One topic of endless interest for authors seeking a university press book deal is whether and how to approach editors at conferences. Should you? Will editors be receptive? Is it pushy to corner an editor in an elevator when you are holding a manuscript? Are those "meet the editor" ten-minute evaluation events worth it, or is that just speed dating under a different name? All of these questions come to mind when academic authors contemplate hitting the conference circuit.
To answer, let's get one fact out of the way early. Neither the personalities of editors or authors are particularly suited to this kind of schmoozing. Most people report an inordinate amount of anxiety when even thinking about having to make small talk and then "get down to business" at an academic conference, especially when something as important as a book is involved. Most people in academic professions, whether on the university side or with the university presses, lean a bit toward the librarianish... generally we're all introverts or something close to it, with little patience for or interest in cocktail chatter, large crowds, or tooting our own horns. Those of us who are outgoing can still feel appropriate reticence when it comes to throwing ourselves at unsuspecting editors without so much as a proper third-party introduction.
There is a way to work a conference brilliantly, though, and in such a manner that you will never again feel the slightest anxiety before attending one. It's called Pre-Conference Planning, and when I learned about it I felt the excited tingles that come with discovering something absolutely priceless, and almost unknown to 90% of the academic population. In the next five posts I will cover the details of pre-conference planning, and I'll guarantee that you will henceforth regard conferences as exciting -- even thrilling -- professional opportunities rather than anything to be feared or dreaded.