On Being Remembered After Networking

Posted on 19 May, 2013

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blackwidow01-largeIn two weeks I’ll be attending ConCarolinas 2013 as a writer guest and panelist. It’s my first convention and I’ve been pondering how to make myself memorable to attendees and other guests. There are dozens of writers there for the weekend and I want – no, I need – to figure out some way to make my absurdly generic name stand out to the potential readers in the seats.

At Dragon*Con last year I attended a panel in the Writers track on marketing for authors of romance novels. I don’t write romance novels – though Deal With the Devil, the third Withrow book, will involve giving him a love interest of sorts, and good grief am I stretching that phrase by its use – but romance writers are generally considered the sharks in the tank when it comes to marketing their work. If anyone is at home with the nuts and bolts of the business of writing, it’s someone who writes fiction to be sold in grocery store checkout lines. I say this not to insult them but to praise their business acumen. They sell way more books than I do and they have the most loyal readers in the industry so clearly they are doing everything right.

The point that was made by more than one of the several authors on that panel was: do one thing to make yourself really memorable. There are a million writers out there with cards and handbills and bookmarks and WordPress installations just like this one, but there’s only one you. One of the writers on the Dragon*Con panel said she makes grotesque doll pencil-toppers and gives them out to people. They don’t have her name or her website; they’re something by which someone can remember her. I got one from her because I was so fascinated by the strangeness of the idea and the little doll is truly grotesque. I would never have bought it but it’s on my desk at home and I absolutely do remember that writer so unfurl the “mission accomplished” banners because it totally worked.

The other writer I remember well from that panel – good gods it is almost impossible not to type “penal” – is the moderator. I don’t remember his name but he walked around rather than sat, he wore a big black trenchcoat and he chomped on an unlighted cigar. He called himself “the bad boy of romance”, which sounds more like a character than a writer. He was a lot more amusing than I imagine he intended himself to be but he does well enough at it to be moderating a panel on marketing at Dragon*Con so he’s doing way better than I am.

With all this in mind, I’ve been trying to think of how to present myself in a memorable way. I’ve seen a lot of panelists at a lot of different conventions and they clearly had a way of presenting themselves that was somewhere on the spectrum between their natural personality and a performance. Some were nice, some were douchebags and most were merely conversational. I remember many of the things they said but I don’t remember them. Between being a guest with a responsibility to entertain and being an author who’d like to sell some books and being a Performance Studies major, I’d like to think I can do better than that.

I think it’s safe to say I could choose to be the gayest panelist there, and I do take tremendous pleasure in queening it up when an occasion calls for it. That’s more than slightly unidimensional, though, so I’ve been been considering what I can layer on top of it and I think my best bet is to strive for also being the best dressed attendee. I don’t mean a tuxedo (though I did briefly consider it), I just mean making sure I’m in a shirt and tie at all times. Most of the panelists I’ve ever seen – and all but one male – have been in shorts and a t-shirt. I figure if I’m in a shirt and tie then at least someone will have the chance to remember me as that slightly sarcastic queen in a shirt and tie.

Just breaking out the preppy drag isn’t enough, though. I write vampire novels and by natural inclination I’d much prefer to be preppy goth, so it’s going to be dark shirts and bright ties for the weekend or ties with subtle elements of the macabre. Towards that end I’ve ordered a couple of ties from Cyberoptix Tie Lab at Kat & Corwin’s recommendation. It’s my hope that they’re the sort of thing people won’t notice right at first. My preferred horror is the one that creeps in without notice, not the one that kicks down the door with a chainsaw in its hand. There’s nothing wrong with chainsaws, mind you, but I like it when someone gets to notice something more than I like getting to explain it to them.

Good grief, I’m actually going to iron something for this. If anyone doubts my dedication as a con guest, let that be Exhibit A for the defense.

Soundtrack for the writing of this post: “Maths” by deadmau5.