I realised today that even though this Romance Writer’s of Australia conference will only be my third, that I also have some conference tips. Most of them you would have already heard and with RWA’s US conference just wrapped up, they aren’t new. This is just my spin on classics...
Dress nice. Even if you aren’t pitching or looking to rub elbows with an agent or editor, others will notice the effort you make with your hair and makeup and clothing. You don’t have to wear sequins to Bob Mayer’s workshop but don’t wear trackie dacks either. Me? I’ll be rocking the heels every day much the same as the last two years. Mind you, they look uncomfortable to the height, age and conservatively challenged, I could run a marathon in them if I had to. And let’s face it, I’m going to be on my bum for most of the time so I could wear 5kg clogs and still be good.
P.S. Sorry in advance if you have to bend your neck to look up at me.
Dress up! The cocktail party on the Friday evening is one of the best kind of icebreakers I’ve ever been to. Even though sessions start running from about Thursday, by the time Friday night rolls around, most are only just starting to catch up with conference buddies, more are finally putting online names to real faces and so on. If you haven’t organised a roaring 20’s outfit yet, what are you waiting for? Do you think more people will notice you if you don’t dress up? Think you’re too old, too young, too introverted, to unnoticeable? You’re not. The perfect start to a conversation last year for me was, “Do you want to see my guns?”
P.P.S. My gun is even better this year!
Caffeine. If you’re anything like me, you love coffee but caffeine is not necessarily your best friend. Ask for decaf. If you’re into instant, every hotel and conference venue will provide it. If it’s not on the table, ask for it. They don’t bite and I won’t laugh. I promise. At my first conference, I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to have eight cups of coffee without throwing up that I packed a little container in my handbag with decaf Moccona. There, now you’re probably laughing at me.
Introductions. If you forget names easily—in one ear and right out the other—try using their name as soon as they give it to you. “My name’s Mary.” “Hi Mary, I’m Bronwyn.” Get it? Got it? Good!
Business cards. Are. Awesome. I love mine but don’t hurl them at people. I always have a few special ones with my mobile number on them just in case but the rest I only give to people who either ask me if I have a website or ask for my email addy. Otherwise, put those badboys away. This doesn’t count for bookmarks and postcards. Get them out but put them on the freebie table where others can grab the ones they want.
Mingle. This one is very important for me. I love the gals at SARA (South Australian Romance Authors). They rock but I can see them anytime, converse with them anytime and be blown away by their helpfulness and brilliance anytime. I can’t meet new people and hope some of their cleverness will rub off on me every time. Approach a stranger, tell them your name and take it from there. Awkward silences are a given but are easily filled with silly giggles and lots of head shaking.
Pitching. Please don’t be scared. Agents and Editors are there to take your pitch, not blow up your dreams or shoot down your ideas. They don’t eat aspiring authors for breakfast with their bacon and bagels despite what you may have heard (unless you pitch to them while they’re in the loo, they don’t like that). Do some research. One of the visiting OS eds, who I’m not pitching to this time, drinks decaf, likes pink stuff and buys alcohol mostly based on the pretty bottle rather than taste (don’t buy one for a bribe, they may like it but conference organisers might not). One agent has only ever taken on two clients from conferences and would like it if you asked questions once she’s done with hers. Also make sure they represent your genre!
One of the most important things to remember is that not every agent and editor will love your idea. Just like not every reader will love your book and not every person you meet in the world will love you. Don’t get upset and pour your coffee on her head. Say thanks for your time, back out respectfully and save it for someone who does love it.
Oh and if you buy a stack of books or win heaps on raffles or whatever, don’t despair and think about the squillions in oversized baggage it’ll cost you at the airport. The bookseller at the conference usually has post paid red satchels for the books you get from her (she comes well prepared) and since we’ll be in the centre of Melbourne, find a post office and send them to yourself. I had to post 5kgs of books and I had another 5kgs in my carry on last year but I just had to have every one of those books! That’s my type of hoarding =)
I think that’s it. I’ve already started packing my bags (so I don’t forget the iPad for the Firefighter’s raffle. BUY HEAPS OF TICKETS!!). I’ve worked out my costume and nearly all of my outfits too so I pack them away early. Now I’m off to unravel another of the plot kinks my manuscript seems to be attracting.