- Talk to people you are sitting with at dinner or sessions, standing next to in the hallway--you never know where and when you'll find advice that'll change your career or people that'll become life long friends
- Take copious notes
- Pick an agent/editor/published author's brain when appropriate: during free time, meals, spare time in a pitch or consult session
- Ask what other people are writing, sessions they are attending, things they've learned
- Get involved in extra events, readings, and workshops
- Volunteer to be "the example" in a session--if an agent is teaching a workshop on pitching and asks for people to practice, do it; you get not only the attention and advice of an agent but the audience is your sounding board (applies to first sentences, titles, character names, you name it)
- use the opportunity to find a critique group--you'll usually find a board where people will post "looking for' ads
- If you know you have to duck out of a session early to get to a pitch or consult, sit near the back on an aisle. Leave quietly. The presenters won't be offended.
- Likewise, if you arrive at a session late due to another appointment, save certain questions to yourself and concede you've probably missed some important info. Ask a peer or the presenter at the very end if there were handouts or someplace you can find the lecture notes. Or ask a friend/neighbor/your new besty to look at their notes.
- pitch agents in the bathroom
- Use the question and answer portion of a panel or session to ask narrow, personal questions that won't benefit anyone else, or to pitch--you can get a consult session for that or track someone down in their freetime to ask
- make everything about you
- drink too much
- Take five minutes minutes to describe your book if another writer/agent/editor asks what you're writing--a quick elevator pitch will do, or to another writer, the genre and basics (YA timetravel to ancient Rome)
- Take five minutes to pitch an agent when he/she is obviously in a hurry/on the way to the bathroom
- Confront an agent about a rejection or rejection by a colleague
- Bring materials and expect an agent to critique your ms or query during a pitch session
- Ask questions in a Q&A if you've arrived late that have most likely been answered already--a question about query basics if the session is about queries
- Be that "doom and gloom" person who always has to talk up the e-book apocalypse and/or bash traditional publishing--keep questions polite and educational for all
I cannot stress this enough: When in a session and the speaker asks for questions, don't take that as an opportunity to pitch an agent or ask for such narrow advice that will apply to only you. Make it broad enough that many more people will benefit from the answer--you are taking their precious time as well as the speaker's.
Are there any conference pet peeves you've developed over the years?