This past weekend I attended a conference in New York City sponsored by the online writers group I belong to called Backspace. This is the second year I have attended. Last year, having only been a member for two months and being the shy person I am, was wonderful; but this year I was able to put faces to the names of persons I have met online and that made a huge difference.
I thought I'd parody David Letterman by listing the ten best things I learned in hopes of:
A. Being able to remember them six months from now and
B. Passing them on to people who did not attend.
Ten Things I Learned at the Backspace Writer's Conference:
1. Love, Love, Love What You're Doing.
2. Write Well. Sounds obvious, which it is, but so is 'eat well' but most of us don't. David Morrell (Rambo's father, as he calls himself) spoke about finding your voice (he says it probably lies within your deepest fears) and letting your daydreams play out to their ugliest conclusions...they are clues to your essence.
3. A Golden Rule: Create an engaging character who actively overcomes tremendous obstacles to reach a desirable goal.
4. Query well...which implies you must understand your story and be able to pitch it in about 100 words.
5. Build a Platform. Even fiction writers can benefit tremendously from being experts in their field...not necessarily just writing but whatever they are writing about. If your story is about a blues musician, your platform could be blues musicians. If your story is about dysfunctional families, it could be about alcoholism. Then reach out to the persons (there are a million of 'em tied into online forums, etc.) to broaden your readership.
6. Be Nice to People. Another obvious one, right? Expand this to the persons you hope will buy into your book...agents, publishers and readers. Start by querying agents you have researched...learn their likes and dislikes...who they've represented and which of these books sold well and then personalize each query with what you learned.
7. Have an Online Presence. Agents universally said a website, blog or Twitter presence is extremely important because the print media is shrinking and with it the opportunities to have a presence with book reviews.
8. Be Wary About Self-Publishing. We heard it both ways. That agents and publishers shy away from self-published authors because they carry the stigma of being unprofessional. Then there is the case of THE LACE READER by Brunonia Barry which she initially self-published sold to William Morrow with an initial print of some astronomical number for huge money. HUGE money. But, we were warned, this was a one in a million shot. Most agents and publicists suggested that if your book has regional appeal you might look to self publish; otherwise look to the bigger houses.
9. Writing Your Book (to paraphrase Hemingway) is just the tip of the iceberg. The other 85% of the process is selling it.
Be active in the writing community...network (read: Backspace!).
Hire a publicist if you have any extra money as some publishing houses never had marketing budgets and other have put all their marketing dollars into the big sellers.
10. Be Passionate About What You're Doing.