Lucky number 13 is also the last post in this conference series. And 13 corresponds to the Death card in Tarot. Coincidence?
My final Writer’s Digest session was How to Build an Audience and a Business With Your Writing with poet Robert Lee Brewer as the presenter. Of all the sessions I attended, it was probably not the best one to go out on. I think everyone was tired and yet also keyed up in that way that comes with feeling desperate to have your questions answered before it’s too late. And so I think Mr. Brewer made a mistake when he said people could ask questions as he went along. Because what quickly happened was the questions hijacked the session. And so I feel I missed out on a lot of information that Brewer never had time to present.
Here, then, is the little bit I did manage to glean.
Hearing the same advice over and over is a good thing, said Brewer, because it means that thing—whatever advice it is—is working for more than one person. Which means it’s more likely to also work for you. (Makes me think of the coupon codes online and how they’ll tell you how many people successfully used the code. Right?)
Brewer also noted we shouldn’t be worried about how fast we build our audience. Instead, it’s important to do it right. Like building something brick by brick. You want a solid foundation, not shoddy workmanship.
He encouraged us to set both short- and long-term goals, and to evaluate every couple months where we are in the process. Make plans, he said. Don’t just sit and hope it happens.
In advance of a release, try to increase your visibility by publishing shorter pieces on various sites. People are more likely to click through to buy a book if they already recognize your name from somewhere else. Plus, publishing in new places means you’re hitting new eyes and reaching new readers.
And yes, you need a website, whether you have a book out or not. At the very least, said Brewer, buy your domain name. (Meanwhile, I tried to link to his sites for this piece but they haven’t been updated since 2014 so…)
Someone asked about naming their site after their book title. Brewer said it’s fine to want a separate site for just the book (if you can keep up with more than one site), but you want to build your author brand, not just a readership for one book. So it’s best to have things under your author name. (So why is this site PepperWords instead of MPepperLanglinais? Because no one can spell Langlinais. I wanted something people could spell and find easily.)
That was about the extent of things. People were asking about which web hosts to use and how to get business cards and so on. I’m sure it’s all valuable information, but I had mentally checked out at that point. When you begin to hear the same voices asking the same questions each session . . . One woman asked in almost every session I attended, “What if you don’t have Twitter or Facebook and don’t want to get them?” I don’t know if she was looking for different answers or a consensus or just the answer she wanted to hear, but sigh. (The answer seemed to be, btw, to only do the things you think you’ll keep up with. Don’t have social media accounts just to have them or else you’ll look lackluster to potential agents and publishers.)
After that, I went back to my room, gathered my things, and checked out of the hotel. I caught a cab to JFK—and my cab driver got pulled over for being on his cell phone! But the police were very nice to me and we were on our way again before long. And when I got to the airport I had the good fortune to be flagged as TSA Pre-check, which meant I got through security quickly and didn’t have to remove my shoes.
Overall, this conference seemed to emphasize getting a publicist (if only!) and not being that jerk on Twitter who only ever tweets “buy my book!” over and over again without truly engaging with others. It also seems that, to make yourself more marketable, you should publish over other sites. Agents and publishers are looking for people with a track record, or at least a footprint—a good one, not trolls or people who badmouth other authors, agents, etc. If they can’t find you online it’s not the end of the world, but they’re more excited by people who have some kind of presence, something they can work with and build on rather than having to start from scratch.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this summary of info from the Writer’s Digest Conference 2016. I like to be able to bring the conference to you. In this day and age, you may think you can get all the info you need about publishing from the web and various marketing books, but if you’re a writer I encourage you to attend conferences when you can. Good ones, that is. Conferences offer a chance to meet other writers, and often agents and editors as well, and they enliven the spirit. So many times I’ve felt alone as a writer, I’ve lost morale or just motivation, and a conference is like a booster shot. It gets me excited again about the work. I make new friends. I get to immerse myself in the industry, and the art, for a couple days. I love it. And I hope one day to see you at one with me!