On Conference & Marketing
Something you’re going to need to get used to doing as a published author (or as a writer in general) is marketing yourself. It’s hard because a lot of us writer types are introverts. Crowds make us uncomfortable. Direct questions make us squirm. And compliments about what we write…don’t even ask.
But that’s really the bread and butter of being an author.
In order to sell books, people have to first, know that you’ve written one, and second, have a reason to pay money to read it. Neither of those two things happen in a vacuum. Neither of them happen without an interaction on the part of the author. True, publishing companies have marketing and publicity teams. You can hire either a publicist or a marketing person (or both) to do a lot of that for you.
Here’s the thing though.
They’re not you. They didn’t write the book. They didn’t have the insights, inspiration, tenacity, and grit to actually write the book. While they may be passionate, they’re not as passionate as you. While they could sell the book, they really can’t effectively sell you as an author. Only you can do that.
One of the best ways to do that is by going to conferences and meeting people face to face. They are the best place to meet other authors, agents, editors, and cool people like James Dashner, Paul Genesse, Shelly Brown, Michaelbrent Collings, or Johnny Worthen. And, more importantly, they’re the best places to meet other people who have a similar taste in books and expand your readership.
My first experience with writing conferences was the 2014 LTUE Symposium. I had a blast, despite blowing my pitch session with an editor in the first 15 seconds of walking through the door. I met tons of awesome people, most notably the people who would become my writing group, Team Unleashed. I learned more in those three days and became more motivated to continue writing no matter what came of it than during the 10 years of learning on my own and self-motivating put together. It was a singularly important even in my writing journey. I highly recommend the conference and will be attending it every year that I am able for as long as I am able to go.
Due to some life events, I wasn’t able to make it to another conference until the 2015 LTUE the following year. The experience, however, was worth the wait. I met dozens of new people and made connections with authors, agents, and friends from around the country. I was able to speak to published authors about their craft and I was spoken to like I was a normal person. Authors as famous as Larry Correia, David Farland (Wolverton), and Tracy Hickman chatted with me as if I was a peer, rather than an unpublished nobody. And, through judicious wearing of a purple shirt and some sarcastic responses to polite inquiries, I also landed a full manuscript request that lead to my first publishing contract.
Conferences, conventions, and symposiums are where the magic happens. You talk with people, converse, and gain both fans and friends. I’ve bought more books at conventions after meeting the authors there than I can possibly imagine (in the several hundred). I’ve sold more books at conventions and conferences than anywhere else too. At this past Salt Lake Comic Con, I sold almost a hundred physical copies of my one book – and thoughts not counting how many people saw me there and then went home and bought the ebook.
I will go to as many as I can as often as I can. If you haven’t gone to one yet, GO! If you don’t know if you’re ready yet, YOU ARE. If you’re sitting on the fence about a particular conference or convention in your area or are curious if they are worth the money, time, and effort – get off the fence and go. They are worth every penny. They are worth all the time. They are worth every ounce of effort. Go to a convention. You never know what could happen.
AND DON’T FORGET TO TALK TO PEOPLE. Yes, marketing and being in a social setting is hard for us. I still get uncomfortable with groups larger than 2-3 people. But I’ve practiced and I can do it now. I’ve been on TV and talked before a crowd on panel. It can be done.