I have another confession to make: the writers’ conference in La Jolla wasn’t the only thing I was excited about when I posted last week. The conference was definitely worthwhile – more on that in a bit. But I also met my great niece, who is just a joy of a baby. I reconnected with family and long-time friends in Southern California. I took several days off from work to hang out and revisit some California haunts (I’m posting this from San Luis Obispo, right now). While I wasn’t concerned that I might jinx any of these things if I mentioned them ahead of time, it just felt like it might make more sense to mention them after they happened. (And I get to share a picture of Madison that I took myself.)
They were also the reason paying money for a plane ticket, and paying money for the conference, weren’t really such a gamble in the first place. I knew the trip would be valuable, even if the conference didn’t meet my expectations.
After I completed my second draft of The Incident Under the Overpass in the spring of 2014, I felt like I had cleared the first hurdle in this writing journey. I found out I could complete a long story, that had a beginning, middle and end. And wasn’t wholly incomprehensible. But then the next two hurdles popped up, looming larger than the first ever had. One – how do I make it good, something that people will want to read? And two, where to find those readers?
After eighteen months of training for both hurdles, I think I’ve made some progress on the first. The third draft of the manuscript improved upon the second, and as I get ready to embark on producing the final version, I think I know what it needs to be ready for the world. But I’m less confident about the second hurdle. If I build it, will the readers come?
At IBPA’s Publishing University last April, Peter Hildick-Smith of the Codex Group presented “How Books Sell.” He talked about a total universe of 43 million book buyers (I think this number was for the U.S.) He showed an image up on the screen, three intersecting circles, one word in each: Discovery, Conversion, Availability. Discovery – readers need to find you. Conversion – readers need to want to buy what they find, when they find you. Availability – readers need to be able to purchase what you’re selling (via Amazon, via a bookstore, etc.)
In this writing journey so far, my primary focus has been craft. Which is how I think it should be, to start. No reader is going to want to invest in shoddy work. But seeing this presentation last April, I realized I needed to get started on the second hurdle sooner rather than later – the business of connecting with readers.
Early Sunday morning at the La Jolla Writers Conference (LJWC), Antoinette Kuritz presented the “9 Steps to a Successful Writing Career.” Number 2 was “Find your target audience.” Right. I’m trying. I received a good piece of advice at this conference, which I think will help me find those readers: I need to pick a genre. Do I write science fiction? Or paranormal thrillers? The Incident Under the Overpass is a paranormal thriller. My short stories lean more toward science fiction. Readers of both congregate in certain places. I need to reach out to those places.
Number 7 was “Join a writer’s group.” Done.
Number 8 was “Attend conferences, learn and network.” Done. But also, not done. This is going to be a work in progress. Lots more to learn, many more people to meet, more connections to make.
I was impressed with the wide array of published authors on the faculty of the LJWC. There was a good mix of writers with great advice on craft, and experts on the publishing business. The LJWC bills itself as “an intensive experience,” and it is. The schedule was chock-a-block, and I tried to attend as many different workshops with as many different writers and experts as I could. If I attended both the early bird and red-eye sessions, I could have been at it from 7am to as late as I wanted. I heard reports that the red-eye sessions lasted until 2am. Being an early bird, and my body still living in Central time, I didn’t have the heart or stamina for the red-eye sessions.
November is going to be a workshop-heavy month. This Saturday, I’m attending a Mystery Writers of America workshop in New Orleans. I will be glad to get back to New Orleans. I feel closer to the source there. The source of what, I’m not sure. My inspiration? My creativity? As beautiful as I find La Jolla, and California, and as much as I love being so close to the ocean, it’s not home. Los Angeles was once home, for seven wonderful years. But it’s not anymore. Like Paulo Coelho’s Alchemist, I seemed to have found what I was always looking for right at the spot where I started, in New Orleans. But I’m glad those other places are still out there. Despite certain prognostications, I know California will always be there for me, whenever I’m ready for a sojourn.
2 thoughts on “Writing Workshops, Part 2”
So how do you find writers when your stuff is mostly in draft form? I have a nagging feeling like I should connect, but Facebook and Twitter didn’t work for me–they only distracted me from getting down to writing. In fact, that’s all social media seems to do to me–distract.
I, like Robert Olen Butler says in “From Where You Dream,” aspire to create art when I write. Part of me thinks I should just write until I’m finally content which a batch of material and then worry about finding readers.
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Hi, Gene, thanks for the visit. I’m going to attempt to connect with readers by publishing a short story here next month. We’ll see how it goes. I’m with you, I don’t want to put anything out there until I feel it’s the best it can be. That’s why I’m not planning to publish my first novel until Q3 next year. (Trying to put the pressure on to get it out of draft form).
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