I met Daniel at the DFWcon mixer, and hit it off right away. I had the pleasure of listening to him do a reading during a read and critique and was blown away so I knew I had to introduce myself to him. A month later, I’m still in touch and am very pleased to have him featured on my blog. Enjoy!
by Daniel Link
DFWCon was not my first conference, so I thought I knew what to expect.
There were some pleasant surprises, things I hadn’t seen before. For instance, the sign-up slots for the Read and Critique, or Fix My Manuscript. Then there’s the ten-minute agent sit downs. The laid-back Texas vibe made talking to people easy, and that was most evident at Saturday night’s gala, which may have been the biggest surprise of them all.
First, the special sign-up opportunities. Fix My Problem was great, but my favorite was the Read and Critique. Those were fantastic, and I hate to say, underattended. I sat in on a Read and Critique Sunday with only five people there to read their work.
I get it, we’re introverts. We don’t like people all that much, and the idea of reading to them is terrifying. What we do love, however, is words. You have a chance to read your words to other people. How many chances to do that do we get? To walk into that room and see it empty, with two hundred and however many authors outside, some of them spending their whole conference in the lobby talking about getting to work on their book instead of doing it, that got to me. If we won’t champion our own words, who will?
Sure, it’s important to touch base with people. It’s important to build that platform. It’s good to have a social media presence and a website and all that cart-before-the-horse nonsense. Don’t get me wrong. When you’ve got your book in hand and you’re ready to promote it, when your baby is as polished as you can make it and it’s time to find an agent—that’s when it’s time to put on your business hat. Before that, though, there’s the all-too-important business of writing your best work. Don’t overlook that.
Another surprising aspect of DFWCon was the ten-minute sit down with an agent. I’ve attended conferences where the whole weekend is centered around pitch writing, pitch polishing, then group pitch practice, until you’re so pitched out you don’t even like the premise of your book anymore. The whole experience funnels you toward a fifty-minute speed dating session, three minutes to pitch an agent. It’s a whirlwind of shoving and flying elbows and an overall vibe of competition that I never felt at DFWCon.
The luxury of talking to an agent for ten minutes was a strange experience. I got to shake his hand and tell him my name, and I didn’t have to boil a year of my life into a ninety-second commercial or use cross-comps like Game of Thrones meets When Harry Met Sally, or Flashdance meets the Godfather. The downside, of course, was that I only got to talk with one agent. Then I got my biggest surprise—the gala.
The idea of the gala is nothing new. Another conference, one I will not name but takes place in a city in California by a bay, has a gala. Meet the agents and editors, the program said, so I put on my shiny shoes and got ready to mingle. It was in the bookstore downstairs, and the place was packed. A quick scan of the badges revealed that everyone in attendance was either a writer or a conference volunteer. The agents were all tucked into bed or out on the town laughing at everyone fooled into attending the gala. When I asked a volunteer where the agents and editors we were supposed to meet were, she disappeared in a puff of smoke like an 80’s movie ninja. When word spread that people were looking for the agents, the rest of the volunteers fled, leaving a hundred or so writers holding plastic cups of wine while tumbleweeds rolled through the bookstore.
The gala at DFWCon this year was the opposite. I arrived as it was starting, and the first person I ran into was Marisa Corvisiero. We talked for a few and she never used a smoke bomb to escape. Then I met Uwe Stender in the corner by the bar, where I talked with him for ten minutes or so. I moved on and mingled with other writers and geeked out properly for a while, then ran into Kevin O’Conner and Patty Carothers, both of whom I talked to at length. By the end of Saturday night I’d spent more time talking to agents than I had in two years at Unnamed City by the Bay Con combined. It was a great environment to try on that business hat—a pressure-free place to practice pitching and see what others think of your ideas.
As well as things went for me at DFWCon, I didn’t get everything right. I didn’t take enough pictures, didn’t post a single one to social media. I didn’t exchange numbers and business cards with all the wonderful people I met. The weekend got away from me, as it’s sure to do. If I’d been more on the ball, I’d have recorded my ten-minute sit-down with my agent. He gave me a lot of advice that I sort of remember. They wouldn’t let me take note paper in, but I did have my cell phone. We’ll try that again next year. And as for the people I didn’t connect with on social media, I hope they signed up, too.
My experience was a positive on a number of levels, enough so that I took advantage of the early enrollment for DFWCon 2019. The people were so pleasant and the price so reasonable that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Next year, I’m going to try to sit in on as many of the special classes that I can. These small touches are what set the conference apart.
There’s no better place to share your ideas, make contacts, and learn about trends in book marketing than writer’s conferences. Everyone should go to one. Then after you’ve been to one, been overwhelmed by the constant information and handshaking and notetaking, you need to do another one, then maybe one or two more for good measure. Do one of the Read and Critiques. No matter how scared you are, you’ll be glad you did. Then, once you’ve gotten over your fear of reading your words to strangers, you need to do it again. You’ll get better at it. Things will slow down. Until then, keep writing, keep championing your work, and getting it ready for next year.
Want to learn more about Daniel Link? Check out his website!