Set Some Goals
If you’re going to attend a mammoth event like ALA or IRA’s national conference, you want to make the most of it. Especially if you’re attending on your own dime.
So I like to set a few business goals. Sometimes my goal is to stop by and say hi to a few particular editors. Of course, as a published author or illustrator, a top goal is to connect in person with the editor of your published work. So email ahead of time to see if your editor is attending!
But conferences like these are a great place to connect with other editors, too, because there aren’t 1,000 writers there like there would be at a writing conference. Because I have trouble remembering names and manuscript histories on the spur of the moment, I go with a list of the editors with whom I’ve had personal contact or who have had nice things to say about my writing. Then I stop by their booths and see if they’re there. If so, I introduce myself, remind them of our previous contact or correspondence and have a brief chat. Actually, a very brief chat. Publishers are there to connect with librarians, their buying clients, so don’t monopolize an editor for a half-hour while their potential customers stream by.
Another goal might be handing out business cards or promo materials to librarians. I’m really bad about this. I travel with a stack of stuff. I go back home with pretty much the same stack. But maybe you’ll be better at it! Have your materials in your purse or wallet, ready to hand out to everyone you meet. And then do it, with a smile. You don’t want to wander the aisles accosting people, but any time you chat with someone, hand them your card. Next time, I swear I’m following my own advice.
One other thing I like to try to do is research the market. I love to write poetry, so as I browse the booths, I ask people to point out their new poetry books. Hearing the marketing people describe the books gives you a great sense of that publisher’s personality. I’m working on a manuscript in a whole new (for me) format/genre, so I wish I had been more forward about asking to see different publishers’ chapter book series. I got overwhelmed with the number of books and people, though, and kind of dropped the ball on that one.
So, think about what you hope to get out of the conference and write down a few goals for yourself. You might not accomplish them all, but just identifying them and putting them in writing will probably help make your conference more productive.