Thursday, September 29, 2016

Five Things I Learned at Novelists, Inc.

Zestful Blog Post #178

So I joined Novelists, Inc. this year, which is a professional organization for authors. The vast majority of members are female; I learned that the organization started as a splinter group from Romance Writers of America. Last week I attended the annual conference, in St. Pete Beach (which is the real name of the town, separate from St. Petersburg.) (Unpaid plug for the Tradewinds resort hotel: If you’re looking for a place to have a midsized conference (200-300 people), you can’t go wrong there. Great layout & staff, many conveniences, & a terrific beach on the Gulf.)

Met some nice and very accomplished folks. There were some heavy hitters in the presenters ranks—like bosses from Amazon, BookBub, Nook, Ingram, and top publishers. I felt the long weekend was worthwhile; attended sessions and took notes like mad. Learned a ton of stuff, & will probably blog in greater depth on some of it. Key takeaways:

  • Lots of people in the writing/publishing business believe quality is the way to go; without great story, all the marketing in the world—whether you’re a trad- or self-published author—won’t help you achieve material success.

  • Way more people in the business are convinced that marketing is the path to material success, as long as you keep pumping out titles.

  • There are lots of dumpy-looking, middle-aged women in this world who make six figures writing genre fiction, mostly romance, mystery, and paranormal mutations of same. (Me, I have the dumpy-looking, middle-aged parts covered; the only missing part is the six figures.) Every man I met at the conference who was not a presenter was a husband-assistant. Really.

[But we’re all swans deep down, aren’t we?]

  • Authors whose books are not in the Kindle Select program (meaning exclusively with Amazon) are angry with Amazon that they don’t get the same deals and advantages that Kindle Select authors get. The two guys who were there from Amazon did a great job escaping with their skins after their presentation.

  • I spent lots of time going to marketing and promo sessions, but made time to go to some craft sessions as well, cuz craft is my thing. One major takeaway for me was that readers like deep, deep point of view. Sometimes I’ve wondered how detailed to make my characters’ thoughts; I like writing deep, but sometimes have pulled back, fearing the reader might be skipping this stuff. But after listening to a few editors who have worked with blockbuster bestsellers, I’m like, yeah! Deep POV is fun to write, and moreover, it develops your characters as nothing else does.

Example of deep POV? Which is better?:

    • The next day, I felt uneasy.

    • A rancid haze settled over me the next day, which was Thursday. It was as if the whole city had turned poisonous—as if micro-bubbles of toxin were raining down on the city, green in color, the exact chartreuse of the mittens of the tiny bully in my first-grade class who had used them to mash snow into my dumb pretty little face that winter, over and over. When the snow melted, she used mud. [from The Actress]

  • And OK, here is one more takeaway, which makes six instead of five, but whatever: It's great to be an attendee. You can wear sneakers and pants and t-shirts and sit in the back and not have to worry about how white your teeth are or whether your lip gloss is still good. I realized that until this one, I've been a presenter at every conference I've ever been to as a published author. It costs more to be an attendee, but God is it great to wear sneakers and t-shirts every day.

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  1. Dumpy middle aged women with six figure incomes? Hell, sign me up. I know how to eat. Question: indie or trad?

    I laughed out loud several times through this piece. And please count me in on any info you want to share. One of the guys you 'met' when you Skyped with us just got back from Chicago Writers Conference and sent the group 12 pages of linked notes! We're hanging out with him this Sunday to pick his brain on the state of publishing.

  2. Wow, that is one generous buddy you got there in your group!! That's great. Will try to condense and give more next week...

  3. Dear Elizabeth,
    I just wanted to let you know that I am working on the outline for my book. The process is exciting and scary at the same time. I have too much self doubt. You are not dumpy. I envy you your slender height. Finally, what does POV mean? Take care Jennifer

  4. I was just thinking about the author Cormac McCarthy. His style too me is " less is more". He puts a wealth of meaning and feeling into one sentence.

  5. EZ, re generous in our crit group, never have experienced anything like it. Yeah, we'll rip each other's writing a new exit, then come right back around and do whatever it takes to make their voice better.

    Looking forward to more re your experience.

  6. Hey Jennifer, thanks for sharing your thoughts, and hey, keep a going on that outline! POV, in fiction-writing lingo, means point of view. Cordia, that is very cool re: your group.


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