Both of these events can be highlights of your conference if you know how to handle them. Let's start with some book signing advice. These are just my opinions. Here are some tips on how to make your book signing experience worthwhile:
1. Only pick up books you're truly interested in. For me, this usually means anything paranormal, urban fantasy or young adult. For example, I don't stop at the historical romance or romantic suspense tables, because that's just not what I usually read. If you don't plan on reading it some day, or it's not a genre you enjoy, don't take the book. It will free up room in your bag or make it cost less in shipping to send your books home. Plus, it's considerate. Some authors run out of books very quickly, so don't take a book you don't want. If you do, someone else might be mourning that their favorite author ran out of books before they could get a signed copy.
2. Don't feel obligated to wait and get your book signed. Yes, authors love if you wait and talk to them and ask to get your book signed by them. But if it's an author that you've never read before and you don't have a strong desire to have their autograph, it's okay to just take a book and go. It frees up the flow of traffic and makes the signings less crowded. However, if there is a line of people waiting to get that author's book, make sure there are enough books for the people already waiting in line, and if you're not sure, then come back when the line has cleared some. It's not fair to bypass everyone who is waiting if there aren't enough books to go around.
3. Go to the signings a few minutes after they begin. I usually try to enter after the first fifteen minutes when the initial wave of hysteria and insanity caused by the sight of mounds of free books has dissipated. Usually, most authors haven't run out of books at this point, but it's not quite as busy either.
4. Don't be afraid to ask the author for a generic signature; most of them are willing to oblige. They know that many attendees give away the books on their blogs after they read them. Don't be afraid to tell them this. It gets them more readers.
5. If you move fast, you can manage to go through and grab a few books from some of the signings in between workshops. That way, you don't have to miss out on learning about craft and industry just to get some of your free signed books.
Hope those are helpful!
Now, for the dreaded agent and editor appointments. If you're like me and actively searching for an agent, this can be the biggest event of your whole conference. Here are some tips on how to ensure your agent or editor appointment goes smoothly.
1. Make sure you are fifteen minutes early to each of your appointments. Otherwise, your appointment will be given away and believe me when I say they are absolutely ruthless. 14 minutes early? Too bad. If your spot has already been filled by someone else, you're out of luck. So set an alarm and make sure you're there on time.
2. While you're only allowed to register for two appointments (one agent and one editor), if you wait in the lobby, the no-show or canceled appointments can be stolen by anyone who is willing. If you're a PRO member who is already very educated in craft, sometimes waiting in the lobby all morning in hopes of snagging one of those appointments is well worth missing a few workshops.
3. Be prepared. Make sure you've memorized a well-written one line elevator pitch for the manuscript you are currently pitching, your current WIP, and your any manuscripts you've previously shelfed (also, if your manuscript is the first in a series, have a pitch prepared for the next book, even if you haven't started writing it yet. You never know what the agent/editor will ask about). If you don't know what the one line elevator pitch is, I suggest you take a workshop on it before the conference to help you prepare--it will be invaluable to your current and future experiences.
4. Be polite. These agents/editors are confined to one room for hours with no break, listening to pitch after pitch, at least be nice to them.
5. Relax. Most people are extremely nervous before their appointment, but there are some things to remember. They will always request SOMETHING. No matter whether it's a full, a partial, or just a query letter, they will ALWAYS request something. So even if you royally screw up and have to read your pitch off a piece of folded paper from your pocket or forget everything you planned to say, you'll still get a request. Also, while you want to make a good impression, these professionals will have seen so many faces throughout the conference that they will all blur together. Unless you specifically do something horrible to make them remember you (and I mean really horrible, not something you think is just embarrassing), they will only remember your pitch, not that you snorted every time you laughed.
How about you conference veterans out there: what are your recommendations and advice about Nationals? I'd like to hear what you have to suggest.
Don't forget about our regular blog hops! On Monday we'll have some fresh market news for the week. Til then ;-) Have a great weekend!