Tongue Trouble – Top 10 Things Not To Say At A Writer’s Conference

In every crowd there is that one person who stands out as obnoxious. You’ve met them. They talk more than everyone else and usually have less meaningful things to share.

At a writer’s conference, these individuals stand out and leave a negative impression on those in the industry. We’ve all stuck our foot in our mouths. Agents and editors are gracious to realize that many of us are newer to the industry.

Still, it might be helpful to know what you shouldn’t say if you want to make a good impression.

Top Ten Things Not To Say At A Writer’s Conference:

  1. “God told me you were supposed to represent me.”

  1. “I write just like Ted Dekker.”

  1. “What kind of television and movie contract experience do you have?”

  1. “I write Dystopian Amish Contemporary Foreign Intrigue Fiction.”

  1. “My book is better than anything else in its genre.”

  1. “I’m sorry I can’t meet with you. I just talked to a publisher who is going to offer me a three book contract as soon as I send in my first three chapters, so I won’t be needing an agent.”

  1. “If you just read more, I know you’d like it!”

  1. “Did you turn down The Shack? If so, I might not be for you.”

  1. “Haven’t I seen your name before? Oh, yeah. On the back cover of my next book.”

  1. “I only accept six-figure advances. Are you able to get that for me, or should I be looking somewhere else?”

If you have said one of these things in the past, remember there is a sense of grace among the editors and agents. If you haven’t said any of these, stay away from them.

If you want to stand out, LISTEN. Instead of demanding center stage talking, listen. There are a lot of opportunities to learn from others in the industry, take advantage of this. Remember, for every time that you are quiet someone else has the opportunity to speak.

What other things should not be said at a writer’s conference?



About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

18 thoughts on “Tongue Trouble – Top 10 Things Not To Say At A Writer’s Conference

  1. bethkvogt says:

    Well, I’ve had my chuckle for the day.
    Here’s something I heard said at a conference:
    My project is about (fill in the blank), which is so important, unlike Beth’s project …”
    Yeah. Another writer dissed my work-in-progress to make their project look good.
    (This happened during the whole “let’s go around the dinner table and pitch our projects to the host” time.)

  2. I can’t believe someone did that. Yes I can. But I hate to. As for my thought on what not to say: I can’t cut my book. God gave me every word of it.

    • Michelle Lim says:

      LOL! That is a great one. I once heard someone say they would only use perfect grammatical dialogue choices. No slang. Her reason was simply that she felt this generation doesn’t value proper English and they didn’t need to be reading anything that didn’t have proper English. Sheesh…crazy.

  3. Don’t go all melodramatic and say something to the effect of, “If you don’t represent me, I’ll just die!” 🙂 Instead, trust God and He’ll bring the right agent and editor along…in His time.

  4. Dana McNeely says:

    I’ve been calming down all my friends and family – who either think my book is sold (based on the fact that I told them I’m going to a conference), or they think any agent would be thrilled to represent me (and I should tell them so, to indicate my confidence! Hahaha!.) Realistic expectations, I tell them. Here are my hopes for the conference: I’d be happy to get one agent tell me to send a partial. (The right agent.) Also, to meet one or two Christian writers with whom I have rapport and we could chat once in awhile, back and forth, about writing stuff – like – Is this a really stupid idea? If so, can I fix it?

    • Michelle Lim says:

      Yes, my kids have been asking me if I got my book “pugalished” or not. I wish you all the best at conference. A tip to finding writers, is to look at the local chapters or zones and try to find some writers in that group. I believe their name tag flags might have their zone on them.

  5. Melissa Tagg says:

    Haha, this is hilarious, Michelle. Another one to avoid:

    Well, I *really* wanted to pitch to [insert agent/editor name of your choice], but I guess you’ll do.


  6. Michelle Lim says:

    ROFL!! I can so see someone saying that without thinking and then wanting to crawl under the table and hide.

  7. Kara says:

    I’m going to go with: “Oh I saw in the acknowledgements, you were the editor of X book. To be honest, I think it really would have benefited from some more work. In particular I thought X, Y and Z let it down editorially.”

  8. marlajayne says:

    This is so true! Although I’ve only attended a few such conferences, there is always at least one obnoxious person in every session. Love the advice about listening and learning.

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