First, I wanted to say that I love your blog. Thank you for all you do to help out everyone in the blogsphere. Second, I had a question about trade shows, namely BEA. If an agent goes to the show, is it appropriate for a writer to approach them and introduce themselves? Maybe talk to them about their novel? Or is this considered rude and annoying?
The answer is complicated.
There are trade shows where unpublished authors are allowed in - and trade shows where they are not, the BEA being one of those. Three years ago, when I attended my first BEA, this was not being well enforced. If you paid the money to register as a publishing company - whether that company existed or not - you could get a badge and access to the floor. Since it was an internet registration, you didn't have to show your credentials, be it a small town rag or Simon & Schuster. Agents, however, had their own tables in a segregated area to meet with clients so they wouldn't be bothered, and the guy at the door was pretty strict about who he let in (I had to argue to go in to speak with my boss because I was not registered as her assistant).
According to my boss, they're trying to crack down on that at the BEA because editors and agents are sick of dealing with unpublished authors pitching to them. It's not that they don't want new authors, it's that it's hard to say "No, go away, I seriously have a meeting with buyers right now" to someone looking desperate. The BEA is, primarily, a show for publishers, agents, and industry people to do business with one another, in a limited space and a limited time, especially if they have to man a booth for the next 6 hours, then be on a panel, then attend a wine-n-cheese, then spend $4.00 for a friggin' bottle of water (THANKS, Javitz Center), then stumble around from author event to keynote speaker in the haze of someone who has been awake way, way too long.
There's that motorcycle Zen guy who tells the story of pitching his book at a trade show and getting a million dollar deal (I'm sketchy on the specifics here) and that started the whole business, but really, please don't do it. If you happen to be at the trade show for trade show reasons and you happen to be talking to an editor whom you know is currently buying the type of book you are trying to sell, "Can I pitch my book to you?" is not a bad question to ask. In all fairness, that's how I got my first book deal, so I can't totally write it off. That said, don't crash the BEA and chat up every agent who happens to be in the bathroom line with you. That's tacky.