Making Friends at Bar-Con

There are few places less appealing to a strongly introverted personality than a crowded bar. I for one have found it very easy to become overwhelmed by the mass of strangers, the cacophony of competing conversations, and the obnoxious behavior of those who over indulge. It’s not unreasonable to dismiss the convention bar as not being worth your time, especially when it is competing with sleep and other programming. I surely felt that way for the first few years I was making the rounds on the con circuit. However, I’ve since learned better.

Every major convention I’ve been to has had some version of Bar-con. Typically it’s not advertised, but also not all that hard to find. Bar-con is the tongue-in-cheek name for the unofficial “after hours programming,” usually held at the largest public space in the main convention hotel. Sometimes it’s the lobby bar or restaurant. Sometimes it’s the pub next door. Either way, look for the place with the most convenient access and the best drink specials.

Now, the trick of Bar-con is something that I learned at the Superstars Writing Seminar, specifically from the more experienced friends that I met there. Editors and agents receive hundreds, if not thousands, of pitches and submissions every year. The vast majority of them they reject. Meeting someone at Bar-con isn’t about getting that golden opportunity to throw your pitch, but rather getting to know them as a person and letting them get to know you.

Talk about anything you want, my friends told me. Talk about your cats, your love of golden age science fiction, and the trip you took to San Francisco last summer, but don’t talk about your book until you are invited to do so. If they are in a position to acquire, they’ll ask. If not, it is better to save you both the mutual embarrassment of a face-to-face rejection.

Secondly and most importantly, you must be genuine in your interest. Treat them like a person you are trying to get to know and not someone you want a favor from. People know instinctively if the person sitting across the table from them is being genuine, or if they are faking it because they want something. Bar-con, they said, is about making friends first, conducting business second.

Most groups with actual, overt business will find a place further away from the main hotel to work so that they are not interrupted. If you happen to see an agent and an editor talking over dinner five blocks from the convention, I wouldn’t approach them. That discussion isn’t about you. However, sometimes agents or editors will hold court at Bar-con. That is the perfect time to go and talk to them. As my friends advised me, be a person to them first and let them introduce the business you both are there to conduct. That way, you’ll have your best shot at making your golden pitch.


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