Five Amazing Things I Brought Home From My First Writing Conference

open notebook with "am I good enough?" written on page. Pen and pencil on notebook.I recently attended my first Romance Writers of America national conference in New York City. I left home full of nerves— What if I didn’t make any friends? What if I wore the wrong things? What if, when asked, I couldn’t remember what my book was about? Worst of all, I left home with a sneaky, sinking suspicion that when surrounded by other writers, I wouldn’t measure up. I packed all that in my suitcase along with six pairs of shoes, twenty-two pairs of underwear (just in case!) and headed to New York.

What I brought home four days later weighed one pound more (FTW, Delta!) and was more valuable than the extra Biscoff cookies I nabbed from the flight. Whether you write romance, thrillers, literary fiction, or children’s books, let me tell you about five of the things I brought back from my conference and why you might want to attend conferences in your genre.

Worst of all, I left home with a sneaky, sinking suspicion that when surrounded by other writers, I wouldn’t measure up. I packed all that in my suitcase along... Click To Tweet

#5. So. Many. Books.

In fairness, these didn’t come home in my suitcase because I had to ship them from the business center in the hotel, but let’s pretend for the sake of metaphor. I work in academia and I’ve written before about how I hid my love of romance for a long time, believing people would think it wasn’t “smart enough.”

I’m over that now, but there was no greater symbolism for that than holding a stack of new romance novels and talking with fellow readers who were educated, successful professionals about our shared interest in the book’s promise of happily ever after (and just for a minute about the shirtless model featured on the cover). I found my people along with new books.
#4. Business Cards

I was given a head’s up that having business cards would be beneficial, so I brought a stack to trade. I recommend doing this because I ended up bringing home a stack of cards from other authors. One of the most important things you’ll do at genre-specific conferences is meet other authors, industry professionals, and vendors. I also met many people in elevators, in line for the bathroom, and while waiting for sessions to begin. I knew we had at least one thing in common, so striking up a conversation with “What do you write?” was easy.

One of the most important things you’ll do at genre-specific conferences is meet other authors, industry professionals, and vendors. Click To Tweet

#3. Notes

The educator in me knows this should be #1, but I came home with a notebook filled with notes on marketing strategies, writing craft, publishing ins and outs, and important topics like domestic violence in romance. I love networking and cocktail parties, but the nerd in me was here for the learning. Taking notes AND talking about writing? Yes, please. Sessions will vary, but these conferences are a great opportunity to hone and stretch ourselves as authors. I went to sessions I knew I’d love and chose a few where I wasn’t sure what I was getting into—they all came home with me.

#2. Confidence

Admittedly, I attended the conference with a few things going my way already. I was a finalist for an award for unpublished authors, I’d signed with an agent a few months before the conference, and my book had recently sold. Still, I questioned my talent and abilities. During the conference, I met fellow new authors who could talk about our shared anxieties, I met seasoned professionals who offered to help and told me my book sounded great, and I met people who were just kind, welcoming, and friendly. Between the shoes I didn’t end up wearing, and the NYC-themed toys I bought for my son, my suitcase was filled with affirmation that I can not only write a kick-ass book, but the shoulders-back, boobs-forward confidence that I will write several more.

#1. A Plan

Confidence is great and I strutted (in my mind) down the jet bridge, but the most important thing I came home with was a plan. Between my new network of people, my notes, and Author Denise Williams smilingnewfound knowledge of my genre and the publishing industry, I came home with the tools to make a plan. I’ve already been in touch with authors I met willing to help boost my book when it comes out, I’ve started sketching out plans for marketing and questions to ask my publisher, and mapping out next steps for my career.

On top of those five things, I brought home a camera roll full of selfies with new friends and author heroes, a little bit of a hangover (Whew! Authors know how to party!) and three new ideas for novels. NYC is a cruelly expensive city to visit, as are many conference locations, but consider the options for your genre if it’s possible—local, regional, national, and international conferences are out there and can be great for indie, trad, or hybrid authors, unpublished and published alike. Pack your bag and see what you come home with—I’m glad I did.

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Denise Williams wrote her first book in the 2nd grade. I Hate You and its sequel, I Still Hate You, featured a tough, funny heroine, a quirky hero, witty banter, and a dragon. Minus the dragons, these are still the books she likes to write. After penning those early works, she finished second grade and eventually earned a PhD in education. When she’s not writing romance novels, she’s chasing two dogs, one husband, and a hilarious toddler.

Dr. Naya Turner has never failed at anything, but when she puts herself out there, she stumbles in every possible way. Luckily, the man she’s stumbling into doesn’t seem to mind. This is a story about surviving — and finding love and laughter on the way to finding one’s own voice.

Follow Denise on Twitter , Instagram , or Facebook.  How to Fail at Flirting, her debut romantic comedy, is coming December 2020 from Berkley. To receive an email when the book is available (and to learn more about Denise) visit www.denisewilliamswrites.com

 

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Wait, Does RSVP Really Mean “Respond, Dammit?”

Remember learning that RSVP meant “répondez s’il vous plaît?” And, if you learned that as a kid, do you remember how cool and
sophisticated it made you feel? I sure do. Not only was it French — the most romantic of the romance languages — but it was like I had been given yet another key to open another secret grown-up door. And, in this case, I was picturing a very swanky, high-class door. How cool was that? All I had to do to become part of the club was to communicate. Usually in writing. Even better, am I right?

All I had to do to become part of the club was to communicate. In writing. Click To Tweet

Do You Care About Getting Your Stuff Read?

So what does RSVP have to do with writing? Not much — if you don’t care about having your stuff read. But if like many of us, your goals include getting your beautiful book babies in front of readers, then you are probably engaged in far more marketing, outreach and networking than you ever dreamed possible. You may still not be seeing the connection but, trust me, I’m getting there.

You post on Facebook and Instagram. Or Pinterest and Twitter. You interact with readers and other writers. You re-tweet and re-post in support of good people, products, or ideas but, when it comes to your own work? You’re frequently committing professional malpractice.

I’m going to break one of the cardinal rules of online communication. I’m going to (virtually) shout at you. Ready? Click To Tweet

And, to make sure you don’t miss it, I’m going to break one of the cardinal rules of online communication. I’m going to (virtually) shout. Ready?

When someone offers you an opportunity for increased exposure? RESPOND, DAMMIT!

What forms of increased exposure, you ask?

  • You’re offered an interview? RESPOND.
  • Someone asks for your author photo? RESPOND.
  • A reviewer has requested a copy of your book? RESPOND
  • A Twitter chat leader invites you to co-host and needs a bio for the promos? RESPOND
  • And what do you do when one of your contacts asks for a high-resolution copy of your book cover? Let’s hear it from the tenors, now: RESPOND.

And, for the hundreds of other opportunities that might come your way? Let’s hear it in unison, loudly, for the people in the back… RESPOND DAMMIT!!!

And Here’s a ‘Respond Dammit’ Don’t

And here’s what you shouldn’t do: DO NOT WAIT.

Believe me, I am well-aware of how busy a solo practitioner (aka indie author) can get. And, I promise you that I’ve dropped the ball on more occasions than I can count. That’s probably why I get so agitated about it: I always hate to waste a good mistake.

What no longer works is an e-mail auto-responder — or slotting these things for “later, when I have time.” You’re not going to have more time later — and email is not where many of the requests will come from. (It is, however, useful for longer communications, such as the Q&A for an online interview, but more about that in another post.)

Believe me, I am well-aware of how busy an indie author can get. And I've dropped the ball too many times. Click To Tweet

But… HOW to Give a Fast Response?

So how does a busy, perhaps traveling, author make sure she’s able to respond? The answer, my friend, is in the cloud. Not only do I keep author photos, bios, and book covers on my desktop, I’ve got them stashed in various locations in the cloud: on a private page of my website, in a documents folder in my iCloud, and in the DropBox folder that comes with my Amelia Indie Authors membership! (shameless plug).

Why does a fast response matter so much? As stated before, you’re busy. We know that. But so are the people making the request. And the longer it takes for them to assemble the pieces they need to reference (or feature) you, the less of a priority you — and your beautiful book — become. And, if you sit in virtual limbo for long enough, the initial idea becomes untimely. Or irrelevant. And it takes more work to figure out how and what to do with you. You’ve gone from being an interesting addition to a mildly annoying loose end. And that’s surely not your intention. Or your wish.

So how about looking at those requests as invitations? Invitations to a more grown-up, professional place in the writers’ community; invitations that come with an RSVP.

How about you just RESPOND, DAMMIT?

Merci beaucoup. 

 

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Not only does Andrea Patten speak French, she is our Director of Operations, currently tasked with keeping all of the plates spinning. In her “spare time,” she does her level best to keep up with her dogs — and her own writing.

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Amelia Island Book Festival – Day 1

The organizers of the Amelia Island Book Festival will have my head but there is so much going on at the festival it should probably be spread over a few more days. <ducking and hiding>

Thursday’s kick-off luncheon was an opportunity for authors to connect with one another over lunch and then listen to witty banter between bestselling authors David Baldacci and John Grisham.

 

Thursday's kick-off luncheon was an opportunity for authors to connect with one another over lunch -- and listen to David Baldacci and John Grisham. Click To Tweet

In addition to an appreciation for the authors’ very different work styles, attendees also came away with a copy of Grisham’s latest — The Reckoning.

After a short break, several authors went off to facilitate the Teen and Tween Scene and spend time with young readers and writers.

Others of us went off to co-host AIBF’s first #indieauthors reception held at The Book Loft on Centre Street. It was wonderful to see authors rekindle friendships from festivals past as well as to meet others they’ll try to spend some time with on this busy weekend.

In addition to food, friendship and music event hosts The Book Loft and Amelia Indie Authors put together an author-specific raffle. The results are on our Facebook page (please “like” it if you haven’t already done so) and repeated here.

* “Cover out” shelf placement at The Book Loft: Lauren Gilbert
* The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron went to Leah Ward-Lee
* Special placement (near checkout) for Mike Arsuaga
* Author platform review for Meredith Spencer
* Colette Willis has a copy of The Business of Being a Writer waiting for her at the bookstore
* Mike Sanders’ book will receive “creative placement” at The Book Loft
* Adair Sanders won a copy of Brand Yourself Royally and a review of author branding by Nancy Blanton.Author
* Laurie Robertson will be interviewed on the Amelia Indie Authors blog
* A 25-page pre-publication manuscript review went to Louise Jacques
* John Cagle’s titles will be part of a front window display!

In addition to food, friendship, and music event hosts The Book Loft and Amelia Indie Authors put together an author-specific raffle. Click To Tweet

Congratulations to all the prize winners. And all Amelia Island Book Festival indie authors are invited to tag their own pages in the comments so we can follow you.

See you Saturday at the book expo #aibf2019

wooden stamps spell out "thank you" against white background

So Much Gratitude

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