Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It's like a tonic to those of us who are not extroverts by nature. Round table talk at conference meals is the best way to get to know an agent or editor that you hope to target. For one, the weight of carrying the conversation is distributed to all those present. Two, the questions of others can be a springboard in helping formulate your own and might even answer some you didn't know you had. And three, you get a feel for what others are offering the agent or editor (know your competition!)

Still think you'll have a hard time?

If you can't think of a way to begin conversation, remember that these editors and agents are as human as you. They want small talk too. Is the meal delicious? Have you especially enjoyed a class you've attended, or even made a new friend? These are great conversation starters. Your target will probably take a huge breath of relief when they discover you are not going to ambush them with your one-liners or shove another story idea in their faces, and you just might discover common interests that open the door to friendship. Imagine that. Friends with the editor of your dreams!

I remember sitting next to Anne Goldsmith one year. I had not a thing to say to her about books, publishing or her position as acquiring editor, confessing, instead, that I was sitting at her table only because it was closest to the stage. Her eyes went huge when she realized that meant I was going to be speaking. At conference. In front of everyone. She confessed that she hated public speaking and admired those who could do it. It made me smile and created an instant connection.

Now, if you're still an absolute wreck of nerves, my best advice is to stay quiet. Don't feel pressured to say something if you don't have anything to share. Use the time to absorb the information flowing around you.  Be relaxed and have a great time. Absorb. Listen. Learn. Make friends. . . 
Just make sure you wipe your chin between bites.


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