OK, a report from yesterday's conference:
First, it was held at a local college, about an hour from my house - a beautiful setting, with delicious food, and only $40/person for the whole day. Plust it was so nice to be around other authors...and many of them, when they found I was published, congratulated me. For all of that, I'd do it again even if the workshops weren't great, which they were...
1. Reading by Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead and Exit A: I hadn't read either of his books, but it didn't matter. He read from his latest WIP, which I thought was really cool, that he didn't choose an already-published book. He stopped a couple of times to talk about process, and what I found most interesting was the word count he sets for himself each day: 500-1000 words. That's it. He writes for 2-3 hours a day, for 6 weeks or so, and then takes a couple weeks off. After a couple of years, he has a complete novel of 350 pages or so. I thought it was great that he doesn't rush the process. He was down to earth, quite humble, and a great writer, besides. He also emphasized the importance of making sure the reader is asking "What next" on every page.
2. Workshop on Teaching War through Literature: For the English teacher in me, it was a great workshop with a dynamic teacher. Made me want to take a college class again.
3. Promoting and Marketing your Book: Even though I knew a lot of what was discussed in this one, I still picked up a few things. The presenter was author Maryann McFadden, who self-published her women's fiction novel The Richest Season, sold over 30,000 copies, and went on to find herself an agent who sold the book at auction to Hyperion. Truly a success story, and a rare one at that. She was in real estate before, so she's good at talking to people and finding ways to make a sale. Her biggest tips were that, especially for the self-published or small press author, Independent Bookstores and Local Book Clubs are your best friend. They're both looking for local authors to meet and read. She even suggested that if you aren't published, you should still contact a book club and tell them you're looking for feedback, and you'll use their criticism and/or reviews for marketing to an agent or editor. Finally, she said definitely call rather than email these bookstores. They're much more likely to respond to a personal call than the dozens of emails they receive on a daily basis. She's started up a website as well, for authors: ABetterPlacetoWrite.com. I have no idea if it will turn out to be anything worthwhile, but you can always check it out.
Interesting note: She had one thing that many new authors don't have, which she admitted, and that's money: she gave herself an advance on her credit card when she first self-published and called it a "grant" for her writing career. She wouldn't specify how much, but she likened herself to another author who did the same thing, to the tune of $25,000. I don't know about you, but I don't have that kind of money. Still, the ideas of reaching out to local groups are good ones, and I'll definitely put them to the test in the next couple of months, when my two books release.
We'll see what happens!