Tag: conferences

conferences

Left Coast Party

Attending Left Coast Crime this year? Join me, along with several of the short story authors appearing in Sisters in Crime NorCal’s brand-new anthology of crime and mystery fiction, FAULT LINES, for a Happy Hour toast to our readers!

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History and Mystery and Crime Bakes

 I returned home from New England Crime Bake late Sunday night. I spent a wonderful weekend in Woburn, Massachusetts meeting old friends, meeting Facebook friends face-to-face, and making new friends. I participated on a great panel, moderated by fellow Missdemeanor, Michele Dorsey, where we discussed mash-ups/cross-genre novels, what they were, how they came to be, and what they mean for the publishing industry. Hank Phillipi Ryan complemented me on my panel performance. (How cool is that?) I spent time chatting with conference attendees about medicine and whiskey. I got to hang out with the incomparable Walter Mosley. And I heard Mr. Mosley, Frankie Bailey, Bill Martin, and Elisabeth Elo talk about how they use history in writing mystery. This panel especially intrigued me, as I’m a history buff. The past fascinates me. Not so much the big, well-known stories—although as I discover the version of history I learned in school as “fact” may not have been 100% accurate, I’ve re-examined some of the big stories and found them more interesting than I originally thought—but the history of everyday people. How did Regular Jane and Average Joe earn their living? What did they wear? What did they eat? What did they think about the “big” stories, stories that were news to them, not history? How fitting that Crime Bake is held in one of the most history-filled areas of the United States. I wondered why our hotel was decorated with sewing machines, shoe lasts, and photos of old bills for footwear, some Google sleuthing revealed Woburn’s leather tanning industry dates back to the 1600s. Woburn is near Boston, a historical treasure trove, but it’s also near Salem, home of the infamous Witch Trials and location of the house made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne as The House of the Seven Gables. I made time for a side trip to Salem and spent a sunny afternoon learning about the Turners and Ingersolls (the house’s real-life owners) and Hawthorne. I had no trouble understanding why the mansion (and his cousin who owned it) inspired Hawthorne to make it the centerpiece of his novel. Are you a history fan? Are you a names and dates kind of history buff or do you prefer the stories of the not-so-famous people who lived on the dash between the dates? Or the more thoroughly researched stories of the famous which goes beyond the popular myths and shows them to be humans who accomplished things? What historical person or period would you want to experience in a novel?

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Thrilled by ThrillerFest

It’s been a couple of weeks but I’m still enjoying the afterglow of attending ThrillerFest for the first time. From meeting a few more of my fellow Miss Demeanors to hallway chats with some of my literary heroes, I made the most of the experience. How, you may ask? To paraphrase literary publicist Sara Wigal, by saying yes. When my agent invited her clients to an opening night cocktail party, I said yes. In addition to finally meeting D. A. Bartley, Alexia Gordon, and Cate Holahan in real life, along with seeing Susan Breen again, I met Lisa Gardner (and her mom) and Lee Child. Susan and I somehow ended up in a conversation with Mr. Child about rats. It must have been memorable to him, as well, because he greeted both Susan and I by name on separate occasions throughout the weekend. Life achievement unlocked.
 At every opportunity to speak with the authors who generously shared their time and experiences on panels, I said yes. This is how I had multiple hallway conversations with Lisa Gardner, spoke with Meg Gardiner, and fangirled over Walter Mosely. To those people who took photos of my conversation with Mr. Mosely, feel free to post them on our Facebook page.
 When riding in an elevator with A. R. Shaw, she asked if I was published and I told her about my forthcoming short story. She said, “Follow me.” I said yes. I ended up on a live broadcast of the Authors On The Air radio blog streamed from the Strand’s onsite bookstore. When several authors, including a best seller, asked me if I’d be willing to give them insights into cyber crime topics, I said yes. I’m now fielding questions and having a blast. Saying yes to the Fest has kept the thrill going as I power through the homestretch with my latest manuscript. I hope ThrillerFest inspired you, too! 

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ThrillerFest in Photos

Last week, as I may have mentioned, I went to ThrillerFest in NYC. Had a fabulous time, and here’s the proof. The conference began with an absolutely fabulous party, thrown by the wonderful Talcott Notch crew of Gina Panettieri and Paula Munier. As you can see, a quorum of Miss Demeanors gathered together and had some fun. At that party were the great Lee Child and Lisa Gardner. They both signed my poster. You can’t see their signatures, but trust me, they’re there.  Following that was a barrage of workshops and panels. I heard Alexia Gordon talk about “Werewolves, Vampires or Witches” (in a panel moderated by Heather Graham). Hank Phillippi Ryan talked about “Playboys, Scoundrels or Foxy Floozies.”Paula Munier talked about “Editing Your Manuscript,” on a panel moderated by Lori Rader-Day. And then there was George R.R. Martin, who traded stories with Lee Child, Heather Graham, David Morrell and R.L. Stine. (On a personal note, I spent a good chunk of the 90s reading R.L. Stine to my children and he’s absolutely lovely.)  There were also tons of book signings and I came home with many wonderful things to read, among them a signed version of A Game of Thrones. Below is a picture of me meeting with George R.R. Martin. True to form, I could think of nothing fabulous to say, but we did agree it was nice that I did not have to travel a long way to the conference.   So there it is!A wonderful time. Anyone else have any ThrillerFest stories to share?

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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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Malice Domestic Most Geographical

This month my story, “The End of the World,” will be in a new anthology titled Malice Domestic Most Geographiical (published by Wildside Press.) I am delighted to be included with so many authors I respect, among them G. M. Malliet, Edith Maxwell, Alan Orloff, Keenan Powell, Triss Stein, Leslie Wheeler, and many more. Even more meaningful to me is that I now truly feel like a member of the cozy mystery writing community. One of the things I like about writing for anthologies is that they prompt you to write about things you might not otherwise have considered. In this case, as you might guess, the prompt was to set a mystery anywhere in the world. Setting had to play a part in the story. I spent months debating where the mystery should take place.  I had recently been on a trip to London and it seemed to me that a tour offered up certain murderous possibilities. But then I happened to be watching an episode of Island Hunters and a couple went on a honeymoon to an overwater bungalow hotel in Tahiti. This is a string of little thatched rooms that are lined up, one after the other, over a bay, connected by only a narrow boardwalk. The minute I saw it I knew that’s where my murder could take place. It was beautiful, it was isolated, and it seemed to me that if the wind blew in the wrong direction, it might be possible to overheard a conversation that might have dangerous repercussions. I can honestly say that I never would have written about Tahiti without this prompt, but I’m so glad I did! Now I would like to stay there.   

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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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