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How (& Why) Not to Geek Out at a Writers’ Conference

How (& Why) Not to Geek Out at a Writers’ Conference

Kathi Lipp (533x800)BLOGGER: KATHI LIPP

Kathi is teaching the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic Workshop–PLATFORM: How to Find Your Readers, Lavish on Your Audience and Sell Your Book and Afternoon Workshops, also serving on the Critique Team at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March


My husband and I have a particular weakness for The Big Bang Theory. In fact, living in Silicon Valley (where we have a higher than usual number of socially awkward geniuses), I like to refer to myself as the “Non-Hot Penny” the normal girl living among a sea of people with their PhDs. In fact, everyone in their group has their PhD, except Penny, and Howard Wolowitz – the Engineer.

But what Howard lacks in a Doctorate, he makes up for in experience. He is the only one of his group who has been to the International Space Station. Yes, Howard is an astronaut.

And he’s not going to let you forget it.

Scene: The Comic Book Store

Howard: Oh, hey, Stuart, I got you a little souvenir from my trip to space.

Stuart: Well, Howard, that’s very nice of you.

Leonard: Yeah, maybe. Open it first.

Howard: It’s my official NASA portrait.

Stuart: To Stuart, your comic book store is out of this world. Just like the guy in this picture was.

Sheldon: For the record, he also thinks the Walgreens and the dry cleaners are out of this world.

Howard: That’s not true. At the Walgreens I was “over the moon” for their store-brand antacids.


Howard can’t be in a conversation that doesn’t turn into a reference about his trip to space. And frankly, everyone’s a little sick of hearing about it.

So here’s my advice to authors while you’re at a writer’s conference: Don’t be a Howard.

Don't Be a Howard 600x600

A Howard is the author who can (and will) turn any conversation back into discussing their book.

A Howard is the author who says things like, “Wow, we’re having Italian dressing at dinner tonight? That’s so weird because my protagonist’s grandmother is Italian too!”

A Howard is the author who carries around a stack of their own books and a PayPal swiper at a writer’s conference to sell their own books to other attendees. (Yes, I’ve actually seen that happen.)

I know you need to market your book. I get it.  And if you’re yet to be published – or even if you are – you need to market you.

What Howard was forgetting was the person on the other side of the conversation. That there was a real,  live, breathing human who has wants and needs, who is looking to connect – not just to be impressed by him.

Don’t be a Howard.

When you get to your writer’s conference, yes, people are going to want to hear about your project, but remember – they are people. They are excited to be at a writer’s conference with real, live writers like you.

Here are some suggestions when it comes to not completely geeking out a writer’s conference.

Ask other people questions. I know it seems pretty obvious, but at writer’s conferences, we all tend to lose our minds a bit. You just can’t wait for someone to just stop talking so you can share about your character’s love of the harp. But you are going to learn more (and have more writing friends) if you ask other people about their loves and passions.

Find out about their project.  I had a consultation with a writer at a conference and when I asked her what other projects she’d heard about that she found interesting, she said, “I didn’t spend all this money to talk to people about their projects.” Part of becoming a writer is developing a writer’s life. That means having other writers in your life. Find out about what they do and what makes them tick. You will be a better writer for it.

Ask editors about what they love to read. Editors are editors because they love to read. Find out what those editors love to read – and then share some of your favorite books. When you are not labeled the crazy writer who is stalking all editors, it’s much easier to develop a relationship.

Because here is what I’ve found – when it comes to publishing a book, editors want to work with people they want to work with. In other words, people they like. Be an author – a human being – worth liking.


Be honest. Ever geeked out a writers’ conference?


Come meet Kathi Lipp at Mount Hermon in March!

Ready to Register for the conference?

View Comments (2)
  • I’ll admit that I have, indeed been Howard. It was my first writers conference and I was sure I had the next best seller. Four years later and much MUCH wiser, I’m sure I don’t have the next best seller.

    • Hi, Jane. Good good to see you here. You’re not alone. I’m sure most of us, if not all, have geeked out at a writers’ conference at one time or more. Looking forward to seeing you at Mount Hermon in March.

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