This past Saturday (February 22, 2014), I attended the 17th annual Bay to Ocean writers’ conference, held at Chesapeake College on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The weather was surprisingly spring-like (I rode the Black Widowmaker to and fro), there were a lot of attendees and seminars, the food was good, and I did NOT get sick this time (to be clear, last year’s illness had nothing to do with the conference. But still).
Many writers go to this conference to fine-tune their craft, but I think I done write purty good. I came for the marketing, and attended the following seminars:
- A 5-Step Self-Publishing Strategy, taught by Ally Machate
- Blogging 200: I Have a Blog, So Now What Do I Do, taught by Angela Render
- How to Build Community Through Social Media, taught by Mindie Burgoyne
All excellent classes. Top things I learned were:
- People want more than just a story, they want to engage with the author;
- Install “share this” widgets on blog posts and site pages (duh!);
- Direct selling rarely works; indirect selling is the way to go;
- What percentage of “friends” on Facebook see posts from your author page, why that is, how to increase that, and why one should pay to promote posts; and,
- When hand-selling books, avoid book signings and festivals. Go to events that tie in with your book. So if your novel’s plot involves horses, go to horse-rescue fundraisers, horse races, horse shows, etc. Similarly, engage people in those milieus: send your horse book to those people as beta-readers and potential customers
I gave up on Twitter a long time ago, but considered going to a seminar on it just in case I could learn something to change my mind. At the last moment, I decided instead to attend Barbara Esstman’s workshop, where she urged us to improve our fiction by doing the following:
- Focus on your topic;
- Locate the real beginning and the real end of your story;
- Sharpen all the edges to keep conflict and tension high;
- Keep the tone consistent, and foreshadow; and,
- Don’t confuse exposition and summary with true scenes.
I learned a thing or two from Ms. Esstman that I hadn’t even from J.R. Salamanca, the best creative writing teacher I’ve ever studied under. So, yeah, I’m glad I don’t know more about tweeting.
It was an EXCELLENT time at the Bay to Ocean conference, and I didn’t even mention the cool writers I met and swapped notes with. Bay to Ocean is sponsored by the Eastern Shore Writers Association, an outstanding outfit that I’m glad to be part of.
I will definitely go to next year’s, and if you are a writer anywhere in the Mid-Atlantic, I strongly urge you to attend, too.