The best place to get the latest publishing scoop is at a writer’s conference. There’s tons to choose from and they happen all over the world! Large, medium, small, intimate, or intimidating, writers go to meet other writers, attend workshops, and listen to keynotes speeches.
Having been to my fair share of conferences, I’ve noticed a thing or two about conference attendees while people watching or indulging in authorveillance. They fall into one of several groups:
Wallflower: Shy writers attending for information only. They have no intention of pitching, won’t make eye contact with anyone, and pretend to be fiddling on their cell phone when the opportunity to talk to others presents itself.
Read My MSer: These folks walk around with copies of their manuscript asking folks they just met to read their novel. This puts writers between a page-rock and word-hard place. Are they looking for someone to tell them how wonderful it is? And what will they do if you give advice? And who are YOU to give advice anyway?
Clinger: Wallflowers often advance to Clinger status. Once they’ve made a conference friend they follow them everywhere, seek them out at every meal, and ask “what session are you going to next?” Clingers often gravitate to each other and soon become fast friends—which is a good thing.
Newbie: What I do? Where do I go? Can I speak to an agent? How do I pitch? What if I flub my pitch? How many words is a normal [ insert genre]? What’s a platform? How did you get so many Twitter followers? How am I supposed to manage social media? Blogging too, are you joking? What’s a query? I have to have an elevator pitch? Ah, crap, my MS is no where near ready to be queried, what do I do?
Very Important Person: One can always identify a VIP because they are usually accompanied by an entourage. They might be one of the keynote speakers, notable agent, famous publisher representative, or high profile author. OR they be one of the hosts/founders of the writers conference. ( I’m thinking about hiring an entourage for the next conference so at least I look important. )
Stalker: Writers with one singular purpose: To seek out agents during moments of weakness ( at the bar, dining with friends, in the bathroom ) to pitch their novel. They will cut fellow writers off in the refreshment line if their victim—ah, agent—happens to be standing next to you, talk over your pitch, chair hop to get closer to the agent’s table so they can ‘accidentally’ leave their manuscript on the agent’s chair.
Weary Wanderer: Identified by the shadows under their eyes and cup of coffee in their hand, these folks are mentally drained after attending 2 workshops. They often need naps or breaks during the day to recover from the plethora of information provided during the sessions. Their exhaustion is often amplified by not using technology for note-taking.
Bookish Bacchanal: Sleep late. Attend a session. Drink some coffee. Saunter around. Ask when the bar opens. Go for a swim. Sight see. Catch another session. These writing folks come alive at the bar where they lift their glasses with others who extol the mercurial life of the writer.
Befriender: They may arrive alone but in a few hours they will have added 50 new Twitter followers and Facebook friends. They strike up conversations at every session, make you laugh, ask about your MS, and keep their successes on the down low. By the time lunch has ended they know the genre and plot of everyone’s MS who is sitting at their table.
( Member of ) Wolf pack: From a group of writer friends to a bevy of agents, the Wolf Pack is almost always together. Identified by their inside jokes, tight knit formations, and large scale seat saving, this group is happy hanging with their pack members. Warning: Observe their body language before attempting to enter the group.
Look for me at the next conference! I’ll be the tall redhead at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference this June.
What kind of conference attendee are YOU?
By the way, I would LOVE to be a workshop speaker—I have oodles of academic material on writing craft and authorial technique.