What NOT to do at a Writer's Conference

Take it as you will, because I'm no expert. Instead, I'm in the same boat as many of you: up a creek, no paddle, and trying to furiously navigate the strange and frustrating world between Writing Something and Getting it Published. But I've done my homework. I know what has to be done, how to go about doing it, and when to bullshit when I haven't a clue.

I did plenty of that at a recent writer's conference. It was my first. I met writers in all stages of the game, shmoozed with famously awesome authors, and had my share of aneurysms when it was made abundantly clear the not everyone read the "What Not to do at a Writer's Conference" manual I have written in my head.

In case you lost your copy, here are a few highlights:

10: Do NOT show up without a clue. It doesn't matter how "new" you are to the writing game. Do your research. They say there is no such thing as a stupid question, but I happen to disagree. (See next item...)

9: Q&A sessions with editors and publishers are NOT the appropriate time shanghai the microphone, pitch your project, and then demand to know which editor is interested in your work. Can you say "you can only make one first impression and that one sucked?"

8: You will most likely meet published authors. Chat. Show some dazzling personality. But do NOT shove your unsolicited manuscript in their hands, walk off with your head high like you just did them a favor, and then return with a demand to know when they are going to finally read your work.

P.S.? The same goes for agents, editors, and other industry professionals. If they like you and ask for your work, *that's* what you call a free pass. Run with it.

7: You will also meet authors and aspiring writers who's work you just do not like. But guess what? That last open mic session was NOT about you. It was about the writer sharing their work. And that famous guy with the shiny new award? Yeah, he earned that. So if you don't like their stuff, do NOT walk up to a table full of other Famous People with shiny new awards and tell them their book sucked. Ever see Bambi? If so, I refer to the Rule of Thumper...

6: You've written a masterpiece. That's great. You haven't found anything else in the market like it. That's fantastic. But if you are pitching a Self-Help/How-to/Financial Guide/Paranormal Memoir/Novella with Biblical references, foot notes, and quizzes that you are sure your readers will love, it's time to step back and re-evaluate. There is a reason you have NOT found competition. So um, do your self a favor and refer to item #1, research, focus, and rewrite.

5: Try NOT to squee like a fan girl (or gay man) when faced with a Writer More Famous than Yourself. Especially if it's an act and you don't normally squee because faked squee's are blatantly obvious to the squee-ee. If you are truly a squee-er (like me) then just tone it down a bit. Writers are not used to be jumped like rock stars backstage after a sold out concert. A simple "I am so honored to meet you" will nicely downplay your fainting upon uttering the last word.

4: You have a name. A job (presumably). And the only work you've ever read better sure as hell NOT be your own. My point? Do NOT just talk about your book. Networking and shmoozing are an art form in and of themselves, and if you can't turn the Pitch Button off long enough for a glass of wine or a Conversation about Nothing that Can Turn Out to be Something, you might end up turning those around you off to further attempts to connect.

3: Get business cards. If you are ready to query, bring a polished package with a proposal, including sample chapters. Do NOT show up unprepared for that magical moment when you are asked for a sample of your work and have nothing to show for it. And the business cards? That's just a given. So is that pitch you better be practicing so you do NOT just blink when an agent asks what you're working on.

2: Have fun. Drink. Shmooze. Dazzle your new friends and contacts. But do NOT claim the wine bottle on the table as your own, stick a straw in it, and slur your way into oblivion. You might not remember what you say, but everyone else will.

1: Jeans and flip flops are appropriate for the plane ride to your conference. They are appropriate for the casual writing workshops when everyone else is wearing their Cute and Comfies. But if you've got a one-on-one interview scheduled with an industry professional? Wear that dress or the dress slacks and button up shirt you prettied up in for that last job interview. Because really? That's what this is. If you want to be taken seriously, dress the part.

Oh, and Famous Writer Guy? Your book doesn't suck. That shiny new award kinda speaks for itself.