Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wednesday Writings - Conference Notes Part I

Good morning, y'all! I caught up on some much needed sleep last night, and hope same for you.

Here is the first installment of notes from the Sixth Annual Jubilee Jambalaya Writers Conference in Houma, Louisiana of which my writing group women are "charter members." Check out the link, and if you've a mind to, mark next April on your calendar for possible attendance. The speakers (authors, agents, best sellers, journalists, poets...a really eclectic and good mix) are great and you even get lunch provided for the unheard of conference fee of $25! You can also get work critiqued. In years past, there were opportunities to pitch your novel.

The "surprise attendee" I mentioned was Louisiana expat, Kathryn Magendie, so you KNOW what a good time I had.!

Okay, on with the noteage~~~(courtesy of speakers Chris Tusa, poet/author; Cherry Adair, NYT best seller, and a Deborah Leblanc, friend/author/speaker/Pen-to-Press conference organizer/literacy advocate):

  • You do not have to be a "born" writer. You can improve your craft and understanding of writing along the way. No MFA required, contrary to what you've heard. Read always and keep current with what's happening in the industry. Don't discount local publications and seemingly obscure journals.
  • Read authors/poets whose voices and styles you admire. Eventually, you will develop your own voice and unique perspective.
  • If possible, work on a schedule. (EX. 2 hours of reading, 2 of writing, 2 of emailing/blogging.
  • Send your work out via email to a large group of at least 50 readers. Each will find something different to explore or help with. The larger the demographic, the more varied help you'll get. These first readers can become your base support, write Amazon reviews, etc. You can send them copies of your book later as thanks. (Blogs, library sites and Amazon book reviewers are a good place to search.)
  • Start a mailing list ASAP. Always ask permission to add them to your list, promising no spam and very few emails.
  • You must be good at promoting skills and a great talker/schmoozer, or you won't make it as a career author.
  • Don't discount small or independent publishers. If you work hard there and are successful, bigger publishers will be interested.
  • It's all about marketing and promotion -- your product and yourself! Ask yourself what makes your story different from all the other stories and people? Think theme and branding, then get busy focusing on ways to spread the word.
  • Know who you are marketing to. (Genre, interest, age, gender, online vs. brick and mortar stores.) Is your market local, international, or somewhere in between?
  • Paperbacks have a three-month shelf life before they are pulled and shipped back to the publisher. Will you be ready to hit it hard before and during that time?
  • You'll need to put most of your advance and some of your own funds into promotions. Accept it.
  • Use every available social networking venue and the Internet to your advantage. It's your most powerful tool, and relatively inexpensive compared to print and radio promo.
  • Check out mail email tools. Some are as low as $14 a month.
  • If you are not already signed up for Google Alerts...why not? (You'll also add your book title to the alert system when available.)
  • Add layering and texturing to your characters for realism.
  • The 5 levels of creating good characters~~Veracity (research!), Know characters' level of education & knowledge, And their quirks and eccentricities, Motivation and arc, Lightning bolts {my paraphrasing}: Things that go straight to characters' what would twist the knife for a character struggling with issues of infidelity? Use those things in the plot to add interest and tension.

Okay...just one picture! Here's three of my eight writing "goils" plus Kathryn's arm/hand. LOL. And, yes, we are pigging out on good Cajun food!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for passing on that advice. It's good to be reminded of the things we can do instead of all the thing we can't.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Great list - thanks for sharing! And congrats. on the good night's sleep! I am a huge fan of sleep!!

Rebecca Nazar said...

Sound advice. Love the 5 levels for characters. Thanks :-)

Sandra Leigh said...

Welcome home, Angie, and thank you for the tips. What on earth is Kathryn doing with her hand? Everybody is smiling, so the gesture must be a friendly one, but What Does It Mean? (Inquiring minds).

Jessica said...

Awww, so cute! Glad you had fun and caught some sleep. I need to work on my schedule. I should be writing now.

Jody Hedlund said...

Thank you for sharing your conference notes with us! I'm realizing more and more how much promoting we will need to do of ourselves and our books if we want to sell them. Sounds a little intimidating and overwhelming. But I'm sure when I actually get published I'll be ready for it!

Debbie said...

I think I know a certain young man that might learn from this!

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

Sounds like you had a blast! Wish I was there!

Great advice and comes at a time I needed to read it! Thanks!

lizspin said...

Thank you for those tips. . . so much to know. . .

Char said...

Looks like you had a huge time. Glad you were able to get some needed rest. Welcome back!

Amie said...

Sounds like you got your money's worth!

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Oh, I love a gathering of writers. The energy of having others on the same page... nothing like it to nurture creativity.

Terri Tiffany said...

Oh I love this and the tips you gave! SOme of it I do already so you made me feel instantly better. Some I better work on. I don't have many people who will read my work and be objective so that part is a need!

Angie Ledbetter said...

Glad y'all enjoyed the notes!

Michelle H. said...

Terrific info, although I don't think I could even find 50 readers for my story! When I get the money and time, I'll definitely sign up for one of these conferences.

Anonymous said...

Angie, I truly appreciate your potig this. Now, if only I could visit y'all at that conference!

Cheffie-Mom said...

How fun!! Thanks for sharing!! Looks like a super time!!

Cheryl said...

Oh, how I WISH I'd known about this. I would have loved to come - and I'm just next door to you in Texas! *jealous*

Adam Green said...

You can do a lot more with Google Alerts than monitoring your book titles:
1. Track your publisher and agents names.
2. Follow keywords for stories you are working on, and ideas will get delivered automatically.
3. Create an alert with a complete sentence from you book, article, or blog post in quotes, and get notified if anyone republishes it.
4. Find cool blogs where you can comment about your writing, and maybe drum up some more business.

Here is a Google Alerts tutorial that can give you some more ideas:

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