4 Things I've Learned at Author Conferences
My first author conference was Romantic Times in Kansas City, Missouri. I clutched a notepad to my chest and nervously filed into crowded rooms, finding my seat among strangers, and devouring every bit of information I could find. I was shy. Completely uninformed. Spent a lot of time staring at a map of rooms, hopelessly lost.
I left that week with a new view of writing—the community behind it. We live solitary lives as writers. Our work is deeply personal, and confusing (or plain boring) to many in our lives. But in that Missouri conference center, I found a tribe. Hundreds of women and men who shared my passion and most of whom knew SO MUCH MORE than me.
Throughout the years, I’ve taken part in Romance Writers of America, Romantic Times, BlogHer, UTOPiAcon, and BookCon. I’ve spoken over a dozen times, and attended countless presentations. Recently, I was working on the curriculum for INKERS CON and reviewed dozens of my conference notes, looking for the subjects and presentations that have made huge impacts in my career. I came across some great tidbits in that search, and wanted to share four of them with you.
#1. Craft matters. Craft - the art of writing - is what distinguishes your book from the millions out there. We ALL can promote the mess out of our books. We ALL can buy ads, and run promos, and get blog quotes and make eye-catching graphics. But CRAFT is what is going to sell books. CRAFT is what is going to make a reader gush, and leave reviews, and shout your book out to the masses. Take the time to learn Craft, and one of the easiest ways to do it is at a conference, when you are tied to a space, and you’ve got a genius writer right there, spilling all of their secrets.
At Inkers Con, we’ve got six awesome sessions on Craft, and I plan to be glued to the front row, sucking up every morsel those speakers provide.
#2. You can waste a LOT of money on ads. There’s no reason to toss a hundred dollars at an audience who isn’t interested in your book. And getting 5,000 clicks is useless if none of them convert to sales. If part of your release or promo strategy involves ads, you HAVE to learn how to create, target, and deliver them properly. Otherwise you’re just dumping a bunch of money down a well and hoping that some of it floats back up in the bucket.
We have five advertising sessions on the Inkers Con agenda, including advanced ad strategies.
#3. You have to plan ahead. You can’t just stick your book on sale because “oh wow, tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day, and that’d be a great time to promote my sweet romance that I’ve never put on sale!” Uh-huh. I mean, you technically CAN do that, but that is the wrong way to do it. Every event in your career should have a purpose, and should be planned for maximum effect. Set achievable goals, develop plans to meet those goals, and put your actions on a schedule. I try to plan out my year in advance, setting annual goals, and then scheduling my year to set myself up for success in meeting that goal.
At INKERS CON, we are holding a hands-on workshop where you will write your business plan and plan out your next 12-18 months! The workshop is taught by a professional business consultant, and comes with worksheets and preset templates, designed specifically for authors.
#4. This business is hard. It’s not just the pressure, both financial and self-imposed, for sales. It’s not just the jealousy and competition between your peers. It’s not just the stinging hurt that accompanies a nasty review. It’s also the late nights, staring at a blank page, with your deadline screaming in the background. It’s the times when you have to neglect your family, or friends, or yourself. It’s the times when life gets really tough and heartbreaking, and the novel and your characters won’t cut you any slack.
It’s easy to feel like you are alone in this industry. It’s easy to compare yourself to other authors, with more money, more sales, more followers, and more books. THERE WILL ALWAYS BE SOMEONE WITH MORE. And sometimes? That someone is yourself.
You are not alone. This industry can be brutal, but it can also be incredibly kind. Your best chance of success is to listen to those who are willing to help. Learn from those who succeed. IF YOU HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO LISTEN TO SOMEONE SHARE THEIR WISDOM - TAKE IT.
Today, you might learn something, or do something, that could change your career. But you have to take those steps. Push your boundaries. In your research, your education, and your marketing, but also in your writing.
The knowledge and connections I received at conferences has changed my life, my career, and my writing. I hope it does the same for you.
INKERS CON is a fresh experience for authors, offering the ability for attendance in person or digitally. Early registration is now open! Save your spot by clicking here.