One of the greatest things about conferences is the networking. It's your opportunity to connect with friends and other writers, as well as professionals in the publishing industry. However, this can also be intimidating, especially meeting with agents and editors who you're trying to make a good impression on.
With the ACFW conference coming up shortly, I thought I'd share a little on when you will have the opportunity to meet agents and editors as well as how you might want to prepare.
Where will I meet agents and editors?
When you register for the conference, you will have the chance to schedule a meeting with an agent or editor or both. These fifteen minute sessions give you the opportunity to sit down face to face with an agent or editor and talk to them about you and your work.
You can also schedule to sit in on a publisher's panel. This is where editors and others from a publishing house will talk about their house, sometimes what they are looking for, or the direction of publishing, etc. You may not have the chance to meet an editor one on one at these sessions, but usually there will be a time scheduled for questions and answers.
During a couple of meals, you will have the chance to sit with certain agents or editors (first come first serve, of course, because there's limited seating at each table) and talk with them. Sometimes it's more casual and just general chatting and other times it's more specific. I sat with both an agent for one meal and an editor for another meal at the ACFW conference last year. The agent asked me about what I write, shared a little of what she was looking for with the entire table, and then I ended up spending several minutes chatting about mission trips and unusual food with her. A great example of how agents are people, too, and how it doesn't hurt to take a breather and just be yourself.
These are the unscheduled kind where you run into an agent or editor because someone either suggested you seek them out or they just happen to be where you are or the other way around. I can't stress more that these kinds of meetings (such as the bathroom meeting) are not the kind of place you want to be pushing your pitch or your one sheets. BUT, if the agent or editor does ask to hear or see something, then you have an opening. (Trust me, it does happen. It met two authors in the bathroom and the conversation turned toward my writing and from that I got a recommendation to talk with an agent the next day. Also, a walk down to Starbucks with an agent turned into my chance to do a short pitch and hand over my one sheet.)
What do I need to bring with me or how else to I prepare?
A one sheet is a single page promoting your individual book. The one sheet includes a summary of the book, a bio of you as well as a picture if you have one (which hopefully you do for professional reasons), a single sentence hook if you can - basically a query letter in more attractive form. Angie posted on one sheets earlier this week if you need some good tips. (Also, bring these with you everywhere because you never know when you're going to have a chance to hand them out. I ended up handing out two over lunch, one at Starbucks, and three during scheduled meetings.)
It's a good idea to bring the first chapter or scene of your book with you so if an agent or editor asks, you have something to show them. It's a chance for them to see your writing style and know if they're interested in seeing more. If nothing else, it's a chance to get feedback if they're willing.
This is also called the elevator pitch, the very brief but hopefully intriguing summary of your book. It's a great idea to have this at the forefront of your memory, ready to tell an agent or editor what your book is about either at a meeting or somewhere else. I only had one agent and one editor meeting at the conference last year, but I ended up saying my pitch to three agents and two editors, as well as other writers and authors, in various places throughout the weekend. Check this post from Sarah about elevator pitches if you need some ideas.
These are handy to bring to appointments to attach to one sheets or chapters, although you should already have your contact information on the one sheets anyway. Otherwise, they're mostly just a tool to keep connected with other writers, authors, or friends you meet.
Relax and Be Yourself
There is such a thing as preparing yourself mentally or even spiritually beforehand and I'd highly recommend it. Last year, I had dreams about my first big conference, dozens of scenes in my head about the ways I'd mess up my pitch or what a poor impression I would make. Prepare yourself by telling yourself that you're not in this by yourself. You will be there with hundreds of other writers who are nervous or excited or even new just like you. And remember, agents and editors are people too and if you can relax with them you'll be able to really show them who you are and get as much from each meeting as you can.
What worries or concerns do you have about meeting agents or editors? Or, for those of you who are pros or excited about this one on one time, how do you plan on preparing for those meetings?