If this is your first AWP, practice patience above all else. This is your first time around. At networking events, keep conversations light until the other person engages at a more in-depth level. You will meet many people who are AWP veterans and, truth be told, really don’t care if a stranger has a new book out or if a stranger needs their advice on how to write a novel or market the novel they’ve written. It’s not because they are mean. It’s simply a matter of timing. Everyone is exhausted and focused on other things than the needs of strangers. Build friendships by keeping first impressions friendly and light. Talk less and listen more. And remember, a little flattery may help break the ice, but too much will come off badly. Be genuine.
For many authors, AWP is the only time of the year they can connect with old friends who live on an opposite coast. Writing is an isolating craft. AWP makes the isolated less isolated for a few days. If you are looking to meet a writer or editor and want to be impressive then just be human. Say hi. Don’t be pushy. If you talk and seem to hit if off, offer to buy him or her a beer or a coffee. If he or she accepts, then let the conversation develop organically, not centered around what the writer or editor can do for you. If the writer or editor is in a hurry, be respectful, friendly and brief. Good first impressions are often short and sweet. You can always Facebook friend the writer after AWP and mention you had met.
Author Business Cards
Take author cards with your name, book, AWP reading and contact info. Do not print cheap ones on your computer. Pay someone to have them done nicely or don’t do them at all. Use a decent weight paper stock and include an interesting image that people will remember. And above all else, don’t be a schmuk about it. Wait till someone asks you for your information. Not everyone will want your business card. But make sure to always ask for one. The best way to recall the crazy wonder of AWP, after AWP, is to go through the business cards, books and reading fliers you collected along the way. Make sure to record important information on reading fliers. For instance, if you hit it off with an author or editor at an event, make note of it on the event flier. This will be helpful to you later when you are trying to remember the what and where.
Gain Interest by Giving Interest
Everyone is writing The Great American Novel and everyone is going to be Discovered next month when it’s done and shipped off to the perfect agent. Very rarely does it happen this easily. For most literary writers, the road to publication and readership is long, difficult, emotional and full of giving more of yourself than what you get in return. This is the reality.
The best way to build connections as a newer and emerging writer is to offer something someone will want. Most writers and editors you meet are looking for readership and mentions of their works. If you are interested enough in a writer or editor to want to meet them, you are probably interested in their works as well. Let them know and let the world know. It is right and generous to do so and they will thank you for this. There is an artistic karma in any medium: textual, visual, musical… When you’re impressed with someone and their work, don’t keep it to yourself. One day, you will be the writer other new writers want to meet. What you give out into the world is more likely to come back.
Make a list of writers and editors who impressed you at AWP. When you get home, write one or more blog posts describing why these writers/editors were so impressive. Add links to the writers’/editors’ journals, books, websites. Follow them and friend them on social networking sites. Buy their books at AWP or wait around till Sunday when many of the books are free. If you are impressed with the works, write more blog posts about the works and link to the sites again. If you are particularly impressed with a journal and editor, offer to help out with the journal as a volunteer. Send a CV and a short description of why the journal is so wonderful. Identify particular works in the journal that you enjoyed and describe why you enjoyed them. Take a specific and dedicated interest in the journal, writer and/or editor and you might find the interest returned.