Top Sixteen: Conference Strategies for Author Introverts

Photo credit to RT Book Reviews Online.

Photo credit to RT Book Reviews Online.

Conference season is upon us! As we give autographs to crowds of adoring readers, deny requests for interviews since we are far too much in demand, and wear dark glasses so as not to be recognized, here’s what most of us really need:


1) Make friends with an extrovert. Memorize her schedule and dog her footsteps.

2) Remember that kickass character from your last book? Role play him/her–just don’t forget, your name is not actually Sir Sagramore Quidd of the Magesterium.

3) Keep a running mental tally of awkward pauses in conversations. Once you’ve hit ten, you’ve earned yourself a free hour alone in your hotel room, decompressing. No cheating by forcing awkward pauses with even more awkward questions, like “How much was your advance?”

4) Take up knitting. Knitting at conferences says, “I’m approachable. I may even be warm and fuzzy like this alpaca yarn. But I probably won’t tackle hug strangers.”

5) After the keynote speaker, when everyone’s going to do Friday night Jello shots with the “party hearty” publishing house, slip into the crowd at the “up” elevators, unnoticed.

6) You know that guy hosting the author panel up there? The one who looks so calm and together? Sweating but savvy INTROVERT who volunteered for something that looks social, but actually isn’t. (Just for fun, ask him to join your group for karaoke and watch him slip away to the elevators, “unnoticed”.)

7) Live-tweeting events at the conference will make you look busy and connected, while keeping real people at bay. Look up from your phone every once in a while and scan the room with a secret, remote smile.

8) Pretend not to notice the same fellow introverts congregating in the bathroom during every “networking” event. Or consider your bathroom refuge a secret, more exclusive, networking gathering, with the added convenience of sinks and toilets.

9) During chitchat at the awards dinner, pretend to check your phone, but actually pull up the conversational gambits you put into Notepad last night that people used on you yesterday.

10) Bring along a really cool item, such as a phone or computer case, that features your cover– instant conversation topic. Particularly useful to those who have a cover they hate, as such authors can talk for approximately 7.3 hours straight about the cover they *could* have had, if only they’d been given full artistic control.

11) Keep calm and carry a book as a shield…or wear a sign that says you’re playing the Quiet Game. Your choice.

12) Be sure to bring plenty of business cards. Then when you find yourself speechless with nervousness, you can just pull one out and hand it over. On second thought, just throw it into a trash can in front of the person, thereby saving them the trouble of doing that themselves later along with all the other business cards they collect at the conference.

13) To avoid stress hormone surges, eat and keep eating. If necessary, pack fine medicinal chocolate in your carry-on.

14) Try doing Improv classes to prepare for conferences. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to use the “Pantomime what you mean with Props” Improv trick while doing an Author Panel. (However, after Jello shots with the “party hearty” publishing house, this is quite acceptable.)

15) Rule of thumb: solitary room service for dinner while reading all the freebie books only once per conference!

16) Perfect your elevator pitch (your book in a couple of sentences, though now you are pitching it to readers, not agents). That can be your answer to the question, “Do you write?” instead of the admittedly more relatable response, “Errrr, I try?”

This Top Sixteen List was brought to you by the following authors: Bridget Hodder, Sarah Alexander, Ami Allen-Vath, Amy Allgeyer, Brooks Benjamin, Abby Cooper, Tom Crosshill, Lindsay Eagar, Rosalyn Eves, Margot Harrison, JS Johnson, Rahul Kanakia, Ki-Wing Merlin, Kathy MacMillan, Jen Maschari, Adriana Mather, Heather Meloche, Sonya Mukherjee, Jenn Nguyen, Randi Pink, Laura Shovan, Erin Teagan, Kali Wallace, Jeff Zentner

Further Reading and Links on Author Introvert Strategy:

–Susan Cain’s book QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World that Won’t Stop Talking. Or check out her TED talk, “Shying”.

–Olivia Fox Cabane’s THE CHARISMA MYTH


–Erin Teagan’s blog post on conference tips for introverts:

–Betsy Bird’s post, “Let’s Put on a Show!’ The Introvert’s Dilemma”:

–And this satire from The Onion:–35507

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