Friday, January 20, 2012
CONFERENCES, COCKTAILS, AND COFFEE
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Our guest today is Nancy J. Cohen, an award-winning author who writes romance and mysteries. Her popular Bad Hair Day series features hairdresser Marla Shore, who solves crimes with wit and style under the sultry Florida sun. Several titles in this series have made the IMBA bestseller list, while Nancy’s imaginative sci-fi romances have garnered rave reviews. Her latest book, and tenth in her mystery series, is Shear Murder from Five Star.
Who knew weddings could be murder? Hairstylist Marla Shore is weeks away from becoming a bride herself when she walks down the aisle as a bridesmaid at her friend Jill’s ceremony. Things take a turn for the worse when the matron of honor ends up dead, the cake knife in her chest. Now what will they use to cut the cake?
DEBS: I attended my first Bouchercon (Pasadena) as an unpublished writer, in 1991. Eeeekkk! I can't believe it's been that long! And I wish I'd had the advice given by our guest today, Nancy J. Cohen. I did eventually work out how to get the most out of a conference, but it would have been easier with help. And looking back on twenty years, thinking about all the wonderful friends I've made in the writing/reading business, Nancy is spot on.
(Especially about the cocktails. As most of us know, all the real business at conferences is done in the bar.)
NANCY COHEN: When you attend a writer’s conference, do you set goals ahead of time? If not, get in the habit of doing so. What is it you hope to achieve? Do you wish to further your skills by attending writing craft workshops? Or maybe you’d like to be updated on industry news and business issues? Perhaps you want to meet authors who might be willing to endorse your work. Or you could be hoping to hang out at the bar and make new friends. And don’t forget the important editor/agent appointments and the casual meets with them at cocktail parties. This means you’ll have to prepare your elevator pitch before you leave home and be ready with your log lines.
Attending workshops is a valid goal. You might focus on serious craft sessions or prefer published author seminars on marketing and promotion and career survival. Or you could check out the alternate paths to publishing by listening in on sessions about self-publishing, e-book conversion, small press, and digital first imprints. If you’re already published, any information you glean on the markets, social networking, and innovative opportunities can only be helpful.
But you don’t want to be stuck in classrooms all day. Most of the benefit at a conference comes from the people you meet. Editors and agents aside, meeting other seasoned authors should be one of your prime goals. You can learn so much from each other. Industry personnel, such as booksellers, librarians, and reviewers can be another target to approach. And if it’s a fan conference, by all means target your readers. Exchange business cards and add names to your mailing list. Offer a raffle, if the conference has one, wherein you collect the entries. Add those people to your newsletter list. And just chat up everyone you meet in line for meals, sitting next to you in a classroom, or at the bar. This is not the time to be shy. Be brave, and sit at a table with strangers for lunch or at an evening party. You’ll make new friends! A word of warning, though: Don’t brag about yourself or push your work to the exclusion of all else. Be gracious, professional, and interested in others.
Some conferences have a room with tables where you can hang out, drink coffee, and chat with fans. Frequent this place and come prepared with bookmarks and flyers. Present a friendly face and start a conversation, not so much about your books but perhaps about the conference city, your favorite sub genre, or what you’ve learned so far.
It’s wonderful to immerse yourself in an environment where you have so much in common with everyone there. Take advantage of this opportunity. Don’t know what to say? How about, “Is this your first time at XYZ Conference?” Or, “What do you write?” Here’s another: “What sessions have you attended? Did you learn anything new?” And if you’re talking to fans, “What do you like to read? Who are some of your favorite authors?” And remember, writers are readers, too.
So get out there and schmooze. You’ll make new friends, meet readers, and gain lifelong fans. You’ll get the scoop on the publishing biz and learn new techniques to promote your work. Be eager to learn. Be open to new relationships. Be yourself and relax, and you’ll have a great time.
(Leave a comment during Nancy’s blog tour and enter to win a set of Paua shell jewelry and a signed copy of Shear Murder.)
And be sure to stop in here on Jungle Red, say "hi", and tell us what you like most about conferences!