I survived another conference in a state “over there.” Which I drove to, all by myself, through Chicago.
I am not a brave person.
And as I get older, I find myself inappropriately courageous in some places and inappropriately cautious in others. But more of that later. I paid for, attended, pitched, roomed with my agent, made fun of Canadians I only just met, hugged and cheered for people I had just met, sold some books, hopefully encouraged some people, enjoyed the company of strangers who I hope have become friends and marveled that I drove around as much as I did in a state of directionally-challenged fog and still made my pitch on time.
Seriously, the magnet taught me some things about conference etiquette.
1. Go prepared.
No matter how prepared I thought I might have been before, this was my time to shine. I checked out the acquisitions editor I targeted for my pitch, as well as recent releases in my genre from the publisher, and shamelessly name-dropped, which seemed to work in this instance. I also had my pitch for the books I wanted to discuss written out. Which I realized later that I handed to the editor as my brief synopsis and actually started with “Hello, (editor), thank you for seeing me…” I also had a session of acupuncture, admitting my nervousness, which resulted in the acupuncturist placing a tiny magnet in the cartilage of my ear to help with anxiety. Since people, even my Christian friends, have invoked the power of magnets for stuff like motion sickness, I figured it couldn’t hurt.
2. Be yourself.
Up to a point. Politics, favorite television shows, bathroom sharing, bedtimes, snoring, getting lost, favorite foods, eating and drinking preferences…I’ve discovered that leaving some mystery about yourself is good. Share what’s not overwhelming or too personal, listen to others a lot, keep that smile plastered no matter…and be kind and helpful.
3. Let bygones not haunt you.
I knew I was going to have to probably interact with a person I have not had a good relationship with in the past. I feel terribly unchristian admitting this, but I had to work at dredging up some compassion for this person. Not pity, but compassion. And it helped. No, I was not delighted to meet the person, and smiled from a distance and kept contact to a minimum. It helped. Along with touching that magnet in my ear. Which hurt.
4. Leave lots of time.
To get places. When I thought I knew where I was going because I had a picture of the exit in my head, but realized that I had not enough of the in-between route in my head and turned the wrong way several times, I had some time to be lost and still make my editor pitch appointment.
To get away from too much activity. It can be overwhelming to always be “on point,” so make an effort to find time alone for even a few minutes.
To listen to people. You just might make a new fan and a new friend…after all, don’t most of us simply want to be acknowledged?
To answer questions and share of yourself. I’ve been published multiple times now and I do have stuff to share, and I’m willing to share it when asked.
5. Keep your expectations realistic.
I went to the conference knowing that I was an unknown author, but also that many of these people were cyber-acquaintances. I was not presenting or offering a workshop at this conference, so I did not expect to sell much. But I did, thanks to a friend who recommended me to others. I also wasn’t sure how much new info I’d absorb from the speakers, but on the flip side, I was also there to support people who needed an audience, and that was okay. And yes, of course, a person can always learn something new, or reinforce or be reminded of past lessons. Usually the editors and agents will be kind and take something even they tell you no later. I was a bit surprised when the editor actually took my pages and chapters I had printed out. My agent was pleased as well. Another cool thing that happened was the big keynote speaker I was excited about said he’d heard about my most recent book.
6. And, finally, relax and have fun.
It gets easier for me each time I go. I’m still a little chicken to do totally new things, but with each layer of experience, I grow. I’ve gone from needing my best friend to hold my hand to using medication to the magnet. Maybe someday I won’t even need the magnet.