A recent incident shocked me enough to realize that I need to remind any aspiring authors reading this to make SURE you vet the information you're getting before launching into a plan of action for conferences and/or submissions. Sometimes we accept the advice of well-meaning but misinformed people without knowing they are misinformed. It always pays to check for yourself.
While you'd think it wouldn't need to be said, here are some things you do NOT want to do:
1. Do NOT stalk editors and/or agents. Planning your time so you can “bump” into someone, and then refusing to go away, is not the correct course of action. Of course you need to be prepared, because there will be those elevator meetings sometimes, but don't haunt the restroom door in the hopes of running into someone. Or the buffet line.
2. Do NOT misspell names on your query. Names are kind of unforgivable since you should be able to check and double check the correct spelling — especially if you've gotten a business card from the individual. I once got a letter from a utility company that referred to me as Mrs. Barris. Jarring. And if you want to compare yourself to another author, use caution — don't say J.R. Rawling when you mean J.K. Rowling.
(Seriously, this should be obvious, but you'd be surprised.)
3. Do NOT take as gospel every word said by the woman sitting next to you at your RWA chapter meeting — even if she does seem to know a lot. If you're a PRO member, download those PRO booklets and read, read, read. Then ask questions of published authors (or experienced PROs) you TRUST to give you good advice. Check and double check, because if someone tells you to stand outside the restroom door or linger in the buffet line looking for a publishing professional, it's probably not the best advice.
(I did once listen to something someone told me when I was very green, even though my gut told me otherwise. The result was a rejection, of course. This was a long time ago, and believe me I learned.)
4. Do NOT send the same query for the same book to the same agent who just rejected it. Rework the query or submit somewhere else. Wish I could find the link, but I read a post last week about someone who kept submitting a query for an adult novel (not that kind of adult!) to a children's book agent. She finally got frustrated and wrote back telling him to stop because she didn't represent that type of book, which she had politely tried to tell him over the last several months. His reply? That she was an agent and therefore he would keep querying her because it was his job to query agents about his book. Talk about clueless! And, oh yeah, agents know each other. You can bet his name is now making a viral loop through Agentland as we speak. And not in a positive way.
5. Do NOT think you know it all. I've met these people and it's frustrating as heck. I know I don't know everything, but I'm pretty sure this stuff I just said is true. But you be sure and double check it before listening to me, you hear?
What kind of crazy advice have you ever gotten? Good advice? What sort of horrible hi-jinks have you seen at conferences? We've all heard the manuscript under the door story, but have you ever seen its equivalent? Thankfully, I haven't, but I know at least one person who I think would do it. Sadly, some people don't listen.