I write books. I treat it as a business. But creating my product is only one facet of everything I have to do to be successful in the publishing business. As everyone knows there isn’t a business out there that doesn’t advertise.
Because what’s the sense of writing books if I don’t let readers know they’re out there?
So what does that mean? Well, it’s that “P” word that makes even successful authors shudder. Promotion. I’m currently pulling things together for the convention season. I have all the usual materials including bookflats and bookmarks, pens and magnets, and I’ve even put together a couple of excerpt books. I send them wherever convention coordinators are looking for goodie bag materials.
Here are my trading cards (available to readers with just an email …)
Now I’ve expanded to buy an ad in the Romantic Times convention floor plan. Literally thousands of people, authors and readers alike attend this week long celebration of romance. I also now have a book cover in a deck of cards. The five of spades.
But for the first time I’m venturing into stuff. I’m looking at reusable grocery bags and chip clips. They’re a tad on the expensive side. And I’m really wrestling with this. Any good business would spend their advertising dollars only where there is return. But for an author that’s a very nebulous thing to measure. It’s said a person needs to see something at least 10 times before it registers. Wow, that’s a lot of people who need to not only see my name, but realize that I write romance novels.
I’m not sure if the money I’m forking out is going to be worth it. But I figure I’ll give it a try for this year anyway. At the very least that’s 100 more reusable grocery bags that’ll be out there and saving the environment from plastic.
But of course this still doesn’t answer the question … what makes you plop down your hard earned green stuff to buy a book?
It’s conference season.
Not that you can’t find a conference or writing retreat any time of the year, but it seems to hit high gear in another month and run through the early fall. A writer can find any theme or genre from mystery to romance and from large to cozy and everything in between.
There are conferences designed for authors to mingle, network with editors and agents and learn their craft and just as many conferences designed to let them reach out to readers. If a writer has a need, there’s a conference out there to accomodate them.
But you know what? They’re expensive. And for me, not only is the travel difficult, but maneuvering around a conference with MS is such a pain. I’m an extrovert and love being around people, but it’s overshadowed by mobility issues. Conventions are so not my thing anymore.
But I worry I’m missing out.
Do editors and agents expect you to show up at these events? Am I missing opportunities to meet new readers if I don’t go to some of the reader conventions like Authors After Dark or Lori Foster’s Get Together (which I highly recommend) or even Romanticon (if you’re an erotic romance reader)? Are marketing opportunities passing me by if I don’t sit on panels?
I don’t know. But I’d love to hear what you think. As a reader are you more likely to buy books from an author you met at a convention or do you tend to only seek out authors you know? And what about you writers? Are there opportunities you’ve stumbled upon at conventions that you know you wouldn’t have found otherwise? Because you know me … I’m curious about this kind of stuff.
There are all kinds of opportunities for authors to strut their stuff at conventions. Every time you turn around there’s an invitation for a convention. Conventions for writers to hang with other writers. Conventions for writing. Conventions for readers to meet authors. Conventions for writers to meet agents and editors.
Every season is filled with opportunites.
I’m not a convention kind of gal. They’re not productive for me. I meet other authors (who are wonderful) and very successful. I listen to speakers who have been in the trenches and now are reaping the rewards of their hard work. And I am happy for them, I really am. But the truth is, it depresses me. It doesn’t motivate me. It makes me feel like I’m way behind the eight ball.
Of course there is also the mobility issue. My MS does make it very hard to get around and hanging out in the bar when everyone’s moving from group to group becomes an issue. Dinner plans can be a nightmare. And I hate to feel like I’m a burden.
And you know what? I’m just not a partying kind of gal. I love to sit around the table sipping wine and chatting with friends, new and old, but drinking at the bar doesn’t interest me. And dressing up? Yeeeeeah, so not into costume parties (which seems to be getting more and more popular).
And last, but not least, there is the expense! Travel, hotel and food … goodness, crazy expensive!
But the guilt of not going to these soirees is really wearing on me. I wonder if I’m shooting myself in the foot by not making a bigger effort to get out to these shindigs and mix and mingle. But then I wonder if there are so many because they become money makers for the organizations hosting them. I don’t know.
Seriously, this whole thing goes in the same category for me as social media and promoting. And obviously (since I keep chatting about it), it’s on my mind. How do you feel about going to conventions either as an author or a reader. What’s your motivation for attending? Do you achieve that goal?
This past weekend I went up to Maine for a writer’s retreat. Unlike a convention, which focuses on primarily teaching and pitch opportunities, this retreat was designed to offer attendees the opportunity for quiet writing time, brainstorming and workshops.
The speakers were amazing. KA Mitchell who did an awesome workshop on character personality types. And wow! she offered some indepth information to give writers tools for making characters that walk off the pages. Plus, she’s got a great sense of humor which made her presentation that much more enjoyable.
Historical author, Hannah Howell gave a wonderful talk on motivation. Something I desperately need at the moment as I’m finding it very easy to do anything but write. Later at dinner, she was recognized by some avid romance readers who stopped over at our table, completely giddy, and asked to have their picture taken with her. (They also were celebrating a bachelorette party which made it even that much more fun!) And Hannah was very gracious posing and smiling for her fans.
On Saturday morning Julia Spencer-Flemming spoke to us about adding suspense and conflict to our stories. She’s a mom of four (which I think contributed to the “nothing can phaze me attitude) with a wonderful sense of humor.
To say I enjoyed listening to these ladies is an understatement. All of them were insightful and, if I can incorporate even half of what they offered for writing tips, will make my stories so much better!
There are some conferences where everyone’s good news can really make me feel like I’m treading slowly through this profession, where I wonder if I’ll ever find my place in the publishing world. Though everyone’s journey is different, sometimes it’s really hard not to compare onesself to others’ successes. But this weekend I was able to just accept where I am and let the energy exploding from the other attendees to really fuel my fire. I am buzzing with the drive to keep going and get the stories in my head down on paper.
There are many conferences coming up in the next few months. Lots of opportunities for readers to meet authors and/or go to book signings. Plenty of chances for writers to rub elbows with their peers, agents and editors. Will you be attending any of them? If you do, why do you attend? I’d love to hear about your experiences because I’m always curious why others are motivated to go to conferences and retreats.
And though I could be blogging from anywhere, I’m actually comfortably settled in at my work desk with my cuppa joe, working in my snuggly jammies and fuzzy slippers. Because as much as people LOVE to go to these conventions, I’m just not sure they’re for me. Yes, I want to meet readers. Yes, I’d love to sit and visit with other authors over a cocktail (or two). Yes, I’d like to chat with agents and editors about the publishing world … but … well, just but. But there’s the expense of traveling across country. But I don’t know the likelihood of meeting new readers. But there’s the whole mobility issue and trying to get around not only the convention, but the city itself.
And then there are all the costume parties. What’s up with that? I don’t know when this whole thing started, but it seems no matter how large or small the writing convention (with the exception of RWA Nationals) everyone is sponsoring themed parties as part of their convention. Whyyyyyyy? Maybe it’s just me, but I have no interest in figuring out how to dress up as a vampire or an alien.
Since I was young, Halloween has been one of the most stressful holidays for me. Around mid-October, I’d break out in cold sweats, and panic everytime I thought about Halloween. Like most people my age, my family didn’t buy costumes. And with five children my Mom left the costume ideas to us. Most of the time we were left scrambling in my parents’ closet after school on the 31st, trying to find oversized clothes to dress up as a vagabond, or my personal favorite, the old bed sheet for … you guessed it … a ghost.
Yeah, they were sad costumes, but served their purpose. I always came home with a pillowcase of candy and some great stories of wandering the neighborhood with my friends.
So anyway, as an adult I’m not really overly thrilled with the whole idea of dress-up. It doesn’t even sort of sound like fun. Is it just me? I mean, I LOVE a good party. But do I have to do it in fangs and wings? Okay, so maybe I’m just a party-pooper. I’m curious are you at RT? As a reader or a writer would you like to be in the middle of the action? And how about these costume parties? Does the idea intrigue or overwhelm? Because you know me, I’m dying of curiousity.
Since convention season is in full swing I thought I’d share with you 13 things I learned at my first writer’s convention in 2008 …
2. NYT Best sellers don’t like you rubbing against them to see if their greatness actually transfers.
3. Sleep is overrated.
4. Always call for the guaranteed wake-up call, that way when you don’t receive it … your room is free.
5. If your roommate unpacks more little bottles of liquor than panties … you picked the right roommate!
6. When you go out to lunch, make sure the restaurant is young and trendy and you sit in the section with the cutest waiter.
7. Always set your cellphone alarm. (See #4.) Breakfast begins at 7 am even if you’re still in the shower.
8. Wine and lack of sleep are a baaad combination … especially in the presence of a hunky waiter.
9. Bring an extra suitcase for all the books everyone gives away.
10. Only bring half as much promotional material as you think you need. Remember … they’re all authors looking to promote their books too!
11. Authors always have a storyline on their mind … erotic authors should remember not everyone takes kindly to you sharing it with them. Okay, so this guy has nothing to do with that … but he’s pretty sexy and I couldn’t resist sharing him.
12. Agents and editors are only human. No matter how they glow or appear to walk on water … they are not demi-Gods … they want to contract writers with good books (and you have a good book) … Repeat this mantra as many times as needed to get through your pitch.
13. Whatever happens at the convention … stays at the convention … even if it isn’t in Las Vegas! (Refer back to #8.)
So this week is the National Romance Writers of America conference. This year it’s being held in Orlando (after some major scrambling when Nashville flooded). Romance writers, editors, agents and aspiring writers will converge to meet and mingle and talk about all things romance in the publishing industry.
And I won’t be there. 🙁
In fact, this is such a large conference, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to manage the crazy running around that authors do at these types of events. My mobility has become problematic. I’m having trouble moving around even small venues these days. I know I’m not the only disabled author. As a matter of fact, I’m surprised at the number of prolific authors with disabilities. Which means, chances are, they’re not attending the conference either.
And let’s not limit this to disabled authors. There are many romance authors who just don’t have the ready cash to shell out for this type of event. TRUST me when I say … these things ain’t cheap!
Does this put us at a disadvantage?
I’m not sure, but part of me worries it does. I belong to several online chapters and they’re all having their general meetings along with the RWA general meeting. There is a PAN tract for published authors that I understand is outstanding. Now, I know, you’re going to tell me I can order the disks and listen to everything on CD. But there are a couple of problems with that, not the least of which I’m not really interested in listening to workshops on tape. What I like is the interaction that happens in the classroom setting. (Yes, that’s totally the teacher in me.) I have no doubt I’d go crazy because I’d like to ask a question but I can’t.
But even IF I did do that, I’m gleaning the wisdom of others, but I sure as heck won’t be sitting at the bar shooting the breeze and rubbing elbows with friends and/or one of my favorite authors. I won’t be bumping into an editor or an agent just “to get to know them”. I won’t be hooking up with like minded authors and get invited to be part of a great new anthology. Nope. Zip. Zero. Zilch. None of that is available to me. Which then makes me ask again, does that put me behind the eight ball? Do I have to work harder because I can’t schmooze with the rest of the romance writing world?
I don’t know the answer to this. I’m wondering what you’re thinking. I’m sure there are LOTS of romance authors out there who aren’t even members of RWA. There’s no law against it. But do you think sometimes you may be missing out? Let me know how you feel.
And if you’re a reader, have you ever attended a reader/writer conference like Ellora Cave’s Romanticon? Did you ever find a new-to-you author because you had a chance to meet them in person and just had to have their books?
Okay, so last year Ellora’s Cave held their first ever reader/writer conference in Richfield, Ohio. Where you ask? Okay, so it’s not Las Vegas or Chicago or San Diego or any of the bigger cities where conferences are normally scheduled. But let me tell you … it was the PERFECT place to hold a conference.
Mainly because it’s really close to Ellora Cave’s offices. Which we totally got to tour. Very cool. We saw the printing presses running and got to meet a couple of the editors and see Patty’s HUGE python (and yes, it’s in a cage). And they even opened the doors to publisher, Raelene Gorlinsky’s office. You wouldn’t believe, but she has … ah, nope you’re not getting that out of me. There are some things you’re going to have to check out for yourself.
Anyway, besides being near the offices, the town of Richfield is beautiful. Quiet (well, except the hotel where we were playing…er…staying. Where the EC authors and staying.) Yeah, that’s it. Anyway, Mr. Nina hung out at the golf courses during the day while I hung out with cover models and authors and cover models and readers and cover models and editors and I’m thinking there were a couple of cover models there … It was amazingly fun. I can honestly say the BEST conference I had ever been to. I think mostly because it was EC authors mingling with EC readers. Everyone there loved erotic romance.
Which of course brings me to some of the workshops. Since it was alllll about erotic romance we talked about reader likes and dislikes including a workshop on word “turn-ons” and “turn-offs”. I laughed so hard as woman let loose and talked very frankly about sex and kink and words that worked for them. It was SUCH an eye opener. And fun! Did I mention fun?
Friday night was a 60’s theme party and dance. Saturday night was a more formal dinner with awards and of course plenty of time for hanging out in jeans at the bar and continuing the party. Sunday night ended the weekend with a pizza get-together and Bingo games with the models handing out the prizes.
And of course I didn’t mention that there was plenty of time for authors to meet and greet and readers to have an opportunity to sit and chat with their favorite EC authors. In a nutshell… it was FUN! Very relaxed and just a TON of fun hanging out with friends. I don’t want to miss out on the party so I’m going to be there again this year. Registration is still open. Won’t you join us at ROMANTICON 2010? Ooookay, here’s one more thing that may just tempt you to join us …
I’m baaaack! And I’ve got to tell you … every wonderful thing you’ve heard about the Lori Foster/Dianne Castell in Cincinnati, Ohio is absolutely true! I traveled from Maine with Pam Champagne. Neither of us are seasoned travelers which made the trip itself … quite an adventure.
We knew we were in trouble the minute our feet hit the airport at 6:30am. We dragged ourselves and our gear up to this very handsome young man at the Delta counter to check in only to be told we need to get our boarding passes from a kiosk. Huh? So we schlepp the two suitcases, two travel bags, the lap top and a gimpy woman (me) backwards. After much scratching of heads and giggling we manage to have it spit out two boarding passes and a luggage receipt for each of us. Then of course we had to go back and give the nice young man our luggage at which time he hands us two more slips of paper. (Trust me when I say this is significant.)
After a quick bite and a cup of coffee we dare to venture to security. Now mind you, in Bangor, Maine they have all these snaking lanes just in case a crowd every shows up, but the 4 of us checking in didn’t really need to go through the maze and the TSA guys took pity on me and opened the barriers right next to them. Though as we pawed through the pieces of paper searching for the right boarding pass I think they wanted to send us home. (And those little buggers continued to elude us at every pass. At one check-in Pam handed her luggage stub to the woman at the gate who shook her head and smiled politely.) I can’t tell you how many times one of us exclaimed “oh, s***, where’s my boarding pass?”
The flight out was uneventful, but you wouldn’t know it by Pam’s reaction to planes. (She REALLY doesn’t enjoy flying.) Due to storms, there were a couple of pilots on our flight and every time we “bumped” over something, Pam looked between the seats at the pilot behind us. When he didn’t react, she just took a deep breath and settled back in. Fortunately there were pilots on all our flights, so this visual queue and the happy pills made the flight survivable for Pam. Me? I just read.
Kathleen, a volunteer driver, picked us up right at the curb of the airport and got us the rest of the way to the hotel. What an absolutely wonderful lady. (As were all the people who volunteered at the gathering.) But she went the extra step and had drinks and snacks for us in the car. She even drove us around the shopping malls near the hotel to show us where there were restaurants and bookstores. WICKED nice as we say in Maine.
Our room wasn’t ready when we checked in so the hotel put us up on the “privacy” floor so I could be close to the elevator. But the only way up was to use a room key at the elevator. I said it was to allow us quiet time away from the hoardes of adoring fans, but a friend explained it was really to keep others safe from us! She’s right of course. *g*
We went out to dinner with a bunch of readers and some authors who felt bad for the wayward Mainers. And of course had a wonderful time laughing with them all. I’ll tell you about the rest of the weekend in a couple of days. But suffice it to say … I’d totally go to this conference again without hesitation!
I just got home from the New England Chapter’s conference in Framingham, MA. This is the third year I’ve gone. I always meet up with old friends and get to put faces to authors I’ve only met on the internet. In the grand scheme of things … it’s a wonderful weekend.
It was a weekend filled with speakers and workshops, free books and socializing. I had fun. Really, I did. But the one thing these things always do, which they shouldn’t … is depress me. I know. I know. I’m supposed to leave re-energized and ready to tackle new writing projects. But writing conventions always seem to have the opposite effect on me.
It’s so hard for me to pick up books by the keynote speakers. Books that are in print by major NY publishers and for which, the author got a real advance. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m happy for the authors. I am. But at the same time … I’m envious. Yes, these women have worked very hard. They have toiled at their computers creating amazing characters with wonderfully compelling stories to tell. I don’t begrudge them their success. It’s just that … I want it.
I have been blessed with many things in my life, patience just isn’t one of them. I wanted to sit at my computer five years ago, pound out my first manuscript and become an overnight success. Yeeeeeah, well that didn’t quite happen. Not even close. I’m still working to build my readership and therefore increase my sales so that my writing makes me a decent living. (I was a teacher before this … so really, I’m not asking much. *g*)
I know when I go to conventions that seeing the success of others will set me back a couple of days. Never mind that it took some of these authors 10, 12 and in some cases, 20 years to reach the point where they’re at. Every new multi-book contract celebrated, every contest win, every print book signed just digs at me a little tiny bit and ratchets up my frustration. Then I have to come home and settle myself and remind myself that very little in the publishing industry happens quickly.
So you’re asking yourself why I go. Why do I put myself through all of that? The answer is … the authors. Authors are about the most generous, giving people I know. They commiserate with you over your heartaches and celebrate your triumphs. They share their journeys without reservation and help smooth the road for those that follow. There aren’t many professions that can boast the same. Besides … what’s not to enjoy about hanging with everyone in the bar? Oh, yeah, that’s another definite plus, enjoying the easy camaraderie of the profession.
I have no doubt I’ll go again next year. I just know that when I return I’ll need to set aside a couple of days to recouperate and get back on track. Unless of course I have my own six figure three book deal in the works. Hey … a gal can dream!