So, this idea stemmed from my post about LTUE. In there, (it’s really long) I talk about things (at one point in my long-windedness) that I wanted to remember about my experience. Well, I want to share more in depth a few ideas for people to walk out of a writers conference having respected the authors that presented, not annoyed them.
My first piece of advice (this coming from a wannabe of course) is to not act like a fan when you meet these authors. When I went to The Book Academy in September last year, I had heard of four of the presenting authors: Brandon Sanderson, James Dashner, J. Scott Savage, and Robison Wells. There was only one author whose work I even attempted to read (that was Robison Wells and it bored me. Of course, I wanna read something that his brother wrote.) Before that conference, though, I did my best to learn about Brandon Sanderson and James Dashner (Yes, I know, I hero worship Dashner, get over it). I had begun to follow both their blogs. But once I saw that Sanderson was the new author for the Wheel of Time books, I spent the ensuing month and a half before the conference learning about Dashner. I don’t know why. But when I met him, I did my best to not look like a fan. I wanted to look like an arrogant equal. I’m sure I got half that done well (and not the ‘equal’ half.) Regardless of his viewpoint of me, at the end of the conference, I was glad with the way I acted.
My second piece of advice is that these authors aren’t going to tell you the one thing that’s going to sell your book. Maybe they will, but the chances of that are 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 (I really wanted to continue with more zeroes.) These authors are here to help inspire you to find your path to publication. They’re not going to say “Hey, let me send you to my agent. You sound credible enough to be an author.” They’re really not going to say “I’d love to read your work, I have nothing better to do with my time.” In the case of the kid at Brandon Mull’s book signing at LTUE, I really wanted to yell “Hey, douchebag, he’s not going to publish your work for you.” But I really didn’t want Brandon to say in response “No book signing for you!” Honestly though, these authors aren’t going to these conferences to give you a contract. They have lives still. Look at how many people are at this conference. Do you really think that this one author is going to single you out more than any other wannabe author at this conference? These people have books to write, books to sign, blogs to write, food to eat, and sleep to get. Reading your book for critiquing isn’t on their list. Were you ever in school? Did you ever read Of Mice and Men or To Kill a Mockingbird to critique. If you were like me, you’d be bored beyond all reason. And if you’re critiquing someone’s work that ‘Mommy’ loves because it’s their ‘Precious Baby’s’ work chances are, you’re bored. Think about it that way. If this kid had used a critique group and paid an editor to look at it, he would’ve learned that acting like this was a little inappropriate.
This brings me to my third piece of advice (because, let’s face it, I’m full of it) (take that as you wish). Do not ask an author “What’s your secret?” My first reaction to hearing this question that someone posed an author was “Are you kidding?” Do you really think that published authors are keeping secrets like the CIA or FBI? Seriously? They don’t have any secrets. They have success stories. Anecdotes. Personal histories. Lucky strikes. But secrets? They’re not hiding anything, well when it comes to being an author. Each author has a different success story. Sometimes it has to do with “I knew this person” (as is true with James Dashner) or it’s “I got rejected a million times over and my current publisher rejected me but liked my style” (as is true with Brandon Mull) or it’s “I wrote umpteen books and one of them caught a publisher’s eye eventually, but it was in the slush pile for a few years” (as is true with Brandon Sanderson). I don’t think they’re hiding anything. All these guys have talked openly and freely about their stories. And if I had their full attention (which I have) I would ask “What’s your secret?” I ask things like “Who do you find uninspiring?” (which I’ve done) and “May I invite you to dinner?” (which I’ve done, unsuccessfully, but done). Seriously, don’t ask this question. Authors have no secrets (unless it’s I slept with so-and-so over at the such-and-such agency/publisher, but even that makes for an interesting story that they’d still share).
My fourth piece of advice is to make sure that you take each piece of info that they say at these conferences with a grain of salt. Brandon Sanderson put it best when he said “Sometimes you’ve got to ignore the bozo on the stage.” And you know what. I received a small bit of advice from Dashner in one of our meetings. And you know what, I’ve taken it, but at the same time, I’ve ignored it.
Well, that’s my advice. Please, behave yourself at these conferences. I don’t want to look down on you anymore than I already do. (Yes, I am arrogant. And I’m dang good at it.)
So, any advice for such a thing that you want to give?