Sunday, April 20, 2008

Follow Up on Yesterday's Conference

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: 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!


Marianne Arkins said...

Sounds like you had a great time! And, yeah on the small group thing. I already have a list of places around here that I want to hit up: Two UBSs I visit a lot and talk to the ladies who work there. They can't wait until Liv is out in print. And my library and several of the other local libraries. We'll see how it goes.

Thanks for doing it first, though!


Dru said...

I'm glad you had a good time and learned more.

I like the idea of reading books to a local book club or group. Word of mouth is the best marketing endeavor.

Have a good Sunday.

Devon Gray said...

Sounds like it was a very productive day! Thanks for sharing the experience with us.

Virginia said...

Sounds like you had a fantastic day and learned a lot. Getting word out there is the most important thing. Right now I am waiting for one of your books. Thanks for sharing.

windycindy said...

Happy Sunday! It sounds fun even to me and I am not a writer! I do like to learn new things,though. The idea about using the credit to the tune of 25,000 is incredible. Glad you enjoyed your day! Cindi

Maria Zannini said...

You brought us back great intel, Allie.

I never thought about book clubs. I Googled for some in my area, but there were relatively few physical groups, yet I live in a big metroplex.

I'm wondering if the local libraries might know of any.

Thanks for posting this.

maryann mcfadden said...

Thanks for the nice feedback, Allie. I just saw this and just wanted to say it was 3,000 copies I sold, not 30K, which would have been stupendous! I don't have money, that's why I did the credit card. If I had bucks it would have been a much easier decision. If things didn't work out, it would have taken me a long time to pay back that "grant."
But my story has a happy ending, thank goodness. I took a risk and it paid off. I know it's not for everyone, and I don't advocate self-publishing for everyone. But I'd hit the big 50 and was about to pack in writing, then realized at that point that getting my novel read was, in the end, what I really wanted.
I wish you luck in all your writing!
Maryann McFadden

Allie Boniface said...

Hey Maryann, thanks for stopping by! And thanks for correcting the numbers, though 3,000 is still a terrific amount to sell, esp. of a self-published novel!

Josephine Damian said...

Hi Allie!

Maria Z sent me.

Great reportage from the con.

IMO, book club members are great beta readers for writers - a way to get the non-writing reader POV, but how much an agent would be impressed by their opinions, I don't know. They only seem to listen to people who are in the biz.

If I'm every published, it'll be booksellers that I focus on.

Back in the day, right after THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP came out John Irving read from his then WIP, THE CIDER HOUSE RULES. I think it really whets the readers' apatite reading from a WIP than a current release.