Wednesday, May 23, 2012

DFWCON 2: Lessons

I wussed out of the workshop meet tonight.  I feel dirty, like skipping class to go write the paper.

Anyway, so the marvelous Ms. Vickie Motter has already written a great series about what to do for writers' conferences, the first entry of which is --> here <--  I couldn't top that if I tried, but here while it's still fresh in mind are a few things that I learned this weekend.

Smart Moves

1.  Brutal, unrelenting cheerfulness.  It was easier than I'd expected (cuz I was genuinely having a blast), but it was amazing what a people-magnet the rainbowsparkle attitude turned out to be.

2.  Commentable features.  For me it was my name on the tag (I swear I got a thrill every time somebody hollered "TEX!!!")  For this one fellow I met, it was his immaculate formal suit-jacket, tie, and BRIGHT neon yellow pants.  My hypothesis is that people are more willing to take the plunge and strike up a conversation if you offer them an easy open (such as "good GOD man, your britches are showing up on Google Earth!")  This is probably also good for jogging an agent's memory when you shoot out an e-mail months later.  "Remember me?  I was the one cosplaying Boba Fett..."

3.  Business cards.  You probably already knew that, so bonus tip: if they're just for your writer-life, maybe have a little thumbnail photo of yourself on there, so people can whip it out weeks or months later and say "oh, right!  He's the one writing an 800-page memoir from his cat's point of view."

4.  Agent homework.  No lie, I got insane mileage out of whipping out my shoddily-printed papers and making battle-strategies with other writers who didn't know who they should pitch to.  What really clinched this was having pulled and printed information not found on the agents' websites - such as, for example, this fantastic list of things Agent Sarah LaPolla absolutely does NOT want to hear about even one more time.  When you save somebody $39 and brutal disappointment, you've basically just minted a new friend.

Pointers for Next Time

1.  More agent homework, for exactly the above reason - I only had coverage for the ones in my genre, and really wish I'd taken the time for all of them.  Plus, you never know who knows whom, or who you might end up stuck in an elevator with.

2.  More pitch practice.  Not so much with my core schpiel, but with integrating it with that particular agent's interests.  I fell absolutely flat on my face with one of them, and could have prevented that if I'd really prepped the whole thing instead of trying to hamfistedly mash the two parts together.

3.  Notes RIGHT after I talk to a fabulous new person.  I collected all these super-rad business cards and scribbled contact info, but neglected to write down what we'd talked about.  Now I can't remember which of these two ladies is the Mad Men fan who writes Don/Roger slash-fic, and that's not a thing you want to get mixed up about.

4.  Questions prepared ahead of time!  I did have a couple of generic good ones stashed up my sleeve, but it sucked to walk out of a truly awesome class and only think of a first-rate mission-critical question 20 minutes after the fact.

So there you go, future-me: take these lessons to heart and go forth to ArmadilloCon armed with experience, wisdom, and a surplus of breath mints.  Godspeed.

--So that's the secret?  Hickeys and bananas?
--No, I said she'll GO bananas.


  1. Just found I'm going to the Mayborn Conference in July! Woo hoo! They don't have many agents in attendance, but they do have great classes for nonfiction writers. Can't wait!
    I like the idea of a pic on the business card.

  2. That is AWESOME, Pam - it's going to be like superhero academy for non-fiction writers! You are going to be 10 fabulous!

    (And I wouldn't worry too much about the picture - in your case, you can just write "the death lady" and nobody will forget you ever.)

  3. Great tips! See, these are a lot of the things that would cause me some mass anxiety lol

    I'd do research — that I'm good at — but actually engaging and pitching something? Yeah hell-to-the-no. Not sure what I plan to do if ever reaching that point. Who knows, maybe I'll surprise myself.

    I like the thought of wearing something that stands you out from among the others, along with the small picture on your business card.

    Let's see if you used these prep plans for this year's shindig.

    Jak at The Cryton Chronicles & Dreams in the Shade of Ink