Sunday, February 24, 2008

Writer's Spouse-Friendly Conferences!

It has long been my pet peeve that conferences do not do anything to encourage writer’s spouses to attend. We were at a conference yesterday in Maryland. It is one of the best conferences we go to all year, the Bay To Ocean conference in Wye Mills, MD. My hat is off to the coordinator, Diane Marquette, and her phenomenal team. They start the day off right with a smooth registration process, great continental breakfast and the all important smile. All through the day we networked with a number of other authors and speakers. We really had a great time. And it ended with cookies! It was a really great experience for both of us.

But while I was there I talked to my friend Bernie Dlugokeski and mentioned how nice it would be to meet his significant other. He stated that he wished she could come because he has so many friends he meets from conferences and he would like her to be involved too.

His problem, like everyone else is that it is just too much money to bring a spouse and the spouse doesn’t really get anything from the sessions for authors so it isn’t worth the price you would have to pay.

So I have some ideas for all you conference coordinators out there. Now I know there are some conferences that limit the number of people they have and that’s ok. A minimum number of writers are going to want to bring their spouses in the beginning and you can gauge it as you go along to see the value.

Invite the spouses to the lunch. Yes, I know there is a charge for the lunch, so add it to the writer’s registration. This is especially key for conferences that run more than one day and includes a hotel room. The hotel room isn’t going to be any more expensive if the spouse goes and if they just go to the lunch or dinner and don’t attend the sessions then it’s a win-win for the author and the spouse.

Have a couple’s registration price. Say the conference is $120 per person, add $60, make it a package deal and they will feel like they are getting a great deal and you know you are going to make money off of it. Think of the impact it will have on the authors if they can involve their spouses.

Some of these sessions can be geared to the writer’s spouse. I personally have a session I can do that pinpoints just how spouses can help support and assist their writer. You can even get some of these journaling coaches and holistic type seminar presenters to give sessions on keeping writers and their spouses from divorcing over their obsession. There are sessions about marketing and publicity that can be geared to how to support your author.

There are a number of ways to include the spouse and anyone who has any ideas on how to do it please write me and let me know. I am going to start keeping a log of all of these great ideas and who knows, maybe one day I’ll have a conference exclusively for the Writer’s Spouse!

Until next time…don’t let their obsession become your undoing


Monday, February 11, 2008

MWA: Upgrade Me

One of my writing heroes, Harlan Coben, is the new President of Mystery Writers of America. In the most recent issue of “The 3rd Degree,” the official newsletter of the MWA, Coben says, “We want to reverse the trend of ‘ghettoizing’ our membership. Forget terms like ‘cozies’ or ‘private eyes’ or ‘historicals’ or ‘thrillers.’” Well, Mr. Coben, allow me to suggest we also forget the term “associate member” and stop ghettoizing our membership.

Part of the reason I chose Echelon as a publisher was to become a member of the MWA. There were a number of requirements including a certain minimum advance for the author, which Echelon offered. By publishing with them I had squirmed through all the hoops.

Unfortunately, in the time between signing the contract and my books hitting the shelves the hoops moved. The MWA decided that the only criteria that mattered was that authors be published by one of the publishers on their limited list. And guess what? Echelon was one of the many publishers dropped from the list.

This did not negate my membership. It simply downgraded me to associate status. I still get the newsletter and can use the resources on their web site. Oh, and they still accept the same annual dues that they take from full members. But there are some differences. My new books can’t be listed in the newsletter’s Vital Signs section. And only full members can be nominated for Edgar awards.

So, I am a full dues-paying member of the organization that awards the most prestigious honor a mystery author can receive but no matter how good my work may be I don’t qualify to be nominated for it. And, my personal injustice aside, how many gifted and talented authors are out there who can’t be properly recognized because they made the mistake of being published by the wrong publisher?

Mr. Coben, if you’re listening, I welcome a rebuttal and promise to publish any I receive. But I’d be happier if you’d take your own advice and push the board of directors to do away with second-class memberships in the Mystery Writers of America.


For those of you who may be tracking: In the last two weeks I completed the final edit of the new how-to, tentatively titled “Successfully Marketing your Novel in the 21st Century.”

The next Hannibal Jones mystery still doesn’t have a working title, but I’m 30,456 words into its first draft - 3,384 more than it had two weeks ago.

The new Northern Virginia chapter of the Virginia Writers Club has 21 official members and Sunday’s meeting will feature a local newspaper editor.

I spoke at a fiction seminar and held signings in two book stores.

And today, I chatted with my agent and learned that she has my manuscripts at Thomas Dunne books and Bantam, with plans to submit to Citadel, Gold Medal and Poisoned Pen Press.

It’s been a good 2 weeks.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day by A Writer's Spouse

I know, I’m supposed to be writing about how to make your spouse the most marketed writer ever, but I’ve decided that since it is Valentines Day this month I’m going to get a little sentimental.

Several years back, before we were in the publishing business, I made up a document for Austin on his birthday that basically promised my help in whatever capacity he needed, to help him achieve his dreams. Nothing very formal mind you, but just a little something to show him I was serious about wanting to help him make his dreams a reality. I believe he still has it floating around somewhere. And someday I hope to fulfill all of those promises.

I hate making phone calls to bookstores that really don’t want to talk to you, smiling and talking at conferences with people who bore you to death or have the morals of a snake, long hours on the computer designing, emailing and researching.

But I wouldn’t change a thing. One day when he’s sitting on Oprah’s stage getting the notoriety he deserves for his NYT bestseller or his blockbuster movie and I’m standing backstage or sitting in the audience unnoticed I’ll here those magical words “my lovely wife Dee” and I’ll be reminded that I’m the luckiest writer’s spouse around.

Over the years he has gone from POD to self-published to published by a small publisher. He has stood by me through the worst of times and all I’ve had to do is make a few calls, smile and shake a few hands and sit at a computer a bit.

Published or not, he’s the best writer a writer’s spouse could ever ask for.