Friday, October 30, 2009

"Aha" Moments at the Florida Writer's Conference

I presented two workshops at the Florida Writers Association's conference in Orlando last weekend (this is me being all workshoppy), an annual event that attracted nearly 300 fiction and nonfiction (but mostly fiction) writers from all over the state. One of my sessions was on how to build book buzz; the other was about how to create a brick-solid platform so you can land an agent or a publishing contract.

The audiences for both sessions were remarkable. They stayed awake -- a big deal for my end of the day time slot for both sessions on Friday and Saturday -- and they stayed engaged. Their questions were intelligent, informed, and relevant. It was clear they were there to learn, which worked real well for me, because I was there to teach.

But I was also there to learn -- from the other workshop presenters, from the lovely people who asked me to join them at lunch and dinner, and from the writers in my workshops. I'm particularly interesting in discovering more about a given author's roadblocks (real or imagined) related to book promotion. When I start to see patterns, I'm better able to address these issues in the content I provide to authors interested in discovering how they can generate book buzz.

During both my workshops and in the one-on-one advice sessions I did with authors (the FWA charges a minimal fee for these sessions as a fundraiser to help offset conference costs), I could see the light bulbs going off over heads as participants began looking at things differently. Some of their "aha" moments came when they realized that:
  • You want to get in front of the people who are most likely to buy your books, not in front of anybody and everybody. Target that effort. If your audience isn't using Twitter, don't use it for book promotion. If your audience isn't watching Oprah, stop putting your energy into figuring out how to get on Oprah.
  • You don't have to do everything that might help promote your book. Pick and chose those strategies that you're comfortable with; implement the tactics that you think you can pull off. There will always be more that you can do, but you'll still make great progress if you focus on what you feel capable of doing rather than trying to do it all.
  • A book doesn't have to be new to get media exposure. If you've got a book in print -- even if it's been around for years -- you can still generate publicity for it.
  • Fiction writers can use blogs to get input on a work in progress, test plot or other elements, and establish relationships with people who read the types of books they write. It's all about relationships.
  • There are a number of ways to build a platform. Working with a handful of strategies that work best for your personality is better than doing nothing at all because one of the strategies (public speaking?) takes you so far past your comfort zone that you end up doing nothing at all.

I enjoyed three invigorating days with the Florida writers and I highly recommend the conference to anyone outside the state, too. These people are serious about their craft. Learn more at

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