you know, I’m fond of saying that we market (ourselves) in every
moment. At writing conferences we market ourselves to agents, editors,
I attended the ACFW conference
last month and want to ruminate on what I thought was masterful
marketing-in-every-moment from a conferee.
My wife joined me for Friday
night and Saturday, which was, of course, wonderful, and I had the
chance to hang out in the lobby and introduce her to many of my writing
buds. But by Saturday afternoon we wanted to grab a little time for
just the two of us. So we wandered down to the St Louis arch to walk
the park and see the gateway up close.
On the way we stood on the
corner waiting to cross with a conference newbie. (Her badge identified
her as such.) We chatted for a few moments then crossed the street
together. She was pleasant and engaged in conversation, but as soon as
we reached the other side, she excused herself quickly, saying, “I
don’t want to take away from your time together,” and walked away.
Which made us like her immediately.
In the Lobby
That night as many from the
conference hung out downstairs in the lobby, Darci and I noticed this
same woman chatting with people briefly, then moving on to others,
always with a smile and a relaxed attitude. She wasn’t trying to sell
anything. She wasn’t pitching story ideas. She simply hung out and
enjoyed the people around her.
she was chatting with an uber agent and then … she
was talking with one of the most powerful individuals in Christian
publishing, Allen Arnold. How dare she!
You Were Hanging with
Allen? What Were You Thinking?
A writer at the conference told
Darci and I, “I saw
you and Jim hanging out with Allen Arnold last night. Wow. I wish I had
the guts to do that.”
“Why wouldn't you go up to him?”
Darci said to the man.
“Because he’s Allen Arnold. And
I wouldn’t want to interrupt him and take his time.”
I understand what this author
meant. It can be intimidating talking to agents and editors who (you
think) can make or break your career.
And while it’s true that when
Allen puts his pants on he leaps into the air and puts both legs into
his jeans at the same time, but other than that he’s a regular guy.
Because Darci isn’t immersed in
the writing world, she doesn’t know who the supposedly important people
are. She saw everyone as the same. And I think that’s the way God would
have it. And the way the agents and editors would have it as well.
Our conference newbie whom we
met at the arch must have felt the same way. Or she didn’t get the memo
that said you’re not supposed to engage and make friends with people
like Allen. How refreshing (and Allen liked her).
I understand editors and agents
are gods at conferences and everyone wants a piece of them. But if you
can put away your elevator speech for a few moments, hide your
one-sheet behind your back, and simply approach them as someone you’d
like to meet, you’ll go a long way toward making yourself likable (and
memorable, since everyone else is in constant pitch mode).
It’s Tough but Try
I know it can be tough not being
nervous. But try. Be like Newbie-Arch-Girl. (BTW, even published
authors get nervous sometimes when approaching the gods of this
The powerful people in the
writing world are just people. (WARNING: Shocking statement coming up.)
They are downright ordinary folks with hopes and dreams and fears just
like you. And here’s the cool part: Most of them are there because they
like writers and want to help aspiring wordsmiths get farther along the
path of publication.
So at your next conference get
bold, go crazy, and walk right up to that agent or editor and say, “Hi,
nice to meet you.” I can almost guarantee they’ll say hello back.
But don’t try the leaping into
your jeans two legs at a time. I tried. It hurts.