Archive for the ‘Writing Conferences’ Category

Writers’ Conferences … Good, Bad or Indifferent?

September 29, 2016

fall woods
Michigan Woods in the Fall

My bride and I have plans with some dear old friends in the evening on Saturday, October 8, 2016 … but I’m spending the day at the Ninth Annual Rochester Writers’ Conference at Oakland University.

Rochester WritersI’ve found it to be one of the best one-day conferences around … a tribute to its organizer, Michael Dwyer. I always come away with new, useful information from the excellent presentations … and from other attendees I meet.

I’m also looking forward to the keynote address this year. It’s by Keith Taylor whose poems, stories, reviews and translations have appeared widely in North America and in Europe.

The recipient of a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (and also from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs), he teaches at the University of Michigan … where he also serves as Associate Editor of Michigan Quarterly Review.

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know I’ve attended this conference every year since its inception, trying to discover new ways to market my work. Given my professional background some folks wonder why, and I’m never ashamed to tell them.

I spent 40 years in advertising, public relations and marketing, but as an indie author I find trying to market my own books, particularly on a short (almost non-existent) budget, one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to do. It’s much harder than writing them. I keep going to conferences hoping to uncover a real clue how to do it.

One of the things I’ve discovered, indie-authors tend to suffer book blindness when it comes to their own work … and I’m guilty-as-charged. Even though I’ve won multiple awards for my fiction, it’s still difficult to know how to go about promoting it.

Don’t Sell … Build a Community
I already know a barrage of “buy my book!” promotions won’t work. There’s so much of it on The Twitter, Book of Face and other social media feeds, it’s become like background noise. Most people skip it.

Yet, you still see independent authors doing this kind of promotion incessantly, looking for a shortcut to sales. I’ve done it myself, more than I care to admit, but it’s time that could have been put to better use by doing the one thing I know really helps … building a community.

What am I talking about when I say you should build a community?

Well … specifically, I’m talking about finding like-minded people and starting conversations, like I try to do here.

Once you find potential audiences and influencers, you have to do something to reach them … and this is the part where a significant percentage of indie-authors drop the ball.

Whatever social media platforms you choose, focus on the people you want to talk to. To be successful, give them something they can use.

Asking questions, discussing common interests, commenting on new discoveries, re-tweeting posts, adding value, entertaining, sharing relevant links and, most of all, being authentic.

Imagine Your Future Readers
When I did the exercise trying to understand who my potential blog readers for indie-publishing might be, I saw people with an obsession for reading and writing. I saw some who just started taking creative writing classes, and others who have kept a writing journal for years.

I saw people who had something to say, but didn’t know where to start. I saw me. I saw you.

When I did the same for my fiction, it was harder, but I have to assume, even though our specific interests might be different, most people read it for the same reason I do … to be entertained.

Then it occurred to me … in choosing something to read I also look for authors that have something to say beyond their books, like one of my current favorite writers, Brad Meltzer. After all is said and done, it’s the real person you will relate to most, not a name on a book cover.

For all you indie-authors out there, to build a community, don’t shove your books at them and treat folks you meet like a meal ticket. They’re people just like you. Get to know them. Show you care. Add to the community.

The Hard Part
It’s the main reason I write this blog (not to hear myself talk, as my bride often suggests). My books are prominent here, to be sure … but you’re only here because you’re interested in things I’ve said about writing and indie-publishing. I hope the things I bring to the table help you with your efforts … and, oh, by the way, I write fiction.

It really is that simple … and hard. It takes time, and you have to be genuine. But ask anyone who is successful and he (or she) will tell you building a community that both cares and invests in one another far outweighs other tactics.

If someone leaves you a comment, they should be able to rest assured you’ll respond to it, with an answer that is both honest and helpful. Don’t pontificate. Be yourself, enjoy the people you get to know, and trust the rest will follow.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go get my questions ready for the conference in October.

Then I’m going to gather the things I’ll need for the book signing event I’ll be part of at Leon & Lulu in Clawson, on October 23, 2016. Hope to see you there.

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On November 19, 2016, I’ll be in attendance at the Readers Favorite award ceremony at the Regency Hotel in Miami.

On December 3, 2016, I’ll be signing books from 1:00-4:00 pm at the annual “Giving Season” event at the Orion Township Public Library (825 Joslyn Rd).

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My books have all garnered some terrific reviews and you can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below. Look for them. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now amazon

You’re invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or
like my Book of Face page. You can find me on Goodreads, or follow
some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.
 
If you’ve written an interesting book too, consider submitting it to the Readers Favorite annual contest by using the banner link below.
What do you have to lose?

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Why Do I Write?

March 14, 2016

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American author Joyce Carol Oates has a Detroit background, just like me, which is what first drew me to find out about her work. Unlike me, she has taught at Princeton University since 1978.

Although I don’t consider her one of my favorite authors, the critics seem to love her. She’s won many awards for her writing, including the National Book Award, two O. Henry Awards and the National Humanities Medal.

Her novels Black Water (1992), What I Lived For (1994), Blonde (2000), and short story collections The Wheel of Love and Other Stories (1970) and Lovely, Dark, Deep: Stories (2014) were each nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Impressive, to say the least.

Still, she once said about the act of writing: “Given that it provokes such misery, why do I do it?”

For her, the answer is obvious. Because she’s good at it.

Writers Write
In the Renaissance, poets claimed they wrote for posterity … to be “immortal.” In religious communities, the creation of any art was for the glory of God.

In a capitalist society, one is likely to claim that he writes for the same purpose that everyone else does who produces a product in that society … for money.

But it’s rare that a literary writer can say he writes for money with a straight face, since the payment for prose fiction for most authors (I’m obviously not including the literary ATM machines like Stephen King), if broken down into an hourly wage, would be in the modest range of the US minimum wage of the 1950s.

To someone like me, who has written most of his adult life with varying degrees of enjoyment (or misery), writing is therefore sometimes a conscious variant of an unconscious activity, like dreaming.

So Why Do We Dream?
No one seems to really know, just as no one seems to really know why we, as a species, crave stories. My experience of writing is invariably a blend of the “inspired” and plodding execution.

Don’t get the wrong idea … I’m not one of those “tortured souls” running around looking for his muse. I have literally dozens of stories chasing themselves through my head on any given day. I’m actually working on three of them right now.

Sometimes I feel frustrated, like I won’t have time to write them all down. I get disappointed with myself at times, too … such as right now, as I look toward the rapidly approaching publishing deadline I set for myself and realize I’m behind schedule.

However, I tend to believe it will come out well … eventually.

Readers Favorite (and Other) Reviews
I have a target date of June 1 to finish (and publish) my next book, Blood Lake, in order to get it reviewed in time for entry into the Readers Favorite annual contest.

Good reviews please me (and I suppose they help to sell books), but they’re nothing like meeting readers who tell me they were moved or provoked by one of my books.

That happened to me recently, in church of all places. A woman sitting in the pew in front of me turned around and asked me “Are you an author?” The question surprised me since, as far as I knew, I’d never met her before. I answered yes.

Then she really surprised me. “Did you write Reichold Street?”

At first I thought someone I knew had put her up to it. But it turned out she’d taken my book out of the local library and enjoyed it so much she went out and bought her own copy. “I just had to have it,” she said. I was stunned and thought, what a rare privilege.

It reminded me again why I write (no, not for attention and universal acclaim … it’s far simpler than that).

I’m a much happier person when I’m writing. There’s a place in my head I go when I write that is rich and unexpected … and scary sometimes … but never dull. I initially went there after I sold my first short story, at seventeen. The payment was small but the adrenaline rush was incredible.

All of this excitement, just for writing? I thought. Wow!

These days, maybe because I can access that place in my head quite easily, writing feels like something I simply couldn’t live without.

It’s a joyous thing. I love having readers, like that lady in church. It was a nice event in my life, but I long ago realized … even though Gentle Reader, I want to bring you along, too … the person I’m really always writing for … is me.

Rochester Writer’s Spring Conference
As I streak to the finish line on my next book, I’m also looking forward to another Rochester Writer’s Conference. This one takes place again at Oakland University on April 23, 2016. It’s a good event, and I’ve never failed to come away with something valuable.

If you’re in the area, and have the time, I highly recommend it.

Five Quotes on Writing Worth Remembering
“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
   ~ Louis L’Amour

“You fail only if you stop writing.”
   ~ Ray Bradbury

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
   ~ Robert Frost

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
   ~ Stephen King

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
   ~ Anton Chekhov

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My books have all garnered some terrific reviews, and you can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below.

buy now amazon

You’re invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or
like my Book of Face page. You can find me on Goodreads, or follow
some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

What is the Story Within?

October 19, 2015

Oakland University Campus

I spent the day Saturday at the Eighth Annual Rochester Writers’ Conference at Oakland University. It’s one of the best one-day conferences going, and a tribute to its organizer, Michael Dwyer.

I find Michael’s conference a veritable treasure chest, and have attended every fall session since its inception. I’ve never failed to come away without some new, useful information.

Rochester Writers The theme this year was “The Story Within” and it featured Michigan authors, speakers & educators discussing fiction, non-fiction and business topics, through lectures, workshops and panel discussions.

The keynote address by best-selling author Bonnie Jo Campbell, a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow, who was also a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critic’s Circle Award (as well as being awarded a Pushcart Prize) was fun and informative … and worth the day, all by itself.

Speaking skills, poetry, history, author branding, children’s books, flash fiction and writing productivity were all session topics. There was also a publishing panel moderated by Lisa Howard that answered questions relating to publishing today.

There were also two small-group agent pitch sessions with literary agent Alice Speilburg. I attended one and found it very informative (although I don’t think I convinced her to represent my books).

I attend this conference every year trying to find ways to market my work. Some folks wonder why, and I’m not ashamed to tell them.

I spent 40 years in advertising, public relations and marketing, but in the past four years I’ve found trying to market my books … particularly on a short (read almost non-existent) budget … one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

The funny thing is, today’s writers have never had a more global reach. Of course, the potential of a global readership only matters if an author knows how to access it.

To Answer Who, You Need What
To get the most out of your marketing efforts, you want to attract a specific type of reader … the one suited to your book. This means you need to know who they are and where they hang out.

When it comes to understanding which readers are most likely to enjoy your book, you first need to look at what makes your book special. This means you must answer the crucial question: What makes your novel stand out from all others like it?

Authors tend to suffer book blindness when it comes to their own work. I know I’m guilty-of-it-as-charged.

It can be difficult to see what sets your novel apart. I keep going to conferences hoping someone has a real clue.

Here are a few ideas on what form this unique element might take:

    ~ A theme or cause that commands attention: bullying or family dysfunction (see Reichold Street)

    ~ Life during the Vietnam conflict and its PTSD effect among war veterans (see One Way Street)

    ~ Intriguing character talents or skills: even terrible, illegal ones, like drug use or murder (see Street Light)

The Next Question Is Where
Once you know the types of people suited to your book, you need to figure out how to find them and which people are influential with this particular audience (bloggers, other authors and organizations).

Also, find books like yours and investigate how they connect with their audience. Chances are their readers are a good fit for your novel. If you need help finding those books, try Yasiv, which provides an image web of books Amazon users typically buy together.

If your book is quite new and doesn’t have a lot of connections yet, find one like it and use that title as the reference point.

When looking for an audience, try also thinking beyond books. Whatever your standout element (like the Vietnam-era in my Reichold Street series), brainstorm what other businesses, artists, and organizations do to cater to this interest group.

Cross-promotion can open up new audiences. Try running an advanced search on The Twitter to show people, hashtags and groups that are actively talking about it.

Now Comes the Hard Part
Once you find potential audiences and influencers, you have to do something to reach them. And to be honest, this is the part where 80 percent of authors drop the ball.

The reason is simple: connection takes time.

As we all know from the barrage of “buy my book!” promotions online, the direct sell doesn’t work. It’s white noise; we see so much of it in our Twitter and Book of Face feeds, we just skip past it.

And yet authors still do this kind of promotion day-in-and-day-out because they’re looking for a shortcut solution to sales.

All they’re really doing is wasting time … time that could be put into building a community.

Connection is Simple
Find like-minded people and start conversations. Ask questions. Comment, add value, entertain, discuss your common interest, share relevant links and be authentic. It’s the main reason I write this blog (not to hear myself talk, as my bride sometimes suggests).

Choose the social media platforms (like Goodreads), blogs, forums, and other communities where your audience hangs out … and make your conversations about them, not you.

In other words, don’t treat them like your meal ticket. Get to know them. Show you care. Add to the community. Then, when a natural opportunity arises, share that you are an author, and when it sparks an interest, share your book.

With Influencers, Give First
Leave comments and start conversations on social media that show you are interested in helping them grow. Usually reciprocation happens naturally. Brad Meltzer has mentioned my books in a Twitter post, because I praised his in several of mine.

It really is that simple … and hard. It takes time, and you have to be genuine. But ask anyone who is successful and she will tell you building a community that cares and invests in one another far outweighs other tactics.

Be yourself, enjoy the people you get to know, and trust the rest will follow. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try some of the ideas I gathered at the conference Saturday … right after I tell Michael again what a good day it was.

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Click on the red-arrow link below to hear my recent podcast answering your questions about indie writing (duration approx 15 minutes):

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My books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see the stories I have available by using the Amazon link below.

buy now amazon

You’re invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or like my Book of Face page. You can also follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.


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