Monday, November 08, 2010

Sitting in the Audience

I attended the Red Clay Writer's Conference at Kennesaw University outside Atlanta this past weekend. I figured it was close, only one day, and reasonably priced, so why not? What is so unusual about this outing is that I did not present a workshop. Instead, I wanted to sit in the audience, listen, and hopefully walk away with a skip in my step and new motivation about new opportunities in the publishing industry. After all, who doesn't need a shot in the arm these days? Especially as a writer?

I walked away with these new ideas:

1. If you don't blog, you're lagging behind. I heard this from every speaker but one, people. Doesn't matter if it's Blogger or Wordpress or something your webmaster designed, but you need that communication. Readers expect it now. Update weekly, minimum. More is better.

2. Voice is everything. Frankly, it's more important than good writing and sharp facts. Voice is a uniqueness about your writing that grabs readers. Quirky is popular. Snide is entertaining. Humor is worshipped. Writing without a serious infusion of personality is a waste of time. The world is clamoring for attention, and just writing journalistically with solid facts and structured sentences is simply passe.

3. Don't count on living off book proceeds. Unless you have the book of books that unexpectedly takes off like a rocket, plan for other income. Write freelance, blog (with ads), or copywrite. Diversify your writing so that you have income streams, not one source. With self-publishing so popular and traditional publishers still reeling from all the changes, your book has too much competition to earn you a fulltime living.

4. You have a better chance breaking into a magazine by pitching to the web editor over the print editor. Less competition, shorter pieces, and a chance to pitch something trendy and current. The pieces are shorter (around 500 words or less), too. Also, they only take e-mail queries!

I'm a firm believer that everyone should attend one conference a year. While half of the classes didn't interest me, the other half educated well, as I'd hoped. That's how it's supposed to be - provide something for everyone. Well attended with little wasted down-time (5-10 minutes between sessions), I felt they packed the day and didn't waste a moment of my time. I walked away pleased. My head is chocked full of ideas for editorials and columns, and I can't wait to crack my knuckles and get started.


Lisa said...

Great post, Hope. Thanks for sharing the finer points with us. I'm right there with you on income streams, but I'm lagging behind in the blog area. Time to get on it.

Ellie Garratt said...

I agree with your point about having a blog - it's a great marketing tool!

Great post.

BECKY said...

Love to hear all this, Hope! It's what I've been believing for some time now. Thanks for all the great info! (speaking of conferences, I'll be at the MWG one next year and "hope" to see you!)...oooh, I know..that was pretty bad!! ;)

Jonah Gibson said...

Good points, all. I used to attend the Oklahoma Festival of Books every year when I lived there. Always came away caffeinated and full of new ideas. Just got back from Florida Writers' Conference - a little pricier than the Oklahoma events, but still darn well worth it.

Barb Hodges said...

Hope, thank you for the great tips. I'm looking forward to meeting you at the MWG conference next April. I'll let you know which tip worked out for me.

P Shane McAfee said...

First of all, I have family in Marietta so that is one of several reasons I would have loved to have been at that conference.

More importantly, thank you for posting this very informative and insightful reality check.

P Shane McAfee

JD said...

Thank you for reminding us that infusing personality into our blog posts is key. For those of us who have been accused of having "too much personality," it is confirmation that some personality is better than boring vanilla! Great post, Hope.

T. Powell Coltrin said...

This is great and informative. I think the writer's voice points to their personal the scent of a candle or the taste of ice cream. A writer's voice is their signature. OR so I think.

Anonymous said...

Great post, especially about voice!