Sunday, May 2, 2010

Writers’ Conferences

blog4 I’d actually planned on putting some great photos on this particular blog post—but then realized as I’m here at the Malice Domestic conference in Washington, DC, that apparently I didn’t pack the cord that connects my camera to the laptop. But I’ll definitely be posting some pictures later from the conference.

Writers’ conferences can be great for everyone—aspiring writers looking for industry info, an agent, or a publisher; readers who enjoy hearing favorite authors on panels; and published writers, who connect with readers, find new readers, and network with other writers.

Here’s what I’ve gotten out of it so far:

Readers: Core readers who love the genre come to Malice Domestic. These are folks who read as many cozy mysteries as they can get their hands on…and I was very glad to be able to visit with them.

Writing friends: I’ve had a great time sharing meals and visiting with writers that I’d only known online. It’s fun to see how they are in person…and amazingly easy to fall into conversation since we’ve already know each other, even though it was a virtual friendship.

Malice-Go-Round—Billed as ‘speed dating for writers’, this part of the program featured 40 authors making snappy pitches to a table of readers before time was up and they moved to the next table of readers. Useful for developing pithy pitches and finding new readers. I sat in as a reader, not a writer and was introduced that way to all the writers that I knew online that I’d yet to meet in person.

Panels—sitting in the audience. I’ve picked up all kinds of information on what other people are working on and the way they handled different topics in their books.

Panels—sitting at the podium. A nice way to reach new readers and promote upcoming books.

Meet people you don’t ordinarily get to see—I’m having coffee with my agent tomorrow. Although we’ve been working together, I haven’t been able to meet her in person.

One of my publishers, Berkley Prime Crime, took its authors to dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. I had an opportunity to meet editors, my publicist, and the actual president and VP of that Penguin imprint. I also had a chance to visit with other Berkley authors and find out what they’ve been working on and maybe the direction that Berkley is going in for its upcoming series.

Promotional ideas. I’ll admit that I’m not the most creative person when it comes to marketing. At the conference I’ve seen some wonderful promotional ideas in action. Several authors came up with baskets for the silent auction--filling the basket with their books and small things that tie in with their book or setting. The conference helped the authors out by having author bingo--the readers walked around looking for authors that fit certain criteria...published by a particular publisher, from a certain region of the country, etc. A group I'm involved with had a button contest: we each had a button made from our book cover and readers could approach us and get our button. Whoever had the most buttons from our group of authors first won a gift certificate to the conference bookstore. Of course, there were also bookmarks and postcards and business cards galore. At the signing after my panel, I did sign my books, but I also signed anything that anyone put in front of me, whether they bought my book or not. In addition, there were authors giving small things away (with their promotional information tied onto the materials) at their my barbeque potholders. Again, I didn't mind if the reader bought my book or not--it was an opportunity for me to meet a potential reader (and readers at these conferences are avid readers) and tell them about my upcoming release.

Getting to conferences can be expensive, so I’d recommend finding conferences that are a good fit for what you write and are maybe, geographically, not too far away. I’ve really enjoyed the connections I’ve made, the industry information I’ve gotten, and the friends I’ve been able to visit.

Have you gone to any conferences, either as an aspiring or published writer? What have you gotten out of it?