I learnt many things at the RWA conference in Orlando.
1. Always carry your business cards, even when you think you won't need them any more. While waiting for the shuttle bus, I encountered the editor in chief of Ellora's Cave who had the good taste to like my parrot earrings (I'm not interested in submitting but it was good to put a face to EC), an author who just sold to Carina and who scribbled down her email on the back of one of my cards and a Superromance author Jennie Watt who used to be in subcare. Luckily I had my cards, but my scrapbook will be short several cards. I am planning on scrap booking my conference! It is a way to use the cards I gathered, and to collate memories of a great time. Also making a scrapbook means it is easier to ask for cards as you are going to do something with them!
2. When sitting waiting for a workshop to begin, talk to people. I did and had some great conversations. Really lovely people go to the RWA conference and they are delighted to talk to you. Stuck for an opener -- ask why they are at the workshop!
3. Know when you hit a wall and rest. Carolyn Jowell had a great tip to bring energy bars. Next time. You hit a wall when the buzz because annoying instead of exciting. If you know you have to be on form for the evening, go back to your room and put your feet up.
4. Investigate the workshops you want to attend before you go and know why you want to go to them. I ended up with one duff workshop (the one I went to on the spur of the moment) but the others were gems. Do not hesitate to walk out before the end.
5. High heels can hurt. Take measured steps. For example, Jannette Kenny told me about moisturising the inside of my sandals BEFORE I put them on. Be prepared to go flat if you go high one day. A supply of blister plasters can help.
6. Be prepared to sit with strangers at breakfast, lunch and dinner. I had some great conversations with people who I never met before including a former librarian of the year and the current bookseller of the year, Gail Link. They were such nice people and really helped to make my conference. Especially Gail who told me where to eat breakfast on the first morning. Her award is so well deserved!
7. Practice your pitch as you might go blank as I did. Luckily the agent was nice and asked for the full. Also remember if you have chosen the right agent, they are going to ask for something IF it is in their field of expertise. They can't tell anything without looking at your work. The agent I pitched to helped me to see that I need to up the sensuality, and that a paranormal romance has a HEA, an urban fantasy doesn't. And be on time for your pitch. They do adhere to the rules. Some woman tried to muscle in on my pitch time. Thankfully the volunteer saw her off. One is polite but there are strict time limits.
8. Seeing and speaking to agents can make you cross them off your list. There were some whom I decided were not right for me. One I knew that I'd had a lucky escape from when I heard the agent speak at a workshop. Others I heard speak and I immediately wanted to produce something good enough for them to want to take me on. There is no one right agent for everyone. I also know far more what I want from an agent.
9. Listen for key words at the conference. Right now -- it is how do you harness Social Media. Several agents I heard speak said to mention your Social Media skills in your query letter. But also the pitfalls of social media were pointed out. Ration your social media time. If your shop window is empty, you can't sell fresh air. The book is the most important thing.
10. Midlist is not dying. There was never a golden age. It is all about producing a great book.
11. Bookmarks and paper products do not move in the goody room. Books do as long as you do not put too many out at one time. Little and often. Carry one or two of your books with you. I had some great conversations with people and gave them my book because they expressed an interest. Hopefully they will enjoy Compromising Miss Milton.
And finally -- go to the RWA National Conference, it just is.