Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Blog Guest Jacqui Jacoby: Schmoozing 101

Hey everybody. I want to thank The Seekers crew for having me on to talk with you today. I thought a lot about what I would discuss -- what might be of interest at this time of year and then I looked at my calendar.

Did anyone else notice the Romance Writer’s of America National Conference is two months away?

Wow -- two months to get ready. To get our clothes picked out, our business cards printed. Two months to plan and organize and put it all together in a package which will scream at the first editor or agent we run into “Here I am ... you want me ...!”

Conferences are a great experience. Great for networking, great for having fun. We get a chance to meet with like-minded people who understand us.

This year, Washington DC will be my seventh National and my fifteenth conference over all. I have learned a few of the tricks – tricks which can be used at either the great big National or a smaller chapter conference.

The main thing I have learned: networking isn’t only about selling books. It’s about the people. It’s about making new contacts, new friends. It’s about smiling and saying hello to the person sitting alone in the coffee shop. Maybe this is their first conference and they don’t know anyone. Maybe they don’t know what to say, who to see or where to go.

It doesn’t matter if they have had fifteen books published or they are working on their first. A conference is a variety of people in so many different stages of their career.

You might be in the middle somewhere and yet, I can promise you, there is someone nearby three steps behind who would love to hear what you have learned so far. And right next to them is a person five steps ahead who would be willing to talk to you for a few minutes and the price of a cup of coffee.

I do a lot of non-fiction writing which requires me to meet a lot of people you might have seen on the shelves of your local book store. Over the years I have come to realize they are just people, too. They aren’t scary, they aren’t mean. There is nothing to be afraid of if you happen to get on an elevator and Nora Roberts is already there.

Smile. Say “Hi.” Tell her you loved: (fill in your favorite Nora Roberts book here). Ask her if she has seen any cool sites in the area. When she gets to her floor, say thanks.

It really is that easy.

Have you ever written an article for your chapter’s newsletter? Trust me – the editor would love you if you did.

And a conference is a great way to meet people who would be willing to talk to you about your piece. Author quotes, editors’ opinions, agents’ notes, these are all great ways to add pizzazz to the article you are working on.

An interview is much like a pitch. Both require you to prepare and to think. Both can make you so nervous you don’t think you will be able to talk.

The thing to remember when doing either is that the person across from you is just a person. They are there because they said yes: yes to hearing your pitch, yes to letting you interview them -- they are there because they want to be there and you can take a deep breath and relax. No one bites at conferences.

A good article to reference when planning your pitch is “Ten Minutes to Glory: Your Editor/Agent Pitch” by Laurie Schnebly Campbell. It can be found on her website: .

Says Laurie: "When you're nervous, it helps to remember that this pitch can’t win you a contract -- all it can win you is a look ... Go in there with the idea that both of you are professionals with a common goal -- getting a great-selling product to the market -- and immediately you'll have something in common."

Interviews are more difficult as they are less spur of the moment and need to be set up in advance. But how do you get these people to give you the thirty minutes or the hour you need to get your questions answered?

You ask.

It’s that simple. You send an e-mail or you make a phone call, and you ask this person if they would be willing to meet with you. Explain the article you are working on, tell them what you need from them.

There are two cardinal rules to conducting interviews: be prepared, be professional. Research your subject before you sit down with them. Chances are your subject has been interviewed before and you do not want to ask the same questions. Read prior pieces, read their web page. If the person you are meeting with is giving a workshop at the conference, attend it, take notes and modify your questions accordingly. If you’re interviewing an author, read a few of their books to get a feel for their voice. If nothing else, you do not want to have to admit to an author you’re sitting across from that you have never read one of their stories.

When it comes time to sit down with them, be cool. They granted you this interview and they want to be there. Keep that in mind when you get nervous, because, no matter what, you will get nervous. It’s the nature of the beast. However, if you prepared ahead of time, if you wrote out your questions, if you are wearing that one professional outfit that makes you feel like a million bucks – and it doesn’t have to be a suit – then you are ready. If you know you are ready, it will show as you shake hands and smile and offer to pay for the coffee. And always offer to pay for the coffee.

Meeting people in a conference environment is a really good experience. Some people call it networking. Some people call it schmoozing. I call it a really, really great time.

Who can ever say they have too many friends? And if at a conference you can make a few who are writers, then kudos to you. Have fun!! Have a blast!! And remember that person sitting near you who needs you to say hi!!


Award winning author and current Golden Heart Finalist, Jacqui Jacoby lives and writes in the mountains of Northern Arizona. She is a working mom whose career includes writing books, penning short non-fiction and teaching online and live courses – one of which -- Schmoozing 101 -- will be offered this June through not one, but two RWA online chapters: and If you would like more insight on what to say and who to say it to, sign up and look forward to a lot of fun!! Jacqui can be reached via her website at – where you can check out Jacqui’s addiction to Brendan Novak’s Online Auction for Diabetes. The reserve was met and it is going fast!!!


  1. I've brought a gallon of coffee this morning if anyone wants some. (she says with gritty eyeballs, half open)

    Jacqui, (lovely name, btw) I've never been to a conference, but I will some day and your tips are invaluable! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I'm going to my first one - the ACFW conference this Sept. I am incredibly excited. I can't wait to meet all these people I've gotten to know online! Thanks for the tips!

  3. Welcome to Seekerville, Jacqui, and congrats on making the Golden Heart Finals!

    Our Northern Arizona RWA is making quite a name for itself. This year TWO NARWA members finaled -- Jacqui and Anne Marie Becker. And last year our Julie Stevens finaled and WON the romantic suspense category.

    Thanks for the networking tips, Jacqui -- and I'd love to hear more about your connection with Brenda Novak's fundraiser.

  4. Jacqui,
    Great post! I started out freelancing and loved interviewing folks. Always fun to find out about their lives.

    Your comments made me want to pen more articles! Hope we can meet at RWA, maybe waiting in line for Starbucks!

  5. Welcome to Seekerville, Jacqui! Thanks for the saavy post on schmoozing.

    A few years ago, I got on an elevator at a RWA conference and there was Nora. No kidding. Just the two of us. I said, "How's it going, Nora?" She replied something. And got off quickly. LOL Next time I will compliment her on one of her books.

    I've brought french toast dusted with powdered sugar and oozing with warm syrup. Thanks for the coffee, Sherrinda.


  6. Jacqui, Thanks so much for the encouragement that agents are just people like us and also for the very useful link to Laura Campbell's site. I'll be writing my four W's on 3x5 cards now!

    Janet, I just devoured two French toast. Your toppings are just the way I like it. Yum! And I'm making milk tea for anyone who gets their caffeine fix that way!

  7. Good morning Jacqui. So nice to hve you in Seekerville.

    Congratulations on your Golden Heart final. Hope you enjoy the ride. It's like being a princess for a week.

  8. I'm SO IN on the coffee. I came over early this morning because I got sidetracked at work yesterday when I was reading Julie's first 42posts at like, 6:00 AM....

    Okay, SLIGHT exaggeration, but by the time I got home from work last night and clicked in this AM, the Passion Queen had 85 thought-provoking posts/comments and I was totally late to the party.

    And there was no food.

    Jacqui, I like you already. Seriously like you. What a great post about taking the bull by the horns and making a mark. I love interviewing people, I love meeting people, and if that person you approach is scared, sad, lonely, overwhelmed, etc., what a wonderful gift to have someone seek you out.

    I love that word: Seek. ;)

    Great post and I hope it's inspirational to everyone attending the conference in DC this year. And DC is a city that sure could use an influx of romance to offset the sleaze factor. True romance, the kind romance writers carry in their back pockets.

    Grabbing French Toast and coffee. Loving both.


  9. I have a good Nora story too. Once upon a time at conference I was doing my usual treadmill thing in the hotel gym at 5 am and lo and behold the Nora appears.

    This is a first hand report...mirrored walls and all. I tried not to look at all, being the consummate professional that I am. However, I do want you to know she appears to be a human life form. I saw no indication of robotics and she ...perspires.

  10. Oh, Jacqui -- TIMELY and HELPFUL post!! Welcome to Seekerville. I have a few cheese blintzes left over from yesterday, but they are a little bit crusty "on the edge"! :)

    Ah, conferences! For the veteran, they are a jolt of pure adrenalin at the prospect of seeing old friends again, making new ones and just soaking in the aura of "writer." But for the newbie??? Uh, not so much adrenalin as indigestion, at least in my case. And I'm an outgoing person! Wish I had had your post when I went to my first ACFW Conference six years ago ... it SO would have helped!


  11. The thing that comes to mind for me isn't the BIG moments, sure those are tough, pitching to editors, elevator trips with rock's the smaller moments.

    I'll give you some advice about those....hunt around the room for someone holding up a wall, sitting my themselves, playing with a laptop or reading a book.

    You've found yourself a shy person who knows no one. Approach with caution because sudden moves often startle loners found in the wild.

    Go up to them and say, "So what do you write?"

    They will be thrilled to talk to you. Guaranteed 2 hour conversation. And you're made a friend and will now recognize a face for the rest of the conference.

    Repeat this constantly.
    1) Indentify shy loner
    2) Approach with caution.
    3) So, what do you write.

  12. I'm glad you could join us in Seekerville, Jacqui! I love conferences, too. I've attended many both large and small and each has advantages. You can really learn so much and meet interesting people including editors and agents. I'm going to RWA Nationals and ACFW (and breaking my budget). Meeting friends is one of the best parts of a conference and making new ones, too. Hope I'll meet you!

  13. Mary, this is what I do also. Nothing worse than going to a conference and just hanging with the hood. I love to meet new people--on my introvert terms of course.

    And conversely nothing worse than sitting down at a table and everyone knows each other and no one even acknowledges you are there. Sigh. I did have this happen once at a conference where I was a finalist in a contest. But it's not like my name is a household word, like Lessman or Connealy. And when they called my name and I won suddenly my table wanted to talk to me.

    Okay is that beyond cliche...true story, I promise.

  14. Great post. I loved this part, "networking isn’t only about selling books. It’s about the people"

    It really is. I've met some fantastic people in the first year of my "writing career" -- wouldn't trade it for the world.

    Thanks for the tips. Have fun at RWA this year!!

  15. Good morning, Seekersville! I'm new to this blog and just loving it! Where else can you enjoy good conversation AND breakfast? Pass the French toast, please….

    Jacqui~ thank you for your insight. I LOVE conference! It's one of my favorite things in the world. If one is not careful the days fly by in a big blur, and it's over. One thing my CP and I do is actually make a point of not sitting together at lunch. It forces one (me being a bit shy) to talk, to ask questions, to have fun. Too often we fall into our old comfortable so in DC!

    I'm totally blessed because this year I get to wear a pink ribbon! Yes, it's true! After writing for eleven years my miracle has happened....and I wish the same miracle for all other writers. It’s wonderful!!

    Jacqui, congratulations on your GH final. Wishing you tons of luck and I hope we bump into each other at National.


  16. Hi Caroline, Welcome.

    I met Caroline through a GH finalist group.

    Was it your GH finaling book that sold Caroline?

    Also Cara is a 2009 finalist as well. We have lots of folks to be rooting for.

  17. Yes, it is. But not the one from 2007. This was my first and it finaled and won in 1999 under the title Chasing Jessie. I still can't believe it.

    Congrats to you too, Cara. It really make Satureday night more fun when you actally have friends in the mix. We'll be rooting for you. What catigory is your story?

  18. Wow ... all these comments already!! Can't wait to see what the rest of the day brings!!

    Glad everyone got something out of the ah ... words of wisdom? ;)

    Feel free to contact me if you have any more questions.

    As for Brenda Novak's auction, Glynna -- it is only on for a few more days. Most of the classes I am offering have already been sold out, but my eight month mentor program is still available. Check it out here:

    I think it will be a fun program for the winner and myself, as well as helping out a really great cause!!

    Have a speech to give in an hour so I will check in again later!!

    Again -- good to hear from everyone!!


  19. Awesome post! But are you sure no one bites???? LOL!

    I'm going to ACFW too and I feel both delirious and pee-in-my-pants nervous.
    I did go to one conference and I most talked with other writers. It was wonderful. Learning and connecting.

  20. "Always pay for the coffee." I wish I'd read that way back before my very nice mentor suggested meeting for coffee so we could talk about my manuscript...we split the check, and now I cringe every time I remember that!

    Laurie, who also cringes anytime someone offers to buy ME coffee :)

  21. Mary and Tina,
    You two are cracking me up!!!!

  22. Great post. This will be my second RWA conference and I can't wait. I just need to remember to pace myself so my brain isn't so overloaded with information and experiences that I can't think straight by Saturday morning.

  23. I remember my second conference but the FIRST after the Seekers had joined together. I found Ruthy and it was fine but my knee jerk withdrawal reflex was firing hard. I kept sort of backing out of the conversation and Ruthy'd grab me and drag me back.

    Thank you.

  24. I also mentored someone one year who brought her husband along.

    I told her no, no, no don't let him come. But alas....

    The trouble with husbands (not Seeker husbands, they know the score) is that they hang around, all lonely and cute and your impulse is to hide anyway, so you stay with them instead of thrusting yourself into the agony of making new acquaintances.

  25. As someone who "schmoozes" with Jacqui on a regular basis, I can tell you she's great at it! :)

    Wonderful post, and a reminder that you never know who you'll meet. That "wallflower" holding the wall up might be your next best friend, or even the next bestselling author (who just might write a blurb for your book!). It never hurts to start up a conversation and find out what you have in common.

    Which reminds me - a friend and I attended a conference in San Diego where Catherine Coulter was speaking. We went in for her early morning workshop and found ourselves ALONE in a huge ballroom with none other than Ms. Coulter and her assistant. We offered to help set out handouts, and ended up chatting with them for fifteen whole minutes until other attendees realized that, though the doors were closed to the room, they were allowed to enter. Wonderful opportunity to schmooze! And because I later sent Ms. Coulter a thank-you email for her advice, she offered to have one of her readers read my manuscript. It never hurts to be polite! Mom was right about sending thank you notes...

    Have a good day, everyone!

    Anne Marie

  26. Thanks Jacqui,

    For your insight. I realize that writer's who have made it in the publishing world are people too. Unfortunately about the time I think I'm schmoozing away and got a handle on it, I trip up.

    I've done a few of those lovely interviews, but I find over the phone is best for me. I'm not so self conscious.

    Miss Russo,

    I must confess, I've sat at the conference table and had little or no conversation. I tried to make nice and talk, got a few short responses then nothing. I focused on my food and hoped I didn't choke for fear no one would notice if I did.

    when I went to a Conference with my critque group, it was better that's for sure. They probably got tired of my piggy backing everywhere. But I wanted to fit in somehow and didn't want anyone to know I was like a fish out of water. Probably starting to smell, cause I was so far out.

    But the best one came when I invited my sister to ACFW in Nashville and I was delayed for 24 hours.

    This group of women from Seekerville, decided to take my poor sister under their wing. She went site seeing and shopping and stayed up late with them I guess.

    Then when I arrived they were too pooped to party, LOL. Actually I was. So while I slept they took care of my sister.

    Then they liked her so much they invited me to visit seekerville so they could ask about how my sister was doing from time to time.


    Okay so maybe they wanted to say Hi to me too.

    Anyhoo, I'm a total conversation klutz sometimes, I think I have a master's degree in rubbing people the wrong way. and it's so nice when people allow you the space to be that and accept you.

    (Of course if they meet my sister first, with her being so sweet, I might have that in)

    So ladies of Seekerville, if i haven't told you. Thanks

    As for husbands, mine has learned to take off and do things on his own. In Denver he can go visit family.
    I must admit that I bring him along as a crutch at times just incase no one wants to talk to me.
    He has to. And he can be there when I whine at night because i feel so out of place. Or because I freaked out after seeing the editor.

  27. If anyone wants to sit at a table and not talk, don't sit next to me.

    Of course, if you're a serious and a rather pious person, better not sit with me either.

    If you have an adversion to someone eating her dessert before her meal, avoid me too.

    ~the quirkless one

    Hey, look my word verification is coconut. In an -ish kinda way. Did you know coconut tastes like fried grasshoppers. Well, toasted coconut does. I suppose I ought to say untoaste coconut tastes like mushy grasshoppers. Blech.

    If you do like coconut and dessert and the table we're sitting has plates of that icky coconut dessert, please sit by me.

  28. Great pointers!

    I'm a little shy, but after going to a couple of conferences, I have been able to relax enough to reach out a little. Everyone's in the same boat and looking for a friendly face.

    Congrats on the GH final! ;)

  29. Jacqui, thanks so much for being with us today!

    I had to laugh at your advice about going to meet the wall flowers. It's such a good point. My cp and roomie at conferences, Lindi, is great at that. I'm always amazed when she brings "strays" to our room or invites them to dinner. She's so good at it! And I always end up with a new friend. I just need to be a better initator!

    At one of my first conferences, where I was a pitiful wallflower, a very kind Harlequin author, Patricia McLinn, came up to talk to me. I admitted I was anxious about schmoozing. She told me that she had a conference rule of making sure to meet 4 new people at each conference. She couldn't rest until she had forced herself to do that. And I've done it ever since!

    And now, it's not so painful. :)


  30. Welcome to Seekerville, Jacqui and super congrats on the Golden Heart final!! Attending a conference as a GH finalist is like eating a huge banana split on a no-calorie Friday!!

    Interviewing folks during a conference. What a wonderful idea, Jacqui! Such a great ice breaker, too.

    Thanks for sharing a great idea!

  31. Gina,

    I am so gonna sit with you. And not talk... as I am dreadfully serious and quite pious.

    Then I shall seek out Mary and get her to ask me questions where I shall mystify her with my pithy answers and equally astounding verbage repetoire.

    Anyway, Gina, if I sit with you
    Just don't try and cram any grasshoppers/coconuts toasted or otherwise down my throat.

    I've actually had the things.
    They don't have much meat and the spindly legs are rather hard to get out of your teeth.

    I've had ants/chocolate covered when I didn't mean to either. Mom left some chocolate on the counter where unbeknowst to her, it was attacked by a small band of wall roving sugar ants. Had she paid attention to the black line heading for her counter I might have had a reprieve and merely had chocolate

    But alas, she put the Russel Stover Candy bag back in the freezer so her unsuspecting daughter, moi, could find it and dine on ant morsels. I got chocolate with with ground sorta funky textured nuts only it was supposed to be smooth caramel.

    I was spitting ants, hacking ants, and trying my best not to spew them.

    From then on out I checked the chocolate in mom's fridge

  32. LOL ... not sure of this will pertain to discussion, but maybe it is an added pointer from someone who just gave a speech and spoke so fast -- they loved the speech though I spoke so fast they compared me to a -- well -- we don't have to go there ... ;)

    * Do not have donuts for breakfast at conference: sugar rush makes nerves more pronounced.
    * Do not shoot espresso shot to wake up: self explanatory, I think.
    * Do not use asthma meds (uppers) two minutes before meeting; all uppers and speed you up ...

    Thought I might go jog five miles after reading all the posts here!!

    Great to hear from everyone!



  33. Well, Jacqui, since we're giving conferance advice, here's mine.

    Word to the wise:

    If you have a cold, don't ask your critique partner/hostess if she has any medicine in her cabinet. And if by chance she does and the insane yet desperate person you are takes some, DON'T under any circumstances drink a 1/4 of a small glass of blush wine because your crit partner says you ought to at least try it before you say you don't like it.

    Speaking hypothetically, of course.

  34. What fun responses...

    Tina P called Tina R. "Ms. Russo"

    That's what we call her, too, Tina P...... To her face.


    And Mary says I kept pulling her back into the conversation.


    That one is probably true. At least it's not as bad as me grabbing onto Tina in the ladies' room.

    When she'd never seen, heard, nor knew anything about me, pre-Seekers.

    Or Julie thinking I was the big meany pants who gave her a '93' out of 215 for A Passion Most Pure.

    The laugh would be on me then, wouldn't it???

    Loving the coffee. On cup #gazillion for the day. Bless you, Sherrinda, for refreshing the pot.

    Editors are actually some of the most down-to-earth, natural people I've ever met.

    They know you're nervous and they're sympathetic to that. I've found that to be true with agent appts. as well.

    But I love the idea of friending the wallflowers. Reaching out. Giving back.

    Life's too short to not spread all the sunshine you can muster.


  35. I make it a point to find at least one person --- usually more then once -- to find that one person sitting off by themselves and invite them to join us.

    I don't know if I ever make a difference, but I do remember that first time I was at a conference all by myself, without knowing anyone and those two people -- who are still friends to this day -- asked me to join them for a glass of wine at their table.

    Thanks Elizabeth and Brooke!! I still remember!!


  36. Hi Jacqui!

    Just wanted to stop in, say hi- and great tips. Cheers!

  37. Home for the night and ready to chat!! Anyone what to play? If we play, I can goof off and not work!!

    Oh, I am sooo bad ... ;)


  38. Great blog and right on the money. I remember my first conference, my eyeballs popping as I spotted folks I'd only seen on back covers, my heart palpatating at the possibility of conversing with a genre star. It didn't take long to discover you are 100% right; they are people just like you and me--moms, wives, sisters, daughters (and in rare instances the male equivalent)--and very nice to know.

  39. >Wonderful post, and a reminder that >you never know who you'll meet. >That "wallflower" holding the wall >up might be your next best friend, >or even the next bestselling author >(who just might write a blurb for >your book!). It never hurts to >start up a conversation and find >out what you have in common.

    I am picturing myself at the Desert Dreams Commence, 2008 -- walking into the hospitality suite and having this woman wave at me from across the room. Totally confused by her complete and total recognition of *me* I waved back. She laughed, leaned to the person next to her and I read, rather than heard her say to the person next to her, "She has **no** idea who I am!!"

    Having her come over to reintroduce herself to me – I am embarrassed to say we had met on several occasions and I **should** have known her -- it turned out to be a life altering experience. She has become one of the best friends I have ever had!!

    So Do It ... I say!! Say Hi!! Have that drink!! And make everyone feel welcome!! I know if this friend hadn't stood up and walked across the room, I wouldn’t be getting deviled eggs on Sunday for dinner!! ;)


  40. I attended the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference last week (my second conference ever) and just received a card via snail mail from a wonderful aspiring author there. Jacqui, your tips were great, especially about the 'pitch'. I gave my first one during this conference and the editor asked for a proposal. Of course, I'm not the subtle type, either. I said, "Okay, you're my first victim on this pitch business, so here it goes." I wish I could have read your post beforehand and perhaps I would have been more...eloquent ;-)

    One thing I had to keep in mind is that the 'other' person wants to talk about all their works-in-progress too. So instead of hording all the time, I had to consciously go..."Okay, Pepper - backoff. Stop talking about dress designs of WWI or your imaginary friends in your fantasy series. Let the other person talk!"

    I'd love to attend the ACFW conference sometime or Mt. Hermon. That will have to be somewhere in future, though. I've gotta find a way to get out there in the West where all of you cool people live. :-)