Sunday, March 7, 2010

Networking At Conferences: Mother, Do You Have To Talk To Everyone?

To this day, my kids still ask me that. I love to talk to people and usually do, which brings me to the first part of my topic, networking at conferences.

There is no better place to connect with people who “get” you than at a writers’ conference. Even if you are an introvert, someone like me is going to come up to you and ask what you write. Before you know it, you will be talking to a perfect stranger (me) and wondering exactly how many lattes I had that morning. (Remember Kramer on that one Seinfeld episode when he had too many? That’s me.)

And you wanna know something? Nine times out of ten, your answer will surprise the heck out of me. While I pictured you writing sweet romances, you will floor me with plots of steamy erotica or vampire-hunting, shape-shifting werewolves. I love conferences for this reason. Even the smaller ones are great for networking. Matter of fact, sometimes they are more intimate and allow for better access to one-on-one time with the editors and agents in attendance.

That said, I LOVE RWA Nationals, one of the biggest ones out there. I adore the crowds, the goody room, the bars at night where everyone in there is talking writing and just about everything else, including the great workshops where you can’t help learning new stuff.

Insert plug here:
This year in Nashville, our very own Christine Witthohn and fellow M & M blogger and my Berkley sister, Kari Townsend, along with Doug McKeon, a Hollywood director who has optioned Kari’s Middle Grade story, The Samantha Granger Experiment: Fused, will offer a workshop about exactly that – when Hollywood comes calling. I will be moderating. (Something you probably don’t know about me is that I gasp for air when I get in front of crowds.) So, plan on being there if you go this year, and get there early. My guess is, it will be packed. Oh, and bring an oxygen tank if you have one lying around!

Anyway, I digress. At all the conferences I attend, I like to collect business cards. Because I am of the age where memory doesn’t always serve, I write a little something on the back to help me put a face to the name. Last week, I was going through my stack and decided to share some with you. Most of them simply say things like - Canadian at breakfast, Dallas 2007, bookseller at lunch in DC 2009, etc. Some are more specific and a few are downright interesting. Those are the ones I’m gonna list. I’ll leave out the names to protect the innocent – and to keep from getting harassing emails.

A police homicide commander from Atlanta who said to call him anytime. If I remember correctly, he was cute. I think I might need some help!!

A woman who won the Librarian of the Year award in 2006. It pays to know librarians.

Two women I met at the Harlequin party we crashed last year. Both belong to online book clubs and said to let them know when I sell, and they’ll get the word out to their friends to buy my book. Yippee!!

A Wild Rose Press editor who acquires dark paranormal. Since I don’t write that, I just partied with her.

A young guy from my chapter who asked if I’d look at some of his work. Not being able to say no - another thing I am famous for – I said yes and he whipped out seven chapters. Fortunately for me, his seven chapters were only 20 pages total!!

And last but not least, in Reno, I sat with an older guy who was a chiropractor. He said he was shopping his book – are you sitting down? – a 650 page book that involved the colon.

You can’t make up stuff like this!!

One hundred and forty-two days until Nashville!! I can't wait to add to my card collection.

Got any good stories about networking?


Kari Lee Townsend said...

I love conferences and agree, nationals rocks! And yes, I HAVE to talk to everyone!!! Networking is my excuse, but really...I just like to talk....a lot ;-))

Thanks for the plug, Liz. I am soooo excited to give this workshop with Doug and Christine.

Cassy Pickard said...

Boy, again and again I am taken back by how so lucky I am to count you gals (Babes) as part of my infrastructure. I really love reading your posts.

Conferences are super-important if you don't go off and take a nap as I have been known to do. But I think networking takes on a different tone when it's daily.

I live in a very small New England town. I talk to Ron the butcher, then drive to Randy's to buy my produce, then pick up wine from Frank, then--you get the picture. Every single one of them, plus many more, keep asking about my writing. I think they really care! My post-lady pulled her delivery truck into my driveway last week to personally hand me a large envelope she thought might be from some publishing house. She stood there while I opened it. I knew it wasn't the case, but don't try and keep anything a secret--she did give the dogs a biscuit too.

My point is, networking is all around us. The conferences are great. But, I'm waiting for the day my dry cleaner says she LOVES my book and could she please buy 15 more for her closest friends?

Great post, Liz. You see you got me going!!

Liz Lipperman said...

Kari, you're one of the ones high on lattes I was talking about - just like me!

I can't wait to see you in action since you will be promoting yur Middle Grade Series. Your hands will be going as fast as your cute little mouth!

I really am looking forward to your workshop.

Liz Lipperman said...

Cassy, I love the idea of the mailwoman waiting while you opened the envelope. My daughter had to go to the oral surgeon a few months back, and the minute she walked into the room, everyone pounced on her. "Did your mother sell her book?"

Fortunately, she was able to say yes.

I am of the belief we should be on networking alert every time we meet someone. You just never know who might be in a position to help your career - not to mention how much fun it is.

Thanks for your comment. Insightful, as always.

Barbie Jo Bogart said...

Lattes??? Try alcohol. Barbie is VERY much the quiet type and while I do love to talk.... Networking is my WORST thing! Now, don't get me wrong, I will sit at a workshop and speak "a little" to the person next to me. But seriously, I need to learn to step out of my comfort zone. I'm getting better, but the pinot/corona/vodka help! ;-)

I must say one of the best things I've done is put my website and the fact that I'm an author at the signature of my email - which I use for EVERYTHING. People really do look at that stuff. Last year alone I got private emails from other soccer parents who were like "OMG, you write?! Tell me when your book comes out!" or they say they went to my website. It's a great feeling, which will be even more so once I DO SELL!!!!!!

Hey, great blog chicas! (Now that I'm using the right link! ha ha) You know I'll be back!

Lindsay said...

Great post. I totally agree that conferences are great places to network. All the authors, editors and agents you can talk to. Except for introverts like me. It's kind of hard for me to hide, since I'm usually one of the only guys at one, who's a writer that is.
And yes, National does rock. Never know who you might meet at the bar.

Liz Lipperman said...

Welcome, Barbie. Your comments will always be appreciated, and thank God, you found us. As I mentioned, I messed up when I registered the blog name and forgot the dot between mysteries and margaritas and blogspot.

You an introvert?? I don't see you that way, although I usually see you after we've shared a glass of wine. Maybe I'm an introvert, too!!


That's cool how all your soccer friends are so excited for you. Soon, you'll be able to tell them when YOUR book comes out!

Anyway, keep coming back to comment.

Liz Lipperman said...

Lindsay, you an introvert, too? My, my, I would have never guessed. There are some advantages to being one of a handful of male romance writers, you know. How many of your friends can say they sit around the bar with several thousand women who research sex??

Seriously, I would think all you introverts out there come out of your shells during a big conference like Nationals.

Look me up this year and I'll take care of you.

I'll be the one with the pink First Sale ribbon and the grin from ear to ear.

Thanks for commenting, Lindsay. As always, I love hearing what you have to say.

Lindsay said...

Introverts of the world unite. If we can come out of our shells.
Sorry ladies, I'm not planning on National this year. Hope you can survive without me. I'm sure you can.
I've got to much to do with working on my full-trying to get it ready to pitch and submit, I hope, in a few weeks.
And I submitted a partial, of a novella, to an e-pub and literally just heard back. The editor thinks the story would make a better full. So if I decide, which I probably will, to make it a full I've got to come up with another 38-39,000 words which shouldn't be a problem.

Cassy Pickard said...

Liz: You might remember that Lindsay was the one kissing Christine's hand at last year's Nationals. It won't be the same this year without him!

Liz Lipperman said...

Lindsay, we'll miss you this year. Sending good vibes your way to add to your novella and sell that sucker.

Cassy, I do remember Lindsay. I helped him with his pitch...or tried to.

Lindsay said...

I think you all tried to help me with the pitch.
The writing wasn't up to it though, like it is now.
Copies of me kissing Christine's hand are available in .jpg format.
And thanks for the good vibes. I'll need them as I attack the novella turning it into a full. Oh, and don't forget to check out my blog at Nights of Passion.

Mary Martinez said...

I love RWA Nationals, can't wait to be there. And I can't believe I didn't run into you at the bar downstairs.

I moderated for Susan Elizabeth Phillips last year, man was I nervous! I had a very good experience last year.