Monday, June 25, 2007

Conference Tips: Networking (and Contest!)

As most of the Buzz Girls prepare to head to Dallas, Texas for the Romance Writers of America's National Conference, we thought it would be great to pass along some advice and tips for attending writers' conference that might be useful to our readers. I'll start with Networking.

The word "networking" sometimes freaks people out. They think it means not being yourself or acting in a way that gets you notices or doing things you wouldn't normally do while interacting with people. No. No. And, no. Networking, by definition, is very simple:

Networking (noun) is a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.
See, that's not scary at it?

In any business, it's important to get your name and face out there so that people know you're a serious player in your industry. This includes shaking hands, eye contact, active listening, being positive, having confidence, but most of all...being yourself.

When meeting people and networking...

  • Everyone is not born an extrovert...and that’s okay, but you can learn to talk to strangers.
  • Recognize the person within yourself...and bring your personality out when you meet people.
  • Have the courage and self-confidence to go up to people, insert yourself into a conversation (but never rudely interrupt) and introduce yourself.
  • When we start writing about characters, we think of their goals, motivations, conflicts wants and desires. Get to know yourself the same way. What makes you tick? Who are you? What makes you unique?
  • Listen when introduced to someone. Be attentive and participate in the conversation.
    Find common ground and similar interests.
  • A smile and a laugh will go a long way to make a new friend.
  • Be confident and offer a firm handshake. You’ll be remembered more for a weak one.
  • Have one liners or topics you can easily toss out that will help include you in a conversation. Movies, books, TV shows, pop culture, food, wine, your kids, your family, your job, anything...all of these things that interest us that help craft our own soul and what makes us who we are.
  • Non-verbal communication is almost more important that what we verbalize. Pay special attention to the way people say things with their eyes, facial expressions, hands and the way they stand.
  • Don’t cross your legs away from people as you’ll appear closed off.
  • Try not to slouch or hide behind people as it shows you’re hesitant to get into a conversation and transmits an “unapproachable” signal.
  • As wonderful as it is to see old friends, try to make new ones. The best way to do this is to sit with people you don't know at meals. Ask them questions about themselves. You already know you have a common interest in writing.

When networking with agents and editors...

  • Remember, agents and editrs are people, too, and you shouldn't be afraid to approach them in a professional manner.
  • Always have good eye contact and speak confidently.
  • Have an "elevator pitch" prepared for your manuscript to drop in at the appropriate moment. "My book is 300 meets Evan Almighty." (Just kidding, but you get the point.)
  • Be sure to thank an editor or agent for their time and try not to monopolize them for too long. Leave them with a lasting positive impression.
  • Watch for signs of disinterest: looking around, leaning back, arms folded in front. This means you don't have their attention or what you're pitching isn't right for them. Smile, thank them and move on.
  • On the flip-side, watch for signs of interest: leaning forward, head bobbing, smiling, legs crossed toward you.

And, with any good networking opportunity, always remember the follow-up. E-mail new friends, send thank you notes to editors or agents you pitched to, send pictures to people you met. You never know who you'll meet, what new friends you'll make or what contacts might pan out for you down the road. Above yourself. Let your true personality shine through and that will make for the best impression.


Did someone say contest? A contest? Why yes! I'm giving away a copy of THE BOYS NEXT DOOR, by the fabulous Jennifer Echols. The book just came out and it's A. Dor. A. Ble! If you'd like to win the copy of the book, just post a comment here in this thread, offering your best networking tip. The winner will be chosen at random and announced on Monday, July 9th.

Marley = )

Sorority Rush Begins - May 2008!
Rush - A Sisterhood Novel
Pledge Class - A Sisterhood Novel
Puffin Books

What I'm reading... Still reading TWILIGHT


stephhale said...

Great advice, Marley. I think you just about covered everything. One thing that does tend to rub me the wrong way is when someone immediately shoves their card in my face before even talking to me. Business cards are SO important but at least chat with the person for a minute or they won't even remember who you are or why they have your card. :)

Rhonda Helms said...

Yeah, there's tons of great advice here! The most important one I can give is to RELAX!! :D

Jennifer Echols said...

Marley, you are too sweet! Thx for the giveaway!

I am extremely introverted and have a really hard time at conferences. Here are two ways I cope:

1. Hang around Marley and let her do the talking for you.

2. (Seriously) Schedule down time for yourself. Extroverts get their energy from being around other people. Introverts get their energy from being by themselves. It's so tempting to go go go and network non-stop while you have the opportunity, but you may burn out quickly this way. Some of my best quality time at last year's conference was spent at the pool with my critique partner, just the two of us.

Marley Gibson said...

:::Diet Coke up the nose::: made me snort with the "hang around Marley." LOL!!

Good advice to relax and getting some down time, as well.

Anonymous said...

i advice not to pick ur noze in publik

Me said...

Fabulous tips, oh Queen of Networking. At my very first conference (Dallas #1 back in 2004) I was pitching to an editor at my dream historical house. I was beyond nervous. Then a good friend (who happened to be one of that editor's authors) told me that the editor had said she was really nervous about the pitches. Wow. That really brought it home that editors are people, too--and that they don't want to mess up and miss out on the next Nora.


Heather Davis said...

Really good advice, Marley. I just try to remember when I feel shy (which does happen!) to try to introduce myself to people who seem shyer than me. Does that make sense? I've made some great friends that way.

I love Jenn's advice about the downtime. I say Buzz Girls brainstorm session in the pool! Or we could just catch some rays...

Also, about the agent thing, once when I was meeting my agent for dinner, he was pitched (drive by style) outside the men's room! Of course, he was polite and listened, but still I was like, give the guy a break! ;)

Marley Gibson said...

Heather! Unbelievable! I was in my agent's room chatting at RWA Reno and the phone rang. Some random guy who'd seen on her blog that she was going to be in Reno CALLED her hotel room and started pitching his like 9:00 p.m. at night! NOT the right approach.

Anonymous said...

Hi Marley,
Great website


Anonymous said...

Super advice! Here's my networking bit: Look for conversation openers, such as "So you're from Rhode Island. So am I!" or "I'm sure glad I went to that workshop. What did you think of it?" or "So you're a PRO. Who did you send your manuscript to?" Conversation openers are always questions, open-ended whenever possible. A question that can be answered Yes or No doesn't foster much dialog.

Lis said...

I can't believe someone called the agent's room like that. Wow.

My networking tip is always make sure you have your business card on you with up to date contact info

TinaFerraro said...

Wonderful tips, Marley, and I don't have much to add, but I'd like to second what Steph said about waiting a reasonable period of time before shoving your business card at someone. That has really turned me too because I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do with's not like I want to stay in touch with someone I don't even know.

Kiki said...

I'll definitely be saving all these tips for our down under conference in August. Great stuff, everybody!

Here are some things I learned from two conferences I've attended:
(1)For those of you that are terminally shy, try hooking up with people online before the conference!
E-loops, mailing lists, group blogs etc are a great name to get to "know" some people.Try and plan to hook up with one or two people who can act as a buffer shield so you don't feel lost.

(2) If you don't know how to approach people, ask them what they write. Ask them where they're from. Ask them what you like to be asked. And compliments are always good pick-up lines to break the ice.

(3)Published authors are human, too. If you see someone with their First Sale ribbon especially, talk to them. Ask them about their call story. They'll love you for it.

(4)Think about what you want from the conference and don't try to do everything. If you have a focus, it'll be easier to say no to certain things and get some much-needed downtime. For me personally, connecting with others can be more valuable than yet another GMC workshop.

(5) (and the most important one to me) - Not all advice is good advice for you. If you're a convinced pantser, don't feel bad if a plotter gives you the 56 steps to a successful novel. There is only one guarantee in this business: there is no one single way to get to where you want. Listen to everybody, but filter the knowledge to see what's really useful to you.

Oh, and one last personal note, be nice to the people lower on that imaginary totem pole. Unpublished, pre-published, small press authors, e-published, self-published... They may not be big-house NYT bestsellers, but they love books and stories the same way you do. Don't think them somehow lesser authors because they're not on a 20-book contract with MIRA (on the flipside, don't look down on those people, either).

Kiki said...

Oh, and for marketing/networking tips, I recommend checking out my friend Tee Morris' podcast, "The Survival guide to Writing Fantasy". You can listen to it on the trip to the conference!

Jude said...

Dang, Jennifer stole my tip ("Stand next to Marley"). After that, I'm out of ideas.

Nice series for the lead-up to National though. I linked to it on Blogging National ( I look forward to some great pics and stories from you all!