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First contact?

I recently blogged on whether it was better to look for an agent first, or an editor. Unless you write short stories, I vote for the agent, but plenty of folks still want to go direct. And if you do write short stories, then of course you need to aim for the editor because agents don't generally handle short stories.

In a Google search for something else, I stumbled over an online article about how to meet editors at science fiction and fantasy conventions. Although it has some very good advice about networking—know the editors names before you get there, volunteer at the con to increase chances of meeting editors—I have to say I disagree with some of the specifics, such as there's "no dress code" at conventions. I've never seen a pro in costume at a con. It's an unwritten rule. Fans dress up, if they like, but pros never go beyond Hawaiian shirts or exotic shawls, or maybe tie-dye. I happen to think that if you want to be a professional, you should dress like one.

I also have to disagree with the advice to bring your m.s. and keep it in your hotel room, just in case. Think about it. Editors attend cons to have fun, to network, and to represent their houses or magazines. They won't have to time to read your story at the con, and why would they want to schlep it home? Also, they could well lose it on a plane or leave it in the hotel room. It seems to me the best thing is to bring a card, as the article recommends, give that to the editor, but don't even suggest handing over the m.s. Instead wait until you get home and then promptly send your story to the editor with a letter reminding them of the meeting. Then they've got it where they need it.

But most of all I disagree with this statement:

Use whatever tools you wish to get positive attention. If you're a pretty girl, male editors will remember your chain mail bikini. Guys are better off being a little more t-shirt-and-jeans.

Excuse me? The thing is, what will you be remembered for? Also, a lot of editors are women. Being known for wearing a chain mail bikini is not my idea of positive attention for a writer, even if she's stacked to high heaven.

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 1st, 2007 05:54 pm (UTC)
I completely agree with Karen here.

I was talking with few other writers about this very issue over dinner recently—whether networking does one's career any good—I don't know that we reached consensus: my personal feeling is that no amount of networking will help your career if you don't have the writing chops to back it up; conversely, if you've got the goods, networking might get you a few extra sales here and there, but it won't make or break your career.

That said, approaching editors in a chain mail bikini, or any other costume, is not the way the attract the kind of attention that will further your career. The business protocol of SF conventions is not terribly different from that of any other gathering, give or take the occasional flamboyant dress or necktie: be polite and neatly dressed.

I'd also say it's fine to bring along your business cards, but don't expect to hand them out to editors and expect them to contact you solicit your work. If an editor expresses interest in your work, it's your responsibility to get in front of her or him through the usual channels, with a brief, polite cover note that refers to your meeting.
Dec. 1st, 2007 06:06 pm (UTC)
Wow! Is there a name for the phenomenon of posting a comment on someone's blog at almost the exact moment they are posting on yours? That was eerie!

I agree with your assessment, especially the part about backing up the contact with good writing. Editors don't publish work because they like the author. They have to like the work, too!

Dec. 1st, 2007 06:32 pm (UTC)
I agree with almost everything you say here, Karen. My one exception is that I *might* (MIGHT!) have my work available in a cross-platform word-processing file on a USB drive, if I had an appointment already set up with an editor.

Even then, the chances of that editor losing the drive between con and home are high.

No editor I know wants the weight-training of carrying home paper pages...

Oh - and with regard to dress? I think it's great to have a "trademark" - Jay Lake's Hawaiian shirts - a certain mystery writer's single-stone-pendants-worn-against-a-black-jersey-dress (but I can't remember her name right now.) But both of those examples still fall in the range of professionalism....
Dec. 1st, 2007 07:12 pm (UTC)
Mindy, Mindy, Mindy! Of course YOU should bring a copy of something you think the editor would want to see. After three or four published novels, the rules are relaxed a good bit. By #8, they are a world apart!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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