Tag: conferences

conferences

How Much To Drink On The Job?

Here’s a real question for all the writers out there and non writers, too. When at a professional event where much of the business happens around alcohol, should you have a drink or two, despite it killing a few brain cells that you might need to be on your game, or remain stone cold sober? #askingforafriend  Personally, I’ve had conferences and panel events during which I’ve imbibed very little (potentially coming across as a too reserved and standoffish as a result). And others when, in embarrassing retrospect, I probably had one too many and wasn’t my best self by the end of the night. Alcohol is a social lubricant and it helps me, like many people, feel less anxious in large groups of folks that I don’t know very well. Feeling comfortable leads to more natural conversation and, I think, genuine friendships. (And, yes, I understand some people can totally be themselves and have lovely conversations without any alcohol. Kudos to them!….Moving on.)  But these conferences are also where I meet other authors and editors, on whom I hope to make an impression as a smart, capable person. When working and writing, I think that I am a smart, capable, creative person. When drinking, I can become a too-revealing chatterbox. It’s not always so easy to catch and hold the moment between being the former person, yet socially relaxed, and the latter.  So, how much do you drink at these things? One, Two… Hell with it, who cares? I’m thinking no more than one glass… and only seltzer lime for the important meetings….   

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Authors and Books and Readers, Oh My

 Crime conference season is still in full swing. Thrillerfest takes place in New York City in a couple of weeks. (Yes, I’ll be there!) Bouchercon happens in Florida in September. Dozens of other events are scheduled worldwide between now and November. I counted 17 on Sisters in Crime’s upcoming events calendar. Libraries also kick off their summer reading programs this time of year. They host author events in conjunction with their efforts to encourage people to get out and read. This Saturday, June 30, from 1-3pm, I’ll be at the Dixon Public Library in Dixon, IL as part of their Summer Author Series. Author events and conferences have several things in common—authors, books, and readers. Beyond that, they’re as different as, well, authors, books, and readers. Some feature moderated panels. Several authors answer questions they may or may not have received in advance. Some feature interviews. Someone, usually an author, interviews the featured guest author in front of an audience. Authors read from their works at some events and give prepared speeches at others. Sometimes an author hosts a table. Readers may spend the entire event seated with the table’s host or they may move from table to table and meet several. These events usually involve food. Yum. This weekend’s event at the Dixon Public Library is a meet and greet and Q and A. Readers will ask me questions and I’ll try to answer them. What’s your favorite format for author events?

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And the Winner is…

 Welcome to awards season! The Golden Globes, the NAACP Image Awards, the BAFTA Awards, the SAG Awards, The Academy Awards… Rotten Tomatoes lists about forty-one awards shows between September 2017 and March 2018. All focused on film and TV. Books win awards, too. Everyone’s heard of the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize, the Man Booker Prize, the National Book Award. These well-known literary prizes represent only a few of the accolades awarded to outstanding examples of writing. Many less well-known (although no less impressive) awards focus on particular genres. The Nebulas and Hugos honor achievements in science fiction in fantasy, The Edgars do the same for mysteries, and the RITA honors romance. As a mystery author, I pay the most attention to awards given to crime fiction: The Agatha, the Thriller, the Barry, the Lefty, the Dagger, the Anthony, the Nero, the Macavity…I’d be here until next award season if I listed them all. Crime fiction prizes are generally awarded at banquets, often in conjunction with conferences. The Agatha is presented as part of Malice Domestic, The Lefty is awarded at Left Coast Crime, the Anthony at Bouchercon, the Thriller at Thrillerfest. The conferences give readers a chance to meet authors, authors a chance to meet readers, authors and others in the publishing industry a chance to network (usually at a cocktail party or the hotel bar), and everyone a chance to attend panels, lectures, and workshops. Awards/conference season is a mixture of excited anticipation and crime (fiction)-filled fun. It presents a few challenges, however. Who to nominate for an award and who to vote for (for those awards where the nominees and winners are chosen by readers and/or conference attendees) and which conferences and banquets to go to. Which to attend is especially challenging. If you had the time to do nothing but travel and unlimited funds, you could be on the road constantly from March through July. You have to pick and choose. Do you plan your travel based on who’s up for an award, who’s speaking, location, timing, or a combination of factors? What conferences do you attend? How do you choose?

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Promoting… The All Important P In Publishing

Promotion! I hate it. Some folks may love it. Certainly, most folks are way better at it than I am. So, my question to the MissDemeanors this week was: What is the best thing you’ve done to help promote your book so far? I’ve highlighted some of my favorite bits that I will definitely be exploring with my latest book.   Here’s mine. I had a murder mystery party in my house for The Widower’s Wife. About 50 couples showed up and everyone had a character (most of which I made up). Pretty much everyone bought a book. More importantly, folks had so much fun being part of a mystery that they actually read the book and then shared it with friends. I am pretty sure that each person who came spread the word. At the end of the day, I can’t quantify the sales, but it was fun and it definitely got folks talking.  Michele: The unfortunate answer to this question is I don’t know. That’s because it’s very difficult to tell what works and doesn’t unless you can make a direct connection to your sales. My sense is that marketing my books to people who live in or visit and love the Virgin Islands has worked best. I think that might get filed under “Finding Your Audience.” Susan: I’ve taken part in several Bones and Scones events at the Madison Library, and those are fun because the only people who go are cozy mystery readers. And people who like scones. (This would go to Michele’s point about Finding Your Audience.) In terms of sales, the number one thing I’ve done is take part in BookBub. That causes your sales to jump by thousands in one day. It’s at a reduced price, but if you’re looking to get your name out there, it’s very helpful. Also, Gotham Writers has a newsletter they send out to 40,000 or so people and they’ve been very nice about excerpting my work and promoting it. Paula: It’s hard to know what works and what doesn’t, so the best thing is to do is as much as possible. Social media’s critical, and I do a lot of that. I also do a lot of appearances at writer’s conferences, where I sell a lot of my writing books (as that’s where my audience is). Robin Stuart: I second Paula’s advice. Conferences and social media are good for reaching beyond your immediate circles. So is looking for and jumping on every single opportunity to be interviewed, interviewing someone else, and writing articles/blogs on topics close to your platform or premise. If you’re not already a member of organizations like Sisters In Crime and Mystery Writers of America – do it now. They both offer opportunities for volunteering, panel appearances and organized events to raise your own profile as well as that of your books. I’m also a fan of creative promotions, like our Miss Demeanors webcam covers. Since I write what I know (cyber crime) I have “names” in the cyber crime fighting community ready and willing to help out with promotional ideas and opportunities, too. Basically, book promotion is self-promotion. The key is to throw shyness out the window. Believe in your product (you) and leverage your communities, be they personal, professional, local or international. It’s all fair game and the only limits are your imagination. Tracee: I think I agree with everyone! Particularly on the it’s hard to tell what works issue. I’m with Paula that you have to delve into social media, but I keep looking for the sweet spot – meaning how much and how targeted. I wish I could do it as well as Steve Berry. His social media posts are consistent and reflect the focus of his books – thrillers set around a historical topic. When he is gearing up for a launch the posts focus on historic facts/places/items of interest surrounding that particular theme (for example, tie in to the Templars for the Templar Legacy.) When he’s not gearing up for a launch the historic topics range a bit further but keep the interest of readers who like the history angle. It’s targeted and informative. I think it is a success. I’ve not been as creative as Cate with her mystery party but I do think that in-person helps. I liken it to politics. When you are a new candidate (or a known name going to the next level) you have to meet people. Hopefully these people become your strongest supporters (fans) and spread the word. For me, that means getting out and about: bookstores, libraries, local groups, in person or Skype book clubs and, of course, conferences. I also think these outings are energizing. Meeting readers and talking about books is why we write! I always think what would Paula do/say? She would likely remind us all that the MOST important thing we do is put time into writing the best book we can. So I suppose that’s the scale upon which I weigh the other marketing activities. Have to do them, but don’t let them become all I do. Alexia: My publisher’s sales are mostly online so I’m working on “building my social media presence”. I’ve got an account on nearly everything except Reddit, although I have varying success in keeping up with all of them. I blog, which is not something I did before I had a book deal. (And, honestly, wouldn’t if I wasn’t an author.) I seldom say no to interviews on others’ blogs or podcasts (even though I think my recorded voice sounds weird). I also go to as many conferences as I can afford to/arrange time off from work for. A lot of my book sales are made at conferences, both on-site and to people who meet/hear me and buy later. Conferences help me improve my networking skills as well as sell books. I’ve made contact with people who’ve offered me guest blogs, interviews, and book blurbs. The next time I see a movie or TV show that depicts an author leading the life of a hermit, never connecting with anyone but their inner muse, yet still selling books, I’m going to track down the script writer and bop them over the head with my calendar. (Not really, because I don’t advocate violence but you know what I mean.) On the plus side, I made enough trips this year to get my United frequent flyer status upgraded to Silver. If I ever win Powerball or Mega Millions, I’m hiring a publicist. Alison: As a yet-to-be-published writer, I know where to turn in 2018 when I need advice! I have to admit, it’s not something I’m thinking about yet. (Alison, book mark this blog. I learned a lot from our fellow MissDemeanors.)  

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Conferences–Worth it?

 I am writing this blog when I should be booking a ticket to Nashville. I’ve already signed up for Killer Nashville, you see, and–though I’ve paid my conference fee and for my hotel–I have yet to book a flight. I will. I’m hemming and hawing about airline prices and not yet wanting to part with the money in my savings account.  Conferences can empty wallet. I’ve yet to attend one that didn’t ultimately set me back a grand with all the travel expenses and registration fees–not to mention the cost of promotional swag. So, a natural question is, are they worth it?  I think conferences help build an author’s brand and enable writers to connect with other novelists, both of which can sell books. Though I think anyone that believes he or she will go to a conference and see a resulting spike in his or her Amazon ranking will be ultimately disappointed. Conferences are largely attended by other writers. And, though writers buy and read lots of books, they are there to sell their own work–not to spend a bunch of money on their friends’ novels. What’s more important, though, is that writers talk about other writers and, ultimately, will read and promote authors whom they respect. This community promotion can help legitimize a new author’s career and get mid-list authors noticed. Successful writers, in my experience, are very generous with their time and platforms, perhaps because they were once in a similar situation on the mid-list or struggling to get published. (I also believe that people who spend a great deal of time imagining the feelings of others in various situations might be trained to be more empathetic than the average Joe. Though, this is a theory based entirely on supposition).  Conferences also give out awards recognizing stellar books, which can be helpful for sales. And, since writers typically vote for the winning titles, it can be difficult for a novice to get noticed for such recognition if he or she doesn’t have other authors–likely met at conferences and book signings and panels–who are aware of his or her work.  So, I guess that means I should go on Travelocity.     

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Should you go to a conference?

 I sold my first novel, The Fiction Class, to an editor I met at the NY Pitch Conference. A few years later,  I met my fabulous agent, Paula Munier,  at the NY Pitch Conference. She sold my Maggie Dove mystery series to an editor I had met at the NY Pitch Conference. So it would be fair to say, I’m in the pro-conference camp. (I should add that I now work at the NY Pitch Conference.)  Last year, with my new mystery series debuting, I thought it  important to get out and meet people in the mystery-writing community, and so I went to three new (to me) conferences: Malice Domestic, which is geared toward cozies, Bouchercon, which is huge and was in New Orleans, and Writers’ Police Academy, which was in Wisconsin and gave me lots of hands-on experience. The conferences were thrilling, exhausting and educational and I’m still going through my notes. So, I asked my fellow Miss Demeanors what they felt about conferences and this is what they said:  Count me among the big fans, too. I attend a lot of conferences for both my day job and my writing career and learned early on that you get out of them what you put in. Like most experiences in life. Through writers’ conferences I’ve learned the difference between writing for myself and writing for commercial markets, continually learn how to hone my craft, and offer my technology expertise to fellow authors during social events to anyone who asks. I’ve also seized opportunities to hang out with a couple of my heroes whose careers I intend to mimic. And, of course, I met my wonderful agent, Paula, at a conference 🙂
–Robin Stuart Conferences? I’m a huge advocate. There’s no other place where you can learn about the business, network, and feel like a part of a vibrant community. Of course I met Paula at my first writer’s conference so I’m predisposed to like them. And there are so many choices – near and far, for craft, networking or to meet fans. Anywhere or any type, I return home re-charged. –Tracee de Hahn It’s how I found Paula. That was super helpful for me. I don’t know from a sales perspective. They always seem like writers talking to other writers. I makes me feel like I have a community, though–Cate Holahan I love writer’s conferences. As a writer, I love them for craft, camaraderie, and creativity. As an author, I love them for selling books and networking. As an agent, I love them for meeting new writers and hanging out with editors and agents and clients. Best of all, they’re fun!–Paula Munier I adore writing conferences where I can get lots of information about craft and the business of writing and seek the comfort and company of fellow writers. This year I am co-chair of my favorite conference, The New England Crime Bake. I’d love to see you there. 

–Michele Dorsey  

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Swag or No Swag

 The thriller and mystery writer community’s biggest annual bash starts tomorrow in New Orleans. In the midst of packing for my 7a.m. flight today I made a big decision: NO SWAG. At last year’s Bouchercon, I brought a suitcase full of free giveaways to promote my first novel, Dark Turns. Bookmarks. Stress balls with my blue-hued book cover on them. Folders with a sticker advertising my personal Web site. Three boxes of business cards. I was cheap by comparison to some of the swag-laden authors that I encountered. Some writers splurged on custom printed pens. I saw t-shirts with pithy quotes from novels. A few scribes that I knew splurged on custom canvas bags with their book covers emblazoned on the front.  Aside from the bags and perhaps pens, I’m pretty sure most of the giveaway items ended up in the garbage. People fly to these conferences with carry-ons to avoid checked bag fees. The last thing most authors want after shelling out a bunch of cash for airfare and hotels–not to mention drinks at the bar–is to pay more to bring home additional luggage. It’s enough that authors tend to end conferences with a bunch of books that must be shoved into their bags or shipped home.  This year, I am bringing myself, one box of business cards and two copies of my book, which I’ll likely gift to friends. That’s it. The Widower’s Wife took a year of my life to go from first draft to finished product. In my opinion, it’s pretty valuable and so is everyone else’s book who will attend the conference. Authors and fans know better than to expect a writer to giveaway a year’s worth of their time for free. And I highly doubt that a stress ball will sell my book any better than a business card with some of my reviews featured on the front, the book cover and my photo–so whomever I passed my card to can remember who I am among the many, many people he or she is sure to meet.  Am I making the right decision? I don’t know. What is your opinion on swag? Wonderful or wasteful?    

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