Sunday, July 5, 2015

RNA Conference: Do’s and Don’t’s

For everyone attending this year’s conference we have invited NWS Organiser, Imogen Howson, to give a few pointers on what to expect and how we should conduct ourselves in the pursuit of a publisher or agent.

In the RNA, we’re very fortunate that agents and editors often attend our events.  This year’s conference, being in London, will have more industry professionals than usual—and lots of authors ready to take advantage of their expertise!

But, for an author who doesn’t yet have an agent or editor of their own, it can be intimidating to find yourself next to one at the bar or at the dinner table.  What should you do—ply them with gin and then forcibly thrust your manuscript into their hands, or give them one terrified look and slink away before they can speak to you?

Neither, hopefully!  Read on for a list of do’s and don’t’s for meeting agents and editors.

  • Do be friendly.  No one comes to an RNA conference if they’re unwilling to talk to authors.  The atmosphere is usually very relaxed, and everyone will be happy to chat to you, even if they have to stare at your chest (I mean name badge) to work out who you are.

  • Don’t worry about feeling shy.  A huge number of writers are shy, or introverted (or both).  It’s absolutely fine to start a conversation by saying, “Can I talk to you?  This is my first conference and I don’t know anyone.”  Or even, “Can I sit with you?  This is my sixth conference and I can’t remember who anyone is!”

  • Do talk to anyone you meet, feel free to sit at tables that are already partially occupied, strike up conversations in the lunch queue, and sit next to strangers in the talks and workshops.

  • Don’t interrupt an obviously private conversation.  If an editor/agent is head down in conversation with another author, try not to interrupt.  The conversation might be between an author and their own editor/agent, or it might be that author’s one chance to pitch their book to their dream agent.  Find someone else to chat to in the meantime.

  • Do come prepared to talk about your book if asked.  Everyone you talk to will probably, at some point, ask what you write or what you’re working on at the moment.  If this person is an agent or editor, and you’ve prepared a few-sentence pitch that describes your book in a short, “hooky” way, you’ll be so pleased with yourself afterwards!  If you have to ramble for ten minutes, forget your heroine’s name, and go away realising you forgot to explain the main conflict, you won’t be so pleased.  A little bit of practice before the conference could pay off beautifully—and even if it doesn’t, it’s good practice for future events!

  • Don’t do a hard-sell of your manuscript.  It’s absolutely fine to talk about your book at an appropriate point in the conversation, but plunging straight into your pitch isn’t the best way to begin.  And trying to insist that someone look at your book even if they’re showing no sign of interest, or have already said they don’t represent/publish that type of fiction, isn’t a great idea either.

  • Do be aware of the genre, length and type of your book.  If a publisher only publishes short, light-hearted romances, they’re unlikely to be interested in a 100-word-plus gritty crime thriller, even if it does contain a romantic sub-plot.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell them about it if asked, but do remember that they’re unlikely to ask to look at the manuscript.  And don’t try to persuade them—they know what they can sell, and if your book wouldn’t do well with them, you don’t want to be published with them anyway!

  • Don’t try to give agents or editors a copy of your book.  (Especially not a printed copy—nobody wants their luggage to end up heavier than it starts!)  Editors and agents have different submission guidelines, which they need authors to adhere to.  It’s not usually useful to them to be given a copy, whether print or on a flash drive.  If an agent or editor would like to see your book, they’ll probably give you their business card or email address or direct you to the submissions guidelines on their website. 

  • Do come to the NWS session on Saturday morning.  Imogen Howson, the NWS Organiser, will be there to answer any questions or concerns you have.

About Immi:

Immi combines writing young adult fiction, working as an editor for Samhain Publishing, and running the New Writers Scheme. Her latest book is Unravel, a YA science fiction romance. When she’s not writing, editing or taking NWS parcels to the post office, she drinks coffee, runs, cuddles cats, hamsters and teenagers (her own, not other people’s), and collects Sweet Valley High and Chalet School books. She can be found at and

Do you have any tips to add to Immi’s? Please add them in our comments section below.

Thank you, Immi. We are sure this will be extremely helpful to those attending.
Have a good Conference!

Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman


John Jackson said...

Great advice!

I've printed it out.

Thanks, Immi.


April Munday said...

Unlike John, I haven't printed out your advice, but it's good advice and it holds true for most of the conferences I've attended, although most of them weren't for shy introverts. If you can sit down to have breakfast with complete strangers and strike up a conversation with them, you can do anything. Although I'm very nervous about it, I'm really looking forward to people I've met on Twitter or in ROMNA.

I admit that I'm totally unprepared, but my objective is to meet people and to learn as much as I can. I'll have my synopsis with me, but I hadn't even thought about business cards until someone mentioned it yesterday.

I'm looking forward to meeting you and I've booked for the NWS session.

Elaine Everest said...

That first conference can be frightening but the fear is all in our mind. Everyone is so welcoming and we make sure that no one is ever alone.
A good piece,Immi. x

Wendy's Writing said...

Thank you so much for this Immi. Natalie knows how nervous I am about the whole thing (which I know is silly, as I really am very friendly)and any advice is very welcome. I have some lovely business cards, will practice my short novel description on my husband and shall be at the NWS meeting on Saturday. Look forward to meeting you and everyone else.

Unknown said...

There is one thing I would reinforce...don't pitch or talk about your work unless asked.

And one thing I would that always makes these things easier for me...if you think about the other person and not your self - have interest in makes it very easy.

Great post Immi.

Can't wait for the conference.


Sue Moorcroft said...

Excellent advice for any writing conference.