Boskone and professionalism

Yesterday afternoon I got home from Boskone. Had a stressful travel day, landed, and ran off to see Book of Mormon in Durham. It was awesome; I’ve been waiting nearly two years to see this show and it delivered.

Boskone was definitely worth the trip, despite the blizzard and the shortened con because I had to run home for the show. I got some good time with other authors, some editors, Stonecoast friends and mentors, and met some new fans. Panels were great, but one moment stood out: I had a “funny pose” panel (a-la Jim C. Hines) – which was amazingly fun – at 7pm on Saturday. At 730, Boskone held a big book launch party, and Orbit (my publisher) kindly sent in a box of Ghost Train to New Orleans. I was delighted and promised I’d get to the party right after the posing panel to push the books and sign them if people wanted me to. When I got there at 8pm they told me the very good and very bad news that my book had been one of the fastest moving titles (YAY) and thus they were all gone so there was nothing for me to sign, no fans to meet (BOO). Some people did find me later and have me sign their copy. (YAY)

But one thing came out of the con that has me thinking: I want to talk professionalism: When we talk about being a pro, it often means doing work even when we don’t want to, and being polite to others in your field so you’re not mocked as being a sexist asshat, but another aspect of being a pro hit me this weekend: no matter what level in your career that you are in, you go to cons to connect with people. Readers, writers, editors, agents, fans, dealers, what have you. Even if you’re a veteran there just to see old friends, the mere act of being in public reminds readers who you are, the panels increase your visibility, the signings and readings reconnect you with the fans and tell them I’m still writing.

But for the non veterans, for the new writers, or baby published writers like me, it can be hard. When I’ve talked about this in the past, I’ve always talked about approaching writers/editors/agents as getting over a shyness problem. But yesterday I realized it goes deeper than that. It’s our JOB to do this. Networking is part of the job, just like putting your butt in the chair is. And if you can’t do that part of your job, you might suffer.

Charlaine Harris was at the con. During a panel, my friend Kristabelle asked Harris a craft question and Harris jumped on it, delighted to talk about writing. Apparently not a lot of people ask her craft questions. “Well heck, maybe she’d like to be on ISBW,” I thought, and immediately got scared. Ask Charlaine Harris? That’s terrifying. She’s famous and important. I have little to no connection with her, I didn’t know anyone who could introduce us. I would have to essentially cold call (cold approach?) her in the middle of the con for an interview. Saturday night, I saw her having a drink with her agent at the bar, and thought, “when I finish this glass of wine I’ll be relaxed enough to ask her. And they might be done by then so I won’t have that “I’m interrupting” problem.” I forgot I was drinking on an empty stomach, and by the time the wine was gone, I was not in a professional space to approach an author I’ve never spoken to, and the next time I looked, she was gone anyway.

I could easily blame a number of things- the wine hit too hard, I should have eaten dinner, I didn’t want to interrupt her chat with her agent, blah blah. But the truth was, I was too scared to do my fucking job. And that can’t continue.

It’s not about being brave, it’s about doing the job. And I think (hope) if I approach networking and interviewing and the like with the mindset of “time make the donuts” then I might do this a little better.

(I’m sorry I didn’t score a Charlaine Harris interview for you.)

(15 days tillĀ Ghost Train to New Orleans!)

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12 Responses to Boskone and professionalism

  1. Sam M-B says:

    We finally saw The Book of Mormon on Sunday as well — hilarious. I still have… well.

    And I have chickened out of approaching people so many, many times. Heck I’m still scared to walk up to Kessel and say hello if he’s at the con bar. (Unbelievable.) And MRK had even invited me to come say hi at the bar and I just wallflowered off into the night instead when faced with the actual prospect. Y’ain’t alone.

    Now, I’ll email anybody. Any fucking body, man. And that has made for some awesome connections and conversations that I would have never expected.

    The in person stuff is so freaking hard for world class life long introverts. Represent.

  2. Sam M-B says:

    (And I’ve even raised glasses with Mary before! Some times it’s just hard to imagine that my presence is anything but a minor annoyance, that I have any *business* taking up their time.)

  3. Darn! I should have hung around after that panel, even though you were talking to someone else. I didn’t want to be too intrusive. :)

  4. Joe Monti says:

    We all do it, at all levels. That pregnant pause when you hang around a conversation in order to get into it…Hate it! But you’re right, you just have to step in, politely.

  5. Viv says:

    That’s a challenging conclusion and many would have hidden from it instead of sharing it for others to learn from, too. You rock. Just saying. Again.

  6. Nate Ellis says:

    Love this post. It’s never easy getting up and introducing yourself and anything that can help you not back down from it is very useful.

  7. Veronica says:

    As someone who is always terrified to do that “ask” at conventions (including even saying hi to awesome authors like you) I sympathize. It takes practice… and the knowledge that deep down, so many of us struggle with that.

  8. Kristabelle says:

    Running into you at the reception desk gave me the courage to sign up for the Flash Fiction Slam and ask Charlaine a question at the first panel. You were so nice to me during my first Stonecoast residency. Kind to newbies you are.

  9. remerian says:

    re: cons. In my opinion networking is a mixture of Zen and 12-step-program.

    Zen: you are always a beginner and have much to learn.

    12-step-program: you are a newcomer and in need of guidance (or in this case networking) until you become yourself a guide (part of the net) and you should give back. What goes around, comes around.

    As always, Mis’ess Lafferty: thank you so much for sharing your experience and strength! :)


  10. Robin says:

    Hi Mur…

    Can I say oops? I went into my local bookshop, hoping to pre-order your book, or find out if they will be getting copies in, and the helpful people on the help desk looked it up for me and said, “Oh, we have that on the shelf.” and I went “Oh… I must have been wrong about the release date, I thought it wasn’t coming out until March…” and I purchased your book then and there.

    It was awesome, and I read it all the way home… umm… sorry for somehow getting an early copy? But it was awesome and I couldn’t put it down!

  11. mur says:

    Robin I don’t think it’s ever a bad thing to buy an author’s book! Where did you get the book, I am curious as to what stores have it?

  12. Robin says:

    Hi Mur :) I was just feeling guilty that I got to read it early.

    I picked it up from a Waterstones in Leicester, UK. They had you shelved under horror, I think this would be the first time I’ve gone anywhere near the horror section ;)

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