Sunday, June 8, 2008

6-7-8 Writer's Conference

I had the unique experience of seeing the Man Behind the Curtain this past weekend at the 6-7-8 writer's conference hosted by Cedar Fort. I traded a tornado for JetBlue and my ruby slippers for some cute brown canvas wedges and followed the I-15 down to Springville, UT to find the wizards and discover how the magic happens. (My Judy Garland similarities end here because extended metaphors kill me).

It was an informative conference. I was interested to find out what they're looking for because some of the LDS fiction books I've most enjoyed lately (Icing on the Cake by Elodia Strain, Spare Change by Aubrey Mace to name a couple), are in the genre I want to write in.

I spend a lot of time trying to hone my skills as a writer. I read writing books and blogs, attend conferences, and take online classes. There are a wealth of resources out there to help with this. And although I've found great resources on the business side of things (see LDS Publisher blog, etc.), this was still eye opening. For one thing, it confirmed my gut instinct that this is where I want to submit first, for a few reasons that I'll go into later.

The first presenter was Abel Keogh who spoke about developing an internet presence through establishing a blog and website. Now, truthfully, I'm married to a rock star and a computer programmer. (They are one and the same person). I am fully aware of how to promote creative ventures through a website. The blog thing is a little newer for me, though, so making a contact who can walk me through the blog etiquette I yet lack, especially as it relates to writing, was a great opportunity. And Abel totally hooked me up with his book Room for Two (which I'll read in July when the LDS fiction challenge I'm doing ends). And he's a super nice guy. Not cheesy, smarmy nice, either. Actually nice. Dug that.

The next presenter was Janice K. Jensen (author of Don't You Marry Those Mormon Boys) who spoke about self-promotion. I heard this really awful expression once at a sales training: if you light yourself on fire, people will come from miles around to watch you burn. It's completely un-PC but it's stuck with me and while it's definitely not my mantra, it's a true principle. In that I light myself on fire in a good way and it's always a positive result.

I'm so going to have to find a better, less revolting slogan but you get the idea.

So, that's kind of Janice's create a buzz or an energy for yourself. In other words, momentum. She had tons of great ideas I never would have thought of and I have every intention of haunting her website and blog on a regular basis from this point on. I liked several of her ideas from the display she sets up at book signings to how she gets her book reviewed in so many places. Such great ideas.

Next, Doug Johnston spoke. He's the publicist for Cedar Fort. My only beef with this presentation (and it's a big one) is that he didn't talk long enough. He had so much great info that I would loved to have heard more about. It wasn't necessarily stuff like what they're looking for in manuscripts, but it was so enlightening. He focused on the other part of being an author; there's a job we have to do that goes way beyond signing a contract. And while I'm still in the process of completing my first manuscript, I think it helps me immensely to be prepared for what comes next if it's accepted for publication. I just wish we hadn't been pressed for time at that point because I would love to have heard more about that piece of this whole business. There aren't a whole lot of people who can educate you about the LDS publishing market so I found that invaluable.

Lunch was a great opportunity to network with new people. I didn't know a single person when I walked in so I had lots of people to connect with. I spent a long time talking to Aubrey Mace who was a total sweetheart. I also spent a good deal of time talking to Tracy Winegar (cool chick), Abel Keogh (see above), and Stacy Gooch-Anderson (such a kind, tender-hearted lady). Since I didn't hear about the LDS Storymakers conference until it was too late, this was really important to me to play catch up in building relationships with other writers.

After lunch, Eloise Owens presented. Fantastic energy, great speaker, useful info. I missed a fair chunk of her message because I was in with Jeffery Marsh (which I thought went incredibly well), but what I did hear from her I really enjoyed. I'm not attempting to write message driven fiction but I think someone who is or who is working in non-fiction would have gleaned so much from that presentation. Regardless of my chosen genre, I stayed engaged with every bit of what she was saying and found her very relatable.

Afterwards I got to talk with more authors and at length with Doug Johnston who totally hooked me up with some awesome books. He was completely open to letting me pick his brain about the marketability of my (soon to be completed) manuscript and I felt so encouraged that there is definitely a market for what I want to write. I wanted to do a good idea happy dance because so many things came to me as I listened to him and other presenters. I think he's a guy who is truly passionate about the Cedar Fort objective to publish books that make a difference and he brings a lot of energy to his job.

I think my main take away is that the more you invest of yourself and your time, energy and personal resources in promoting your work, the more of a buy-in and commitment to promoting you will come from your publisher. Like attracts like, and all that. So although it will be little while yet before my book comes out (um, still have to submit it), I did my best to package and sell myself as an up and coming writer who gets the business side of writing and who a publisher would find exciting to work with. Now I need to live up to that image and be the writer that marketing departments love to work with.