Archive for the ‘Freelance Marketplace Writers’ Group’ Category

Why Go to A Writers’ Conference?

August 16, 2013

Old rusty typewriter
Writing Groups and Conferences Can Help Shake Rust Off Your Muse

Thinking About a Writing Group
For an old car guy like me, participating in the world’s largest car event during this week’s Woodward Dream Cruise, is something that should be monopolizing my time. I mean, I’ve got my summer car (a silver-over-blue 1981 Corvette) all shined up and ready to go, and the weather looks like it’s going to be absolutely perfect.

My Corvette

Even so, I’ve still been thinking about the local writing group meeting I’m supposed to facilitate next Tuesday. The regular host of the group, Michael Dwyer, asked me to sit in for him. I’m a little nervous, although it really isn’t a super tough gig.

I mean, the meeting is all set up, Michael will send out the reminder emails, and the people who come … mostly writers or folks who want to be … usually generate more than enough questions to keep a lively discussion going on the business of writing for a couple of hours.

Mike’s a local writer who goes to a lot of trouble to set up and facilitate these monthly meetings. I go to most of them, always enjoy myself and never fail to come away with some positive learning. I’ll be content if I’m at least half as good at it.

My Favorite Writers’ Conference
Michael also puts together my favorite annual writers’ conference, which I just realized is now less than two months away.

October 5, 2013 will mark the date for the sixth annual Rochester Writers’ Conference at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. It’s a one-day conference with a variety of sessions and guest speakers. I’ve attended every one so far, and even co-hosted a break-out session last year on self-publishing.

Smaller, local conferences like this are a great way to network with other writers and industry professionals.

They tend to be much less expensive and far less intimidating than big national conferences, but I guarantee you’ll still occasionally meet agents and publisher reps, make some great connections and get an intense one-day course in the craft of writing.

Get the Most Out of Your Conference Experience
Even if you’re a raw beginner, I recommend you attend at least one writers’ conference and here are some things to remember to get the most out of the experience:

DON’T dress up. Wearing something distinctive may help people remember you (Bohemian writer look maybe?), but even a one-day conference can seem long and intense and you’ll be glad nothing is chafing your neck. Wear comfortable clothes.

DO a Google search of as many presenters as you can identify, and learn as much about them as you can. That way you’ll have good subjects for conversation if you have a chance to chat.

A lot of indie authors see conferences as a means to move into traditional publishing, but don’t pitch your project to publisher reps or literary agents you may meet unless you happen to be in a specified pitch session.

However, it will never hurt to ask anyone how they’re enjoying the conference, or to offer to get them a cup of coffee. Just being friendly can make you memorable.

DON’T bring all 1,759 pages of your sci-fi/horror/zombie/romance manuscript and try to thrust it on conference presenters or fellow attendees (do I hear critique session, anyone?). And if it’s really a 1,759 page sci-fi/horror/zombie/romance manuscript … don’t bother anyone else with it. Particularly me. Please.

DO get business cards printed if you don’t have any yet. I think they’re essential for networking. I’ve lost count of the people I’ve met who don’t have any … and I’ve also lost the scrap of paper where I wrote their contact information.

DON’T forget to prepare your “elevator pitch” beforehand, so you can tell any literary agent, editor, publisher or fellow writer what your book is about in three sentences.

Have your logline, your hook and your pitch ready to go. Don’t expect to get a chance to use any of it, but have it ready, just in case.

Some Helpful Definitions
I realize some definitions might help (I do edit this blog, even with my tendency to ramble).

A Logline is a term that once applied only to screenplays, but has been creeping into the literary world. It consists of one or two sentences describing the story’s premise, like a film description in TV Guide.

Here’s the basic formula for a logline:

When_____happens to____, he/she must____or face____.

A Hook is longer. The hook should be the main component of a query letter to an agent or, if you happen to be an indie author like me, is essential for your Amazon blurb. It’s usually a paragraph or two giving the main characters, premise and conflict.

A Pitch can contain either or both of the above. It tells what your book is about and why somebody should buy it. It’s what you memorize before you go to a Writers’ Conference, especially if hoping you’ll get trapped in an elevator with Sister Five editors.

A good pitch answers these questions: Who? Where? What’s the conflict? What action does the protagonist take? What’s at stake? How is it unique?

DO take a notebook and several pens. Bring your laptop, if you must, but it’s very often something people hide behind. Bad idea. Besides, wifi at some conferences can be iffy, and batteries die.

DON’T be intimidated by recognizable authors, agents or editors. They’re people too. Try to tell yourself they’re as afraid of you as you are of them. It’s true. Honest.

DO remember to have fun. You’re there to make friends as well as learn. Connections will probably be the most important thing you take away from the conference.

The Business of Writing
Writing is hard work, and I really believe most writers keep writing to feel the joy of the process. I know I do.

I’m in it for those moments when the muse tosses words from my brain onto the page and they actually assemble in a somewhat meaningful way.

Publication is a nice bonus and a sale is confirmation that someone might really want to read those muse-driven thoughts we’ve all written down.

Attend a writing conference if you have a chance. It’s a pleasant surprise to realize how many others are mesmerized by the same thing. A conference tells us we’re not alone.

Keep writing. It feels good. Enjoy the journey.


Market Sense

February 24, 2013

Statue in Fog
Marketing your own work is often compared to trying to sail in thick fog. It’s hard to know where you’re going. / AP photo

How Do You Market a Book by Yourself?
I went to the monthly meeting of The Freelance Marketplace Writers’ Group last Tuesday.

It’s a local group that meets the third Tuesday of every month (except December) to discuss the business of writing.

I look forward to it, because I learn something about the business every time I go … even if it’s something eye-opening about myself.

This month we talked quite a bit about self-publishing, and I mentioned the difficulty of marketing your own work.

I truly believe the best marketing is still word-of-mouth … but how do you get people started talking? It often feels like sailing around in a dense fog.

When I had finished my novel, Reichold Street, I thought it was good, but then, why wouldn’t I? It was my creation, after all. Sort of like having a literary child.

And, although it’s not really her kind of book, my wife thought it was pretty good, too. While that did wonders for my ego, it doesn’t sell books.

The Traditional or Indie Way?
I knew most traditional publishers today won’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, so an agent is a requirement for entry; but I think most new writers have heard the tales about finding a reputable agent. It’s a chore unto itself.

It can take months or years and, even if you’re fortunate enough to find one willing to take a chance on you, there’s no guarantee of finding a publisher equally willing.

I’m not a total newbie. I’ve written articles for a major international company (although I’m not sure a literary agent would care). I even had a few fiction credits over the years. But the bylines for my fiction were dated and few … and not exactly awe-inspiring.

Then there’s my age. I’m no spring chicken. Not even a late summer one. I’m fast becoming a gristled old rooster. I had retired from the nine-to-five routine and was writing because … well, because I had to.

I’ve been writing since I was a kid because there’s something in me that demands it. I sent my first story off to collect a rejection letter when I was a teenager and I still have stories in my head that I need to write.

Need to.

So, I took the indie leap.

Ernest Hemingway’s famous quote about writing a book tells it pretty much like it is: There’s nothing to it. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

But I discovered going indie is a mini MBA program unto itself. You’ll never learn more about the publishing business than doing it yourself.

Writing can be difficult, but being your own editor is chore I don’t recommend to the faint of heart. Neither is converting it to the proper electronic formats. It’s boring and tedious … and you miss a lot when you try to polish your own work.

It took me several iterations to get it right.

The Really Hard Part
But as hard as all of that seemed, it (pardon the cliche) pales in comparison to trying to market your own book.

I had very little social media experience before publishing my own novel. I had built a web site for collecting old cameras, and started a little-used blog about photography that has morphed into the one you’re reading now.

I’ve discovered trying to build a presence on Facebook, Twitter (you can follow me there @ronherron) and Goodreads has a steep learning curve. I often feel like a hamster on a wheel, running to keep up with things that don’t always seem to be taking me anywhere.

I put a couple of books … my short-story collections Zebulon and Tinker … into Kindle Select the other day. They’re exclusive to Amazon for 90 days. I also used the Amazon free promotion program for each of them.

Zebulon had 125 free downloads in three days, and I’m waiting to find out if the Select program helps with sales (I’ll let you know what happens).

One of the new visitors to the writing group suggested I try to schedule school and library visits; perhaps even do a reading. It makes sense. I’d have to do it even if I wasn’t an indie author.

It will take some effort on my part to get the word out. I already know I can’t depend on social media to do it for me, but I need something to stimulate sales or I’ll be turning out more blogs than books.

So I’ve decided to get off my duff and do the legwork (although I may wait for Spring, when there isn’t so much snow).

I’d welcome any comments you have.

Oh, I did manage to write six-thousand more words on my next novel since my last post. That’s why I feel OK about blogging again so soon. I’m an indie author … and proud of it.

All things considered, it’s a great time to be a writer.

The Official Book Trailer for the Award-Winning “Reichold Street” –


After the Dance

October 23, 2012

Moleskin Notebook, Rollerball and Starbucks – Article © R.L. Herron

The excitement certainly didn’t last very long. I met some old friends, renewed acquaintances and met some fascinating new people, but now that the 2012 Rochester Writing Conference is over, it’s back to the business of writing.

The theme of the 2012 Conference was The Writer’s Voice, and this year’s event was a bit different for me … it was the first time I had been asked to be a presenter. I imagine most of you who follow this blog will readily understand what topic was suggested for me. What else could it be?


I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only writer there who had self-published books. In fact, I know I wasn’t.

There was a gentleman in my presentation session who mentioned using the same POD publisher/printer, CreateSpace (he had some difficulty with them, if I recall the conversation properly). But I’m fairly certain I was the only one who had done all the preparation himself.

I guess the rationale that put my name on the presenter short-list came down to that and two other things: (1) I had just received a Gold Medal from Readers Favorite for my debut novel, Reichold Street; and (2) I was willing to do it.

Sadly, I’m not sure which of the two carried the greater weight.

I did have the distinct pleasure of sitting-in on some marvelous presentations. Steven Harper Piziks (who writes under the pen names of Steven Harper and Penny Drake) was terrific explaining how to approach agents and publishers with query letters.

Lori A. May (a friend whom I have had the honor of hearing many times before) presented a lecture on framing narrative in the personal essay that was a masterful explanation of how using a personal connection makes an old story new.

The keynote speaker, Stanley D. Williams, Ph.D., also delivered a remarkable, spellbinding presentation on The Moral Premise – 21 Secrets of Story Success.

Another acquaintance, Sylvia Hubbard, founder of the Michigan Literary Network, made us all take furious notes as she explained the in-and-outs, do-and-don’t of blogging for the writer. I’m working hard on putting some of her explanations into practice.

Then it was my turn. I lamented the fact I hadn’t had time to previously meet my co-presenter, Sarah Hovis.

We had exchanged email about what we might talk about, but didn’t meet until the morning of the conference. We didn’t have time to prepare the fancy Powerpoint and video-clip presentations of the others. Just good old-fashioned tree-killing paper handouts.

Sarah did an excellent job explaining the necessity for good editing, and the requirements of ISBN numbers and proper copyright.

I … well, I talked about wracking your brain perfecting HTML code, ePub and mobi files; also about creating my own text layouts, cover art and press releases.

It wasn’t until the applause at the end of the session that I realized we had presented something appreciated by most of the people in the room. It was a good feeling.

Even so, I want several more days to prepare before I do it again.

Now I’m busily scribbling notes and drinking coffee when I’m not typing into my laptop. I have another novel started, and I’m beginning to get nervous about the Readers Favorite Gold Medal I’m supposed to accept during the 2012 International Book Fair in Miami next month.

All things considered, I’d rather just be writing. I’ve got so many stories to tell!

If you have a moment, check out the book trailer for my Readers Favorite Gold Medal Award-winning novel, “Reichold Street.”

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