As a follow-up to yesterday's post about the NJRWA "Put Your Heart in a Book" Conference, here are the workshops I attended and my brief summary of them all. Hope the writers out there, especially, find this info useful:
"Perfect Your Pitch" - This workshop reminded us to have a "logline" when pitching our work to editors or agents, a brief "hook" sentence that provides a "high concept" -- that original idea that will make publishers and readers love your book. Similar to the elevator pitch, it's the idea of summarizing your book briefly by highlighting the hero, heroine, and their Goal-Motivation-Conflict. I must have learned something, because at the book signing, a reporter for Romance Novel TV told me I gave "great synopses" of my books :)
"Sell Yourself...Sell That Book: - A workshop on promotional techniques, it basically highlighted a lot of ideas I already do (bookmarks, brochures, ads if you can afford them, guest blogging, writing articles, etc.) One new idea I did pick up: send "buyer packets" to booksellers, complete with ARCs of your book (Advance Review Copies), bookmarks, business cards, and candy. A Borders bookseller who was in the audience said "Booksellers LOVE candy." And make friends with your local independent bookseller/bookstore!
"Building Your Supporting Cast: How Secondary Characters Can Make or Break a Novel" - A decent guide on how to avoid letting your secondary characters take over the plot (or turn so flat that they drag it down), she mentioned Captain Jack Sparrow from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies as one of the most classic secondary characters to ever take over a story -- it's true, if you think about it :) Anyway, she said DON'T EVER give a secondary character a POV, and don't let a secondar character do any action that advances the plot. Those things should belong to your primary characters only.
"Ask the Bookseller" - Given by a Borders Romance Fiction Buyer, this workshop was an interesting look at what Borders buys, how they promote it, and how to get your name in front of readers. She said the biggest sub-genres in romance these days as far as sales are paranormal, urban romance, romantic suspense, and "soft romance" (sweet but still sexy, small town, nostalgic stories a la Debbie Macomber). She also said book signings, even for big name authors, haven't had the draw they used to, and they even recently cut all "Events Coordinator" positions. They do have a "Romance Reading Room" on their website now -- check it out.
"Building and Repairing the Single-Title Plot" - Eloisa James talked about the biggest problems she sees in single-title plots (not complex enough and subplots not developed enough). She gave some suggestions for improvement, too: make your characters multi-faceted (no stereotypes!), make your dialogue short and punchy, cut out A LOT if the middle is sagging, and consider writing series to save yourself the time of creating a whole new world with every novel you write.
All in all, the conference revitalized my own writing and gave me a lot of good ideas to work with over the next few months. Now if only I could find the time!!