Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Other Side of Cons

Last week we talked about Love is Murder, a favorite fan/author gathering.  That's one type of writer's conference, but there is a very different animal that uses the same name.

Yesterday I was part of the faculty of the Bay To Ocean writers conference. This was not a gathering of fans watching their favorite writers present on panels.  This was a couple of hundred aspiring and emerging writers attending classes to improve their craft.

The atmosphere is just as warm and cordial at either kind of event, but whereas one set of cons is all for fun, the other, the Bay to Ocean set, puts the emphasis on learning. My role this year began with 30-minute individual meetings to critique work submitted by new writers.  I am always tense before these meetings, because I have to be honest about work that is often less than professional.  But new writers almost always appreciate being told exactly what they can do to make their work better.  I try to be encouraging with every writer, pointing  out what's good about their work before I get into the flaws and weaknesses.

After a lunch full of networking I sat before an audience with another talented author, Candice Porch, to discuss a challenging subject: bringing diversity to characters in fiction.  For an interactive hour, we spoke with the audience about using minority characters, how to distinguish them from mainstream white characters and what not to do if you want to avoid being hated by the reading public.

Finally I moved to the auditorium and gave a one-hour lecture on the use of conflict and suspense.  I have to admit that I  prefer the direct lecture on craft, and I'm happier at the podium by myself.  The audience was very welcoming and attentive - a good sign.  And I saved 15 minutes at the end for my favorite part of any class, when I open the floor to questions and the audience plays "stump the author," asking anything and everything they can think of.

I can't say that I love one kind of writers Con more than the other.  Both are great fun and both are necessary to a successful writing career.  Because in both cases, it's about being part of a writing community. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Your Award Winning Novel

My company, Intrigue Publishing, was well represented at the Love is Murder Mystery Conference last weekend.  We took pitches from authors.  I sat on one panel and moderated another. We sponsored the newcomer’s breakfast and I moderated that too.  We worked the con the way I hope other small presses work our  Creatures, Crimes & Creativity con.  And our big win was that one of the books we published, “Girl Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie” won the Lovey Award for best horror/sci-fi/fantasy novel of the year.  The Lovey, voted on by Love is Murder attendees, is given in several categories.
In today’s crowded marketplace winning an award is one way to distinguish a book and make it stand out.  Awards that are voted on by readers can carry a lot of weight with a specific audience. Like Love is Murder’s Lovey, the Agatha award is granted by the fans at the Malice Domestic conference. For authors and publishers who attend writers conferences, this can be a great extra benefit.
There are also plenty of awards available to authors and publishers who don’t love Cons, although there is usually a price.  For example, the annual International Beverly Hills Book Awards is open for submissions through Feb. 15.  They consider cover and interior design, promotional text, aesthetic components and other factors that demonstrate outstanding presentation, in addition to the writing. They accept fiction and non-fiction books in a wide range of topics and categories including mystery, romance, business, self-help, memoirs and inspiration.

USA Regional Excellence Book Awards recognizes books that take readers into the heart of a “place.” If your book delivers the distinctive character  of a locale, say the glitz of Hollywood or the hustle and bustle of New York City, it is a perfect candidate for a USA REBA award.  Again, Sept. 15 is this year’s deadline.

And while the International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America restrict their awards to well-established publishers, that doesn’t mean all others are shut  out.  The National Indie Excellence® Awards (NIEA) was created to help establish self-publishing as a legitimate side of the publishing industry. You’ve got until March 31 to submit to them.
You could question the promotional value of book awards, but  there’s no denying the joy of such bragging rights.  So go see if your book can become an award winning.

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Blog About Blogs

As much as I hope you’re here every week looking for news I also hope this isn’t the only blog you read.  There are dozens of great ones out there.  Of course that raises a question: how do you decide which ones you should read?

Well just like me you probably scan all your friend’s blogs often.  B. Swangin Webster’s “Books, Shoes & Writing  blog is always insightful, DB Corey has a gift for humor that keeps his blog interesting. Penny Clover Petersen always offers an interesting slice of life on “Making the Time to Write” And Christine Verstraete posts some unique thoughts on the GirlZombieAuthors blog. I like the variety, but sometimes I also want to follow the writings of people immersed in the topic I am most interested in.

If the life of a writer and publisher is of interest to you (and if not, why are you here?) then I can recommend the BookPublishing Insider . Steven Zacharius is not an author like all the folks above, but he is the Chairman, President and CEO of Kensington Publishing Corp.  Kensington is NOT Random House big, but it is I think the biggest publisher that can still claim small press cred. Steven knows what he’s talking about when the subject I publishing whether it’s about the quality of the product or the tricky business of survival in a very challenging business.  He likes to interact with other, smaller publishers and what he says always makes sense.  Of course he is opinionated, but he is open to the opinions of others and up for a lively debate as long as it stays civil.  Most recently he’s been a protracted discussion with J.A. Konrath, the patron saint of self-publishing. Just reading this one long entry is quite an education, but you really should back-track through the blog for earlier, equally valuable posts. 

For a different spin, I direct you to John Scalzi’s light hearted blog, Whatever . It is one of the longest-running blogs on the Web, and is about… well… whatever Scalzi feels like writing on.  Best known as a science fiction author, Scalzi serialized his science fiction novel Old Man’s War on Whatever; it was subsequently published by Tor Books and later nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel.  Scalzi posts constantly, but to get the flavor of why it’s one of my favorites I suggest you drop back 16 posts (!!) to January 26th for the post called, “Every Award-Winning Book Sucks (For Someone)” in which he proves that negative reviews are part of the territory by listing excerpts of one star Amazon reviews of every single Hugo-winning novel of the last ten years.  Truly an education for the up and coming author.

So find the blogs that say what you need to hear.  These are two of mine. What blogs are must-reads for you?