Thursday, October 31, 2013

Conventions as Marketing Tools.

I’m in Brighton, England for this year’s World Fantasy Convention (October 31 - November 2. Like many of my friends my successes in writing can be traced back to my decision to attend a conference. But that's only a part of the story. Showing up is the easiest part. Whether you go to a convention to enjoy as a fan or to further your career be an active participant.

Making a convention a professional marketing tool is hard work. We attend writers’ conferences or seminars, to market our writing, and to meet other writers, agents, publishers and editors. For ease of reference, I’ll refer to agents, publishers and editors collectively as “agents.” You cannot sit in the seminars and only interact with the group of people you came if you are marketing.  Every day of a convention is an interview. Every moment of every day is an opportunity for you to help or hurt your career. So how do you ramp up your marketing potential at a Con?

Before: Do your homework.

One of the things I love about World Fantasy is it posts a list of attendees or "members" so I can see if my dream editor or agent is going to attend. This year WFC also has a separate list of attending publishers so if you don't know that Jane Doe is with XY Literary you can see that XY Literary is attending and investigate further. Conventions are often crowded. Decide in advance who you'd like to make a connection with, why, and how.

A few years ago, I wanted to talk to Peter Beagle because I love his stories. How was I going to meet to him? He was a WFC guest of honor, and was scheduled for a reading, an interview session, and to attend the banquet. So, I knew where and when I could find him. But I also asked my friends if anyone knew him. One of my friends did and she introduced me. Ask your friends and colleagues if they know the person you want to meet. Chances are that one of them does. A personal introduction will usually take you a lot further than cold calling on someone. If the person you want to speak with is not giving a lecture or otherwise booked to be in a specific place be prepared to check the Con Bar - regularly.

If you are planning to pitch a story make sure it's finished. "Finished" does not mean the first draft is complete. It means you have done everything you can to make the story as compelling and as free from typos as you can. Prepare your pitches. Ace Jordyn attended last year's WFC with a list of the people she wanted to meet, and pitches prepared for each work and each person. Amazing, really.

During:  Be professional and bold.

I've written about this before so I'm not going to delve too deeply here. Appearances matter. If you want to be taken as a professional, dress as one. Does that mean you have to wear a suit? No - unless that's your brand. Look at just about any New York Times best-selling author's website and you'll see what I mean. Lisa Scottoline, a retired lawyer and writer of legal thrillers, wears suits. She wore one when she was instructing at the Seak, Legal Fiction for Lawyers convention where I met her. Because of who she is and what she writes the suit is part of her brand. Neil Gaiman and Brandon Sanderson don't wear suits.  In fact, I would guess that the bulk of professional writers don't wear suits. Still, they all look professional. You should too.

Act professional. Don't interrupt; don't be rude. Enough said about that.

Go boldly.  Go to the places the people you are looking for are likely to be. Talk to them when you find them. If you can't find them, ask other people if they might know where Jane Doe is. You must approach strangers at a convention. You must ask friends to introduce you to people you don’t know, but want to. At least one agent has said that she only signs people she’s met at a convention, and the agent doesn’t wear a name tag. She, like every other agent, wants to see you’ve done your research and that you’re passionate about your work. After all, if you’re not excited about and willing to sell your work, why should she be? Sitting in a corner watching the con go by will not result in publication.

Strike while the iron is hot. If you are engaged in a genuine conversation and someone asks what you are working on. Tell them. Don't ignore fellow writers. They might just be the key to later opportunities. And, frankly, most of them are fascinating to talk to.

After: Follow-up.

Oh lucky day! You spent three hours talking to your dream editor at the Con Bar. So, now what? Follow-up with that person just like you would do at any other networking event. Send her an e-mail saying you enjoyed meeting her at the Con. Make the e-mail specific so that if you drinking a purple girly drink remind the editor so she, who met hundreds of people at the Con, has the opportunity to place you. If you were asked to submit to the editor do so now. It not, just thank her for her time. At minimum, follow the editor's twitter feed or friend her on Facebook. Comment honestly on posts. If she posts something you find interesting you should comment on it. If not, you shouldn't. You are trying to forge and maintain a genuine connection.

Don't forget your friends. Remember all those people who helped you research and introduced you around? Thank them as well.

Conventions are one of our most powerful marketing tools if used correctly. Meeting someone at a convention may make the difference between a polite “no, thank you” and a sale. Treat every convention like an extended job interview because that’s what it is. Your primary goal is to form honest and lasting connections with the people you meet. Succeeding at that goal leads to success.

Anyway, I'm off to finish my homework before the official start of the conference. Wish me luck.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Time and Money Equation

Okay, I have a commitment issue. Well, maybe it's better to say I have an overcommitment issue.

I describe myself as a mommy, writer, lawyer. Needless to say, each of those things is a full-time job. So, necessarily there are instances when the time required by each of them add up to more than 24 hours in a day. I'm in one of those periods right now.  So, I'll wake up at midnight, carve out four hours of work, then nap for a few hours before I have to get up to feed the horses, and take care of the dogs, cats, hermit crabs. My husband does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to running our boys back and forth to school and events. In other words, I make it work until I fall down. Okay, again not the best strategy but it's who I am.

Time is our most precious commodity. With time you can generate money, which then lets you buy more time by hiring someone to do those tasks you don't want to do or aren't cost effective for you to do. Let me give you an example of what I mean.

As a lawyer in solo practice I can generate my invoices every month. It takes me about 2 hours to prepare the drafts, review and finalize them, and mail the bills out. Two hours isn't a huge amount of time but you then need to put that into the time/money equation. I charge $300 an hour for my time. Generating bills "costs" me $600.00 in lost fees. I can hire someone to carry out this function for me for $24.00 an hour or about $50.00 per month. By hiring someone else I free up two hours of my time for $50. A net profit of $550. Worth it.

This same math applies to home improvements. Sure I can change out light fixtures, build a walk or put up a fence but is all that time worth spending? Probably not. So, while it annoys the heck out of me, I'll hire someone to do a task I could because I'd rather spend my time with my kids or writing or doing just about anything else.

But the equation falls apart when it comes to writing where time spent does not always equal money. In fact, the time/money equation strongly suggests that the time spent writing should be spent elsewhere. Writers spend hundreds of hours on each book and most writers don't their living solely from writing.

So why write?

Writing is a passion. You don't dedicate yourself to a profession where rejection is far more likely than success if you don't care deeply about what you're doing. Writers are self-motivating. We don't punch in on a time clock, literal or figurative. Most successful writers spend every moment they can in some writing-related task. Kevin J. Anderson, who is know for having multiple books published a year, probably works ten to twelve hours a day, seven days a week.  I keep a notebook with me so while I'm waiting for a case to be called I can scribble down another few sentences.

Passion makes all the difference in the world. I don't mind that I'm not up to date on the latest TV show. I'd rather be telling my own stories. I can spend the money earned during the day job to buy me more time to write.

Do I hope that my time investment in writing will pay off? Of course. But that's not why I write. Simple math only takes you so far. Your heart has to take you the rest of the way.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cooking with Musa

My fabulous publisher, Musa Publishing, is two years old this month! Sloane Taylor put together many of the recipes that have appeared on the Musa Blog over the last two years. As part of the birthday celebration you can get the cookbook (normally $2.99) for FREE when you buy another Musa book from its website.

There are recipes that I've posted on my blog but there are lots more you haven't seen before. So, please check it out here: Cooking with Musa.

Monday, October 7, 2013

What's love got to do with it?

A big thank you to Tina Turner for the title of this post.

The Wenches of Words were having a debate last week, and I thought I'd write a bit about the issue.

So, here's the heart of the matter - one of the Wenches wrote a suspense novel, her beta reader liked it, but said "where's the romance?"

Is romance required in every story?

Romance sells millions of books every year. The publishing maxim "romance sells" is still true today.

There are romantic suspense novels where the romance is the main plot line. If you plot those stories they will follow the romance "formula" and the characters will have their happily ever after. Those aren't the stories I'm talking about here.

The television shows "Moonlighting" and "X-Files" both suffered when the writers gave into pressure to have their main characters be romantically involved. "Moonlighting" was a comedy that played a lot on the sexual tension of the main characters. Once the show focused less on comedy and more on romance it lost its charm. The same thing happened with "X-Files," a drama. Once the focus shifted from the mystery of whether aliens existed to romance the show suffered.

So, does romance belong in every story? I don't think so.  In fact, sometimes adding the romance plot line in ruins an amazing story.

Not all men and women thrown or working together have to have sex.

I always find it odd when characters who are running for their lives stop everything to get some. I mean if people are trying to kill you shouldn't you be paying attention to your surroundings? Sure there's all that adrenaline from running, but really, you can't control yourself until the danger is over?

I'm reading a well known suspense series, and am up to the 10th book. In all but two of those stories the male lead has gotten some. I find I'm skimming over those sections because they annoy me. Not only are the characters risking death by taking time out for some, but I find I like the male lead less because he is so promiscuous. Unintended consequences. 

There's another suspense series I read with a female homicide detective as the main character. She has sex in most of the novels too, but it's with her husband who's a real dish. The husband/wife dynamic is a critical component of the main character. As a result, I don't find the romance to be an unnecessary add on.

For me a romantic plot line has to be necessary to the story for it to work in a non-romance genre story. What's that mean? The story has to be fundamentally altered if you take the romance out.  If the plot is unaffected by whether there's a sex scene or not that scene probably wasn't necessary.

So, what do you think?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

New Release from Fellow Wench - Sara Daniel

Phone Interview with Willow Jefferies and Colin Vanderhayden
By Sara Daniel

Let’s start with an easy question. What’s your favorite color?
Willow: I didn’t have one until I met Colin. Now I’m partial to blue. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the Colin wearing a blue tie every day.
A blue tie every day. Hmm, so that must be your favorite color, Colin.
Colin: Actually, I like hazel.
The exact shade of Willow’s eyes. Interesting coincidence.  So, I’m curious. What do you each do?
Willow: I’m a massage therapist.
Colin: My massage therapist. I’m a CEO. I don’t have time to leave the office. In fact, I really don’t have time for this interview. I’m expecting another call any second.
Willow: He’s always on a call or doing some sort of work. Life is passing him by while he works himself to death in that office. Sometimes, I just want to disconnect the phone and show him the fun he’s missing.
Colin: I’m planning for the future.
What do you think he should be doing instead, Willow?
Willow: Living in the moment, obviously.
Those seem to be seriously opposing philosophies. What do you think of each other’s sayings?
Colin: She’ll be sorry when she wants to retire and has no money to do so.
Willow: Retire? Seriously, Colin. Yawn. You seem a little uptight. Is your neck bothering you again? Let me give you a neck rub.
Colin: We’re in the middle of an interv— Oh yeah, that feels gooood.
Wait, I still have more questions. Willow, why do you wear blue lip gloss? Colin, how do you stay in good shape when you sit behind a desk all day?
Hello? All right, then, I guess we’ve been disconnected…
By Sara Daniel
Genres: contemporary romance, office romance, medical romance, new adult
He only plans for the future. She might not have a future.
When live-for-the-moment massage therapist Willow Jeffries bursts into Colin Vanderhayden's office, she makes it her mission to loosen up the future-focused CEO, knowing each moment of the present is too precious to waste. Despite her immediate attraction, the only future she can offer is one full of heartache.
The last thing Colin needs is a flighty woman messing up his carefully-constructed plans, but her heavenly massages and addictive personality prove hard to resist. But he has no idea how sick she is.
No longer able to ignore her life-threatening medical condition, Willow slips away to spare Colin a miserable future with her. Is Colin willing to sacrifice his well-laid future plans to get Willow back?
Author Bio: Sara Daniel writes irresistible romance, from sweet to erotic and everything in between. On the personal side, she's a frazzled maid, chef, chauffeur, tutor, and personal assistant. She battles a serious NASCAR addiction and was once a landlord of two uninvited squirrels. She follows research and new developments concerning tricuspid atresia and other congenital heart defects, and she holds a special place in her heart for “heart kids” and their families.

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