Dear Miss Snark,
Bouchercon is coming up in a couple of weeks. I plan to be there, and I'm sure plenty of agents will be there as well.
I'm an author with three novels in hardback, two of which have gone to trade paper. My publisher is a well-known, though small, traditional publisher. I also have a separate contract (very modest) for a mass-market series to be published by one of the bigger houses. Oh, and I've won some awards for my writing, too.
Here's the thing: I am unagented, and always have been. Helpful contacts and good luck have brought me this far.
I've heard, over and over again, about how schmoozing agents at conferences makes all the difference - how chatting agents up can get your submission read. As far as I've heard, there are no pitch sessions scheduled for Bouchercon.
But - how does one introduce oneself successfully?
I know that I detest dealing with telemarketers on the phone, and the moment I discover a telemarketer has fooled me -via Caller ID- into picking up, I can't get off the line fast enough. I thank them (none-too-sweetly) and hang up.
If I approach an agent at a conference, I feel like I'm one of those despised telemarketers. And yet, everywhere you go you hear that schmoozing is the answer.
I can't even imagine how to approach an agent in a way that won't garner me a "Get away from me, you pesky fly" look.
"Hello, how are you? I'm laying wagers on when McNulty falls off the wagon. Would you care to place a bet? Oh, you don't watch the Wire? I'm sorry, never mind, I don't need to speak to you ever again."
"Hello, how are you? Wouldn't you agree Alan Furst is one of the best novelists writing in the espionage field? You don't? Ok, never mind."
"Hello, how are you? Don't you think Out of Sight starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez is an overlooked masterpiece and sadly deprived of an Oscar? You don't appreciate Mr. Clooney? Excuse me, I need to shun you for life."
"Hello, how are you, nice to meet you. What do you think of the plan to raise taxi farres in New York? You are chauffered whereever you go? Ok, never mind."
"Hello, how are you? Don't you think it's time for the revitalization of private eye novels?
Me too. Let's have lunch."
Knowing you are whipcrack smart I know I don't need to tell you what I've just shown you. But, never being one not to grind a point into the pavement let me just say this: you're attending a convention of people who like to read. Talk to them about what they like to read. You'll get a big list of ideas, make some friends, and come off sounding elegant and professional. You don't need to mention you're published. Most likely we can figure that out by looking at your name. Most of us will probably know it. To quote a very very good writer "Be Cool".