about it.
The presentation will be at the DoubleTree Hotel off Briley Parkway. The business meeting starts at 10:00, my presentation will start around 10:30 and they tell me we should wrap up around 2:00 or so, with a 30 minute quick buffet lunch in there.
There will be a cost of $17 at the door, which covers your lunch (the chapter is not making any profit from this).
2424 Atrium Way
Nashville, TN 37214
If you have further questions, please visit the MCRW website (www.mcrw.com).
If you’ve heard the Carina Press authors talk about the self-editing workshop I gave all of them in January, this is the workshop! The next 3-week, work-at-your-own-pace class starts April 11th and is the last class I’ll be giving for a few months. I *may* do one in July, but if not then, then not until next fall sometime.
This course isn’t just for new authors, it’s also for those who’ve been writing awhile. I’ve had both new and experienced authors take this course, and everyone goes away learning more than they expected. Writing (and editing) is a craft that’s a continuous learning experience. You may be surprised at what you can learn to polish your book and take things to another level.
In the meantime, here’s a few quotes from former participants:
Angela, thank you for this workshop. I have three books on revisions and self-editing, but your lectures took it to another level. ~Sarah Tanner
This was my first online workshop for anything and it worked so well I’m a bit shocked. I think what struck me was the high level of things I recognized I’m doing wrong — but because of the medium of the workshop — the recognition didn’t feel brutal. I didn’t feel attacked. So that made it easier to learn.
Thanks, Angela, for a fantastic learning experience. Now to remember it all, apply it and wow the world! (or at least a few editors). ~Jenny Schwartz
Angela, this workshop has been great– far and away the best, most information-packed workshop I have taken. It’s not just worth the money, it’s a bargain! ~Karla Doyle
This was the best workshop I’ve ever attended, and WELL worth the money. ~Janet Taylor
Thank you, Angela. This was an enjoyable and informative workshop. You have made an overwhelming situation manageable. ~Lita Harris
No, I’m not quitting my day job. If you’ve hung around here for awhile, you may have seen me talk about my self-editing workshop, Before You Hit Send, or may have heard some of the authors who’ve taken it talk about it. Well, after giving the online version for a year and a half, and having participants ask me about PDF versions, I’ve realized the next natural incarnation of this is a book. I’ve been planning it for awhile, already have a lot of extra material not in the workshop ready (or planned) for the book. But what I don’t have, is a publisher.
See, Carina doesn’t do nonfiction, and Harlequin does a broader scale of nonfiction for women, and my project definitely falls in the niche category. I believe there’s a market for it, and that I have a pre-existing platform. And I have the material, 2/3 of a manuscript and um, lots of time to work on the project (sarcasm, people!) So, naturally the next step is to find a publisher. I thought it might be interesting for some of you authors out there to hear someone from within the industry running through the exact same process you do.
Step 1: I have the book… Now what?
Here are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself… Should I get an agent, someone who specifically deals with nonfiction projects? I don’t even know if an agent would take me on for one, very niche project, but an agent who specializes in nonfiction would definitely know more about the publishers I need to approach than I would, since I live mostly in the fiction world.
Or…should I do my research and find a list of publishers who have published this type of book before, and send them a query and proposal?
And..if I do that, do I utilize my contacts so I don’t go through the normal slush pile process, or do I go through the regular submissions process?
Should I self-publish? I have a platform and a brand, and the percentages are lovely… For what it’s worth, I ruled this out almost immediately, though after serious consideration. I don’t have the time or the energy to do all of the things myself a publisher can do for me: a qualified editor, cover art, formatting–especially formatting for a nonfic project–sales venues, etc. I’m someone who needs and wants a publisher, and not just because I essentially AM a publisher but because I just can’t even contemplate doing it myself. It makes me want to curl into a small ball and sob.
Or maybe I should just slap it all together into a PDF and give it away to those people who take my course, and not worry about publishing it:?
So there you go, some pretty normal, “I have a book, now what should I do” questions. Maybe it doesn’t make you feel better to know that someone in the industry goes through the same process you do, but we all know…publishing is hard! There’ are no easy answers. And what’s the right answer for me won’t necessarily be the right answer for you. That makes it even harder, doesn’t it?
As many of you who follow me on Twitter know, I had a computer catastrophe yesterday in the form of a hard drive failure on my MacBook. The computer started giving me the spinning beachball of death around 11am, and no amount of restarting, repairing of permissions or otherwise would get it to let me run even one program for more than a few minutes. Thus, we road trip’d to the nearest Genius Bar last night (depressing that I had to go to the Apple store and my trip didn’t end with an iPad2), only to be told that my hard drive was “in really bad shape”. So bad that they didn’t even want to try and wipe and reformat it. They just want to replace it. Unfortunately, they didn’t have one of my drives in stock, so it had to be sent out for repair and I may not have it back until next week. Mac withdrawals!
There are several pieces of good news here. The first is that I’m a freak about maintaining good backups. Backing up is actually its own lesson in my Before You Hit Send Self-Editing Workshop, I think it’s that important. And since I practice what I preach, I’m fortunate to have backed up my iTunes files to Josh’s computer, have my entire hard drive backed up by Carbonite, and have all of my important, must-be-able-to-access files on Dropbox. So I can continue to work (on a backup PC laptop we had) while my computer is being fixed. Any lost time comes in having to set up the new computer, not from lost files.
The second good news is that I had bought Apple Care for my MacBook before the warranty expired last year. It seemed like an expensive investment to me, but Kassia Krozser @booksquare had told me when I bought the Mac to be sure to get Apple Care. So I did, and I’m extremely glad. Instead of having to pay for the new hard drive (and possibly new CD drive, as that wasn’t working properly either), everything was covered under Apple Care. That made things a little better.
The last piece of good news is that we are a multi-laptop family and I do have something else I can work on, and take with me when I leave on my travels on Friday. Now that I’ve mostly got this laptop set up with all of my most-used programs, I can get some actual work done the next few days. Whew!
So, all around, although I did have a computer crash that’s taken up the better portion of two workdays in time lost, it could have been much, much worse on any number of levels. Please take it from me: back up your computer today (yes, a computer crash can and will happen to you. It’s practically inevitable) and if you don’t have AppleCare on your Mac, and it’s still under a year since you bought the Mac, please go invest in Apple Care!
A tried and true recipe from Jessica Faust of BookEnds Lit Agency. She said she had a lot of recipes to choose from, but this one is such an old favorite that she had to share it.
–typically called Vodka Sauce, but when you have kids everything comes down to color.
1 stick unsalted butter
1 medium onion diced
1 medium carrot, grated finely
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 cup vodka
2 28-ounce cans of whole tomatoes, diced.
2 cups (1 pint) heavy cream
1. Heat butter in a large heavy pan. When bubbles have ceased add onion and carrot and saute until soft, about 10 minutes.
2. Add garlic. The more you mince the garlic the stronger the garlic flavor. I like using a garlic press. Add thyme and red pepper. Cook for about 1 minute.
3. Add vodka and cook down until almost dry. About 10 minutes.
4. Add diced tomatoes with their juices. Simmer uncovered 30 minutes.
5. Add cream. Simmer uncovered 30 minutes.
6. Salt and pepper to taste.
We typically serve over a pasta like ziti or penne and I love to serve roasted eggplant on the side.
Jessica Faust is a literary agent and owner of BookEnds Literary Agency where she represents a number of award-winning and bestselling authors in the areas of romance, mystery, womena??s fiction, young adult, fantasy and nonfiction.
Jessica has been a regular columnist with Romantic Times magazine and taught at New York University’s Continuing Education Program, been recognized as Agent of the Year by the NYC Romance Writers of America chapter, and maintains daily blog posts on the BookEnds Lit Agency blog where she regularly dispenses advice on publishing.