15 Tips on Choosing & Attending A Conference


This is the very last post in my series on the Chicago Writer’s Conference 2015. After this, I swear I’ll shut up! I just want to share a few nuggets of wisdom for anyone attending a conference. This is for the ages!

When choosing a conference:

  1. Go Local to Start. If you’re new to conferences, or looking for writing buddies, go local. While it may seem awesome to visit a far-off land instead of a near one, keep in mind that the farther you live from a conference, the less likely you are to find attendees who live near you. And, if it’s your first time going, you should test-run on a cheaper, closer conference.
  2. Carefully Consider the Content. For example, Chicago had at least two different conferences this year. One suited me (and my wallet) better. Don’t go to conferences where you aren’t excited for at least half of the planned sessions.
  3. Choose One with Pitch Sessions. If you are looking for representation, this is the best way to meet agents in person in a situation where they won’t feel too pestered by you. Many agents find most of their new clients in person.
  4. Avoid Writing-Prompt-Heavy Conferences. You can’t always tell that a conference’s sessions will be more writing exercise and less presentation, but if you can, go with the presentations. You will learn a lot more.

Once you choose a conference, I suggest you:

  1. Plan a Trip With an Extra Day. If you aren’t a local, don’t go for just the conference duration – make sure you get at least one free day to enjoy the unfamiliar city and make room for opportunities!
  2. Make a Lunch Sign. Make a sign that says “If you write [your genre here], come to lunch with us!” and stand by the conference exits when lunch gets out. You’ll have a great time and make friends who write the same stuff!
  3. Sign Up Early, and Sign Up For Everything. Signing up early means you can maximize what you get out of the conference. Sign for every pitch session (as long as the agent reps your genre) and every intensive (as long as it pertains to you). The cost will be high – but it will be more than worth it. Have the biggest, most open budget you can manage.
  4. Buy the Books. Get the presenter’s books – as gifts! They will sign them to anyone for you, and write personal messages. Some even give their e-mail addresses and have real conversations with you. Don’t miss this!
  5. Be Bold and Go Early. If you’re an introvert, get over it for the day. Talk to everyone, all the time. Throw your business cards everywhere. Go out for drinks in the evening with other attendees. And go early to the sessions and cocktail parties; this will give you extra (quiet) networking time with other early arrivals.
  6. Tweet and Blog About the Conference. Take pictures – say what you’re doing – and use the hashtags they provide. After it’s over, blog about your biggest takeaways, and share the posting on the conference’s Twitter. You can get retweets and followers this way.
  7. Take Clear Notes by Hand and Write Summaries Later, in a blog or just for yourself. This will cement the ideas more strongly in your head and keep you from forgetting the best gems.
  8. Milk It! Go to every possible session, even if it’s not your thing (the sessions I learned most from were not the ones I looked forward to, and vice versa). Hit every cocktail party and download every extra. And for gods’ sake, take the free pens!
  9. Let Looks Gravitate You. If you see two people, but one looks more your style, talk to that person.It’s more likely that you’ll write similar stuff or get along better. Seems weird, I know – but it proved wildly true for me.
  10. Put Your Twitter Handle on Your I.D. Card. Most conferences give you name tags – put your Twitter handle on them too!
  11. Take AWESOME Business Cards. Take at least 100 cards – you’ll need them! I’ve gotten great advice from an agent on what makes a business card awesome. Make sure it has the following:
    • A picture of you. It will help people remember who you are.
    • Your Twitter handle. Don’t have one? Get one. It should be your name, or something close
    • Your web page. Pay for a domain. No one is impressed by you.website.com!
    • Space for notes. So someone can write in stuff about you.
    • Name, phone number and e-mail. Make sure these are all professional and permanent. You don’t want to have to reprint the cards later.
    • Something nifty on the back, like a calendar. If the card is useful, they might keep it around!
    • And DON’T title yourself an “author” or “writer.” Leave it off – it can be seen as pretentious.

And finally: You will be overwhelmed. Go with it. 

20 Random Writing Tips from CWC 2015 Presenters


Author Highlight: Rachel DeWoskin, Karen Abbott, Rebecca Makkai

Attending CWC 2015 was possibly the best decision I’ve ever made in my life, and I thank you so much for reading my recaps! Below are 20 useful-but-random hints and tips I couldn’t fit into my previous posts. They come from all kinds of CWC presenters who work all kinds of genres—but they ring true across the board. Here’s to becoming a better writer!

DO’s of composing a good story:

  • DO Let Your Story Ring True. Don’t be afraid of things like sex, drugs, or murder, even in YA. The fact is that these things exist, and your story may feel false if you don’t include them. –YA Structure Presenters
  • DO Throw Rocks. Take your characters too far, and push them to the limit. Tough odds cause the story to move faster, the main character to change, and the reader to feel more endeared to the character. Just make sure their reactions make sense! –YA Structure Presenters
  • DO Treat Storylines Like Puzzles. Experiment with tying them together. –Karen Abbott

DON’Ts of a composing good story:

  • DON’T  Write to the Marketplace. The fact is, you don’t know what the market is going to love by the time your book is seeking an agent (much less published) . You will almost certainly miss whatever train you were trying to catch. –YA Structure Presenters
  • DON’T Write to an Audience. You can have a general idea of your readership, but if you let your perceived reader change the way your story is written, you might come off as pandering. Let’s be frank here: no human being knows what they themselves truly want, so it’s utterly impossible that you can successfully know – and express – what someone else wants in your writing. –YA Structure Presenters
  • DON’T Make Your Character You. Take care to create people that react differently to stimuli than you would. Otherwise, you run the risk of creating the same character over and over again, or of going too easy on them. –YA Structure Presenters

When obtaining constructive criticism, it will help if you:

  • Get Absentee Feedback. Find out how readers are experiencing your draft when you are not there to answer their questions. –YA Structure Presenters
  • Join a Writing Group with Variety. Various perspectives will help your writing thrive. –Karen Abbott
  • Abbreviate Your Criticizers. In your mind, think of your beta readers as an abbreviation of their criticisms in order to get the most from their feedback. For example, your fellow writing group member Stacey could be the Structural Stickler; look to her when you need structure help. –Rachel DeWoskin, Rebecca Makkai

When pitching a story, remember:

  • Always Compare Your Book to Other Titles. Your pitch or query should contain a comparative-title hook. Don’t leave this out no matter what! It shows your prospective agent how they will pitch your story to a publisher. –Grace Menary-Winefield
  • An Updated Blog is a Plus. Even if you aren’t getting much traffic, it doesn’t hurt to keep up a blog if you are seeking representation.  Also, reading other blogs helps you gain more traffic—and makes you a better author. –Grace Menary-Winefield
  • Highlight the Darkness of Your ADULT  Fantasy or Sci-Fi. If you are pitching these genres, many agents & publishers are looking for darker tones or elements than in their YA counterparts. If your adult book isn’t lighthearted or comedic, make sure its “dark side” shows in your query or pitch. –Grace Menary-Winefield

If you are having trouble writing every day:

  • Write In The Morning. Pick a time for yourself, and stick to it – but if you write for only 15 minutes every morning, you’ll feel less guilty later on if you don’t do more that day. -Karen Abbott, Writing Group presenters
  • Schedule Yourself. “There is no template for this… [people] cobble together beautifully complicated lives.” –Rachel DeWoskin
  • Consider Teaching. There’s a reason so many authors are also teachers—it keeps you in the writing loop. –Rachel DeWoskin, Rebecca Makkai
  • Artist Colonies are Awesome. At retreats or colonies, you work alone all day in your room, escaping from whatever busy life you left behind. Then, you mingle with like-minded people in the evening. This builds a network, but also inspires you to write another day. –Rachel DeWoskin, Rebecca Makkai

If you are writing realistic or historical work:

  • Ask Questions, Amass Material, and Scale Back. This is the writing process of Rachel DeWoskin, and I can say from personally reading her book that it works like a charm.
  • Order a Back Issue Sears Magazine. These are available for any recent historical year. You’ll learn all kinds of stuff when you see what was for sale back then! –Rachel DeWoskin, Rebecca Makkai
  • Research Is Ignition, Not Boredom. You’ll be amazed how fascinating history can be. Don’t fear research—it might be the most fun part of writing the book! –Rachel DeWoskin, Rebecca Makkai

And above all,


Marketplace, genre, readership… blah. Just write the best damn book you can, and see where the chips fall when you’re done. Good writing can make up for any perceived deficiencies, so that should be your top priority.

YA Structure Presenters

Meet the Agents: CWC Session VI


Agent Highlight: Michelle Grajkowski, Danielle Egan-Miller, Elizabeth Evans, Kristyn Keene

This CWC Recap covers the thoughts of the above agents during a moderated panel, so comments varied widely.

How to Find an Agent:

  • Enter Contests. This gets your work out there, especially if it wins!
  • Go to Conferences. Pitch to as many agents as possible, or just chat with them if you see any around. Absolutely do not pester them.
  • Subscribe to Publisher’s Marketplace for ($25/mo). This, and others, cost money, but it’s a valuable resource that shows you who is acquiring what in real time. You can subscribe to one month, make a huge spreadsheet, drop your sub, and then update the sheet again in a half year.
  • Search Facebook & Twitter. Searching “agent” directly, or checking the “suggested” people on agents’ pages, usually turns up a few leads.
  • Check the Acknowledgements of your favorite (or similar) books. You can see who represented those authors!
  • Association Memberships. If you can become a member of the SFWA (for example), there will often be networks of agents you can utilize.
  • AgentQuery.com & Other Free Sites. Often these aren’t well-updated, but they’re a good place to start.

On Query Writing:

  • Include the Hook, Book, & Cook. Hook: tell us what sets it apart. Book: give the specs  and a small summary. Cook: tell us about you. For more in-depth help with this, check out my blog on query writing (written during an internship).
  • Make Comparisons to Non-Huge Works. Don’t compare to Twilight or Harry Potter, for example, because agents have seen these comparisons a billion times.
  • Only Include Writing Stuff in Your Bio. This means your Twitter, blog, or Facebook follower count (if impressive); any local events or writing groups you run or are involved in; any publications or contests wins; and maybe one perky detail.

Once You Have Interest:

  • Be Completely Transparent. Don’t lie or embellish to an agent, before or after you’ve nabbed them. Stay honest, or you will encounter big problems down the road.
  • Make Them Feel Like They Have Competition. If an agent requests a manuscript, let other agents (to whom you have submitted, but not yet heard back from) know about it. If an agent has your manuscript, but hasn’t gotten to it, and another agent requests it – let the first one know. This will light a nice fire under them!
  • Make Sure You Have the Right Match. You want someone you can get along with who will really champion you. Try asking these questions to see if you have the right agent (and editor). Dropping an agent can make it hard to get a new one later on.

To Move From Self-Published to Agented:

  • Don’t Expect a Publisher For Your Current Book. Even if you get an agent, more often than not the agent will represent your next book – not the one you have currently self-published.
  • Your Book Must Be Brand New or Have Sold More Than 15,000 Copies. If it’s brand new, it can be taken off the market and reworked; if it hasn’t sold 15k, no one likes it enough.
  • You Shouldn’t Have Tapped Out a Niche. If your audience niche is very small, and your self-published book seemed to capture all its readers, then there isn’t much room for growth. However, if can be a platform for a future, wider-ranging project.
  • You Can Have an Agent Without a Publisher. They can still help you out, even if all you do is self-publish – especially if you come across any other types of contracts, such as a film options or foreign rights.

Session I Missed: To see this session (and because of a beer-related side-trip involving a bad Uber driver), I had to miss these five sessions:

  • The Writer’s Path to Breaking Into the Film Industry
  • Break Into Newspaper and Magazine Writing
  • To MFA or Not MFA?
  • Breaking Into Live Lit: Conquer Literature’s New Frontier
  • Networking For Writers: Get on the Radar of Agents, Publishers, and Bloggers (Please message me if you have notes from this one! I was so upset to miss it!

If you went to any of those sessions, consider doing a simultaneous or guest blog to correspond with my CWC Recap!

On Writing Crossover Fiction: CWC Session VIII


Author Highlight: Rebecca Johns

Readers are always looking for something with an edge—and crossover fiction could be the answer. If you are in the process of writing crossover, are interested in writing it, or have no idea what it is, then this post should be useful for you. Plus, there’s a list full of awesome crossover books to read!

“Crossover Fiction” can be any of the following:


To write good crossover fiction, you need to:

  • Start with a great premise. You’ll build the crossover aspects of your work around this, so make sure it’s totally stellar.
  • Include high external stakes (though it does not have to be world-ending). The book itself is an experiment, and experiments, by definition, can fail. Impart this sense of worry into the text.
  • Have a main character with high internal conflict and strong desires. This mirrors the conflict of the two styles you are trying to bring together, and will strengthen the book’s overall feel as a crossover.
  • Impose a time limit on the character or story. This is good for any kind of fiction—but it turns out to be a strange commonality shared by good crossover.
  • Have a surprising ending. The story is already a surprise for its style-clashing. Don’t go out without a bang!

Some good examples of crossover fiction:

  • The Historian. A three-storyline supernatural, historical thriller concerning the modern-day existence of Vlad the Impaler.
  • The Night Circus. About a circus that magically appears overnight, and two people who become enmeshed in its intrigue.
  • Kindred. A time-traveling story about a modern black woman time-traveling to an era where she is a slave.

In my next post in this CWC Recap Series, I’ll go over Random Tips and Tricks From CWC 2015 Presenters (gained across all presentations), and after that, I’ll do a Final Thoughts & Conference Advice post – and then I can stop chugging out stuff about this conference and move on to some new projects!

How to Set Up a Writer’s Group: CWC Session VII


Author Highlight: Samantha Hoffman, Mare Swallow, Inés Bellina

Finding a writer’s group in today’s world isn’t always easy. Below are some hints and tips to help you get started!

When Starting a Writer’s Group, always keep in mind:

  • Have 4-8 Total Members. 4-8 people is a good number of members. On this panel, four was noted as the “sweet spot.” Quantity is not quality!
  • Go Weekly, Biweekly, or Monthly. These are good meeting frequencies. Don’t overextend yourself; if you aren’t sure between two frequencies, choose the least frequent. It will be easier to stick to.
  • A Bad Match is a Waste of Time. If this happens to you, drop your membership. Take criticism, but not insults or useless feedback. You should also get along with the other members.
  • Offer Questions, Not Solutions. You can’t tell people how to fix things – it’s not your work. You can, however, explain your confusion, and offer helpful suggestions.
  • It May Cost Money. $20 per year per member should be enough to designate consistent private spaces for your group, but this varies. Some people may not want to pay. Don’t feel bad telling them no.
  • Submit Work in Advance. Submitting your work 5 days in advance to Dropbox or a Google Drive shared folder can help prevent last-minute work. It shouldn’t be a set-in-stone rule though. It will often not be followed.

Places to Find Members:

  • Local conferences (and sometimes non-local, if you’re okay with online-only)
  • Workshops, college classes, etc.
  • Online (Craigslist is an awesome tool for this)
  • Through a writer’s association membership (via resources or networking)

Create a Member Application that includes the following questions:

  • What are your goals as a writer working within a critique group?
  • What sort of feedback are you looking for?
  • How often would you like to meet?
  • Are you willing to pay an annual fee of [$$$] to help the group later designate meeting places?

Set Goals and Parameters within the group, based upon the questionnaire answers. Make sure everyone knows:

  • How often and where you are meeting. Make sure this is set in stone!
  • How to contact each other and use the technology necessary to share documents (e.g. Dropbox).
  • What sort of feedback you are looking for (based on application responses).
  • The grounds for removal from the group (e.g. they can’t skip more than five meetings a year, and can’t miss a submission more than two times in a row).

In my next post in this CWC Recap Series, I’ll go over the On Writing Crossover Fiction session from CWC 2015.

Session I Missed: To see this session, I had to miss the Late Bloomers: Publishing Later in Life session. If you went to this session, consider doing a simultaneous or guest blog to correspond with my CWC Recap!

The Roles of Dialogue, Character, and Research in Fiction: CWC Session V


Author Highlight: Michael Raleigh

How do you really create a character?

  1. Make Your Character Want Something. Sailing afloat in a lack of want… that only worked (arguably) for The Catcher in the Rye. Make your character want something – even if they don’t know what it is.
  2. Make Them Sympathetic. Use every detail in your arsenal to make us like your character. If you’re good, you’ll even make us like bad guys. And when we like them, even a little, we care about what happens to them. Try these tactics:
    • Backstory. Have they overcome suffering? Or will they?
    • Personality & Appearance. Use description to break us into the character.
    • Name. Daisy Faye sounds wimpy and feminine. Dirk Pitt? Not so.
    • Dialogue. How do they talk?
    • Actions. What are their habits/quirks?
  3.  Then Attack Them. Yep. Once the reader likes them… “let the monsters loose.” Sorry, but good stories come from hard times. Don’t make it easy on them.

Dialogue. This gets its own section, because it can so easily get screwed up.


  • Too Many “Said” Synonyms. Every human reader has seen the word “said” about a billion times. We basically don’t notice it exists. But replacements like “asserted” and “exclaimed,” we notice. Watch yourself.
  • Speeches. People almost never talk in speeches.
  • Long, Formal Sentences. Not a thing.
  • Repetitive Hellos. “Nice to meet you.” “Nice to meet you.” “Hello.” “Hello.” Yeah. People do this, but it doesn’t read well.
  • Writing Completely Realistic Dialogue. You are writing, not speaking. It won’t match real-life dialogue exactly. It should just read right.
  • Affecting a Dialect. Don’t mess with words’ spelling or add unneeded punctuation unless you really think it’s necessary. Think of Hagrid. He was done right.
  • Contemporary Slang. If you start using contemporary slang, you will alienate both current and future readers. If you have to do slang, make it accessible and understandable – like in A Clockwork Orange.

Some other notes from the session…

Research – Do Enough to Make You Comfortable. If you get caught up in research, you might stop writing. Great writers like Karen Abbott researched just enough to piece the story together – then went back later to flesh things out. If you can define what’s different about a place or thing, then the research has carried you far enough to use placeholders.

Don’t Write What You Know. Learn things. Then write those. Even in writing fantasy, you’ll need to learn – about the different types of bird feathers (for phoenix descriptions), or about how best to smelt your own weapon (for grumpy elf weaponsmith scenes). Research adds authenticity – but frankly, it doesn’t make stories. Curiosity – and corrected ignorance – make stories.

In my next post in this CWC Recap Series, I’ll go over the Meet the Agents session from CWC 2015 (granted, I missed the first few minutes).

Session I Missed: To see this session, I had to miss the De-Mystifying the PR Process session. If you went to that session, consider doing a simultaneous or guest blog to correspond with my CWC Recap!

Marketing 101: CWC Session IV (2)


Author Highlight: Lindsay Currie

Often, authors experience the misperception that people already know about a book. People don’t. You need to connect with people to get your book on their radar – and marketing campaigns are a great way to do this.

Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) Tours. These are campaigns where you give free copies to people before a book is published, in exchange for honest reviews. You can’t guarantee the reviews will be good, but you can get more for your money if you follow these guidelines:

  1. Divide Your ARC into Separate Tours. Meaning, run four simultaneous, but different, ARC campaigns – one for each of the following:
    • Bloggers & Reviewers
    • Authors
    • Librarians/ Teachers
    • Readers
  2. Use a Survey to Choose Your ARC Recipients. Using a program like Survey Monkey, ask anyone who wants an ARC to answer these questions:
    • Name & Age. Age will help you get the optimal age range of readers in your ARC tour.
    • Profession/Relation to Industry. See how big of an impact they can have, and which category of the above separate ARC tours they might fall into.
    • Why He/She Wants to Participate in the Tour. This will help you weed out the people who just want free material.
  3. Ask Your Chosen ARC Participants To:
    • Highlight their favorite passages in the book, and initial them or share them with you. These make for great book teasers!
    • Take pictures of themselves with the book and post to their favorite social media. SAVE ALL OF THESE SOMEWHERE SAFE!
    • Post their honest review to Amazon and Goodreads.

Other Marketing Tips & Campaigns

  • Offer ARCs or Signed Copies to Your Favorite Bookstores. A pile of signed books is sometimes enough to get you your own display, or other perks, in-store.
  • Waiting on Wednesday. Try to get on this list to generate pre-publication hubbub for your book.
  • In-Person Tours. Remember: the more attendees, the better. You can advertise an event with all your heart, and still get only one attendee. Consider partnering with places that give advertisements of their own.
  • Newsletters. Send these out rarely, and try to make them not look like spam. Include setting doodles, teaser art-in-progress, character interviews… just fun stuff. This can let people know when your book is out, and help you maintain readerships for a series.
  • Pre-Order Campaigns. Make sure these are very targeted. You can put a great deal of effort, good ideas, and money into them, but only return a few sales. It’s often only worth it if you have an existing readership.
  • Offer Free Content. People love free… but still, this has to be targeted and used wisely, or you end up wasting your effort.
  • Keep it Personal. If there is any way you can give your marketing effort a personal touch, do it. Throw a party at the restaurant you used to work at; use your book postcards to send thank-you notes.

In my next post in this CWC Recap Series, I’ll go over the Making it Real: Character, Dialogue, and the Role of Basic Research in Fiction session from CWC 2015.

Session I Missed: To see this session, I had to miss the Craft of Creative NonFiction session. If you went to that session, consider doing a simultaneous or guest blog to correspond with my CWC Recap!

Marketing 101: CWC Session IV


Author Highlight: Lindsay Currie

This CWC Recap goes over the best ways to personally market your book once it’s out or on the way. All of the following insights were gained by Lindsay Currie during the publishing process for her book Sweet Madness, a young adult novel about the infamous Lizzie Borden.

What Affects Your Book Sales?

  • Trade Reviews. Nothing hurts you more than a slew of 1-star reviews.
  • Existing Readership. If you already have a readership from a strong media presence or from a series, the sales of your book will be stronger.
  • Your Publisher’s Marketing. Some publishers provide some sort of marketing campaign for you.
  • Your Personal Marketing. See below!

What Are Characteristics of Good Grassroots Marketing? When you plan out your marketing campaign, make sure everything you do falls under all four of these categories:

  • Non-Repetitive.
  • Convenient. 
  • Targeted. Know your audience, find them, and reach them where they are. Develop a strong presence on the social media they favor.
  • Cost-Efficient. For physical materials, consider shipping cost. For campaigns, consider the time cost as well as the monetary (you could be writing the sequel).

What Makes for Good “Book Swag”? When giving out free stuff, consider these awesome options – and remember, you have to ship it. Shipping cost is a thing.

  • Bookmarks & Postcards. Hire a professional to make the art if you don’t have the skill yourself. Sites like Fiverr and 99Designs can help you find a good artist for cheap.
  • Wristbands. You can find them on sites like this one, but always search for coupons first! Add a cool tagline and your title – but not dates! You want it to be relevant forever.
  • Buttons. You can even hook them into postcards!
  • Credit Card Style Flash Drives. (Like these.) You can load exclusive content directly onto these – and the recipient can always use them later on for data storage. Don’t forget to add a label!
  • Cell Phone Wallets. (Like these.) I used to work for a custom-printing company, and for our personal promotional products, these were the #1 favorite.
  • Mini-Book. These are miniature books bearing exclusive content. Everyone loves them… but you will have to use them efficiently to make their value stretch.

In the next post, we will get into actual marketing campaigns. But before we get there, here are a few closing thoughts on marketing:

Marketing Does Not End After the Event. Stay honest, hopeful, and passionate in order to keep yourself going.

Accessibility Sells Books! Being available, and being (OMG!!!) a real person, is better advertising than anything.

Don’t Charge for Local Visits. In fact, pitch local visits via e-mail. If an establishment is interested, they’ll reply back – easy peasy.

Hire an Intern. You can apply with your local or past college for an intern to post to social media for you. You’ll get tons of resumes, but choose your intern very carefully.

Session I Missed: To see this session, I had to miss the Residencies, Contests, & Grants session. If you went to that session, consider doing a simultaneous or guest blog to correspond with my CWC Recap!

Branding Yourself: CWC Session III (2)


Author Highlight: Laurie Scheer

This post will go over the other half of Laurie’s session, which goes over content. Writing a book doesn’t cut it anymore; now there are movie adaptations, YouTube channels, and god knows how many social media outlets to consider. Laurie shows us how to take our brand and get it out there in ways that people are looking for.

It’s All About Adapting. So you wrote a book. Great. Now translate that content into other formats… web, mobile, apps, television, social media, etc.

  1. The Three “Screens.” Laurie mentions three “screens” of watchable content: live theater (first screen), television (second screen), and now mobile (third screen). Ask yourself how your work can be integrated into these models – can it become a play? More so, can it become a TV series? Even more so, can it become mobile, to be consumed in a much smaller visual space?
  2. Apps. Speaking of mobile… can your work become an app? Can you give your content a use and build a downloadable app with it? This could be a game, a short-story engine, or anything else you can come up with. Sites like this one claim they can help you make an app for free.
  3. Over the Top Content. Let’s all just admit it – people are cheap, and we love the word “FREE.” That’s where OTT, or free content, comes in. While some people are fine with paying $0.99 for an app or a chapter or an eBook, most would prefer not paying at all. Learn to put your work out there in the form of OTT, and find the best ways to use OTT to generate more interest.
  4. Have a Facebook Page. Face it (teehee), a goodly pile of the population still uses the good old Book of Faces to see if someone or something is legit. I give Facebook props because it’s easier to manage than most other outlets, and because it’s far from dead. Have a presence here, even if you don’t use it often. Most social media sites don’t require you to log in every time you visit, so it’s not hard to maintain a presence in several at once.

In summary, to really stand out in today’s market, you want to create a brand, and then establish brand awareness by implementing a self-marketing campaign and by adapting your work to new content. The world is changing – run with it!

The next post will go over the Marketing 101 session presented by Lindsay Currie.

Session I Missed: To see this upcoming session, I had to miss the Residencies, Contests, and Grants, Oh My! session. If you attended that session, consider doing a simultaneous or guest blog to correspond with my CWC Recap!

Branding Yourself: CWC Session III


Author Highlight: Laurie Scheer

We live in a world of rapidly changing media where follower count, platform, and exposure are highly valued commodities for every writer. Laurie Scheer has embraced this future, and to me, her session on branding oneself as an author paid for the whole conference by giving me such an incredible outflow of ideas. This CWC Recap blog series and my developing Radical Fantasy subgenre all stemmed from this session (although I admit I’m still in the planning stages). Anyway, I hope it inspires you too!

Branding Yourself. Sit down, think about your work, and answer these questions: What separates your story from others? Does your content fit into a new genre, or is it a twist on an established genre? What type of voice do you use and in what favored area of interest? This isn’t about your query letter – it’s about you. About what writing subject are you the go-to person? You can’t just market a book anymore – you have to market yourself.

To establish the needed voice in today’s market, I’ve paraphrased (badly?) some of Laurie Scheer’s tips below:

  1. Be True to Yourself – Not the “Market.” Branding yourself is like getting a tattoo. Your brand should have real meaning for you; it shouldn’t be the same infinity symbol that everyone else has, or you’ll regret it when you get older. Be true to yourself, and don’t consider the perceived market, when you decide on a brand.
  2. Study the Media Marketplace. Know where you fit in, and where you can break in. Take note of the most followed people in your general field, read their stuff, and think about the kinds of posts or tweets they would like to see themselves linked in. Buy into their ideas, and you can learn something – and they might buy into you in return.
  3. Don’t Envy. This goes along with studying the marketplace. Don’t be jealous of your competition. See what they’re doing that’s working so well, and put your own spin on it. And don’t forget to “friend” them; the good thing about the writing community is that we’re really all in this together!
  4. Study Similar Writers. Evaluate how your work and voice fit into both the past and current market. Don’t stop reading in spaces related to – or the same, but previously unnamed as – your established brand. You’ll have more to offer the more educated you are in your field. Having trouble finding similar work? Use Amazon’s “people who bought this also bought” or “if you liked this, you might also like” functions.
  5. Prepare with Confidence. Know what you need to know before launching a marketing campaign. Have an open-ended plan. Create a marketing schedule you can stick to (social media is an unrepentant time sink, so learn to rein it in). And remember, social media is for connection more than for money-making. Use it for networking above all else.
  6. Own It. Prove It.  You represent something new to the world. Be sure of it. And make your audience sure of it too, by giving them samples. Get your work out there. Otherwise you’re just blowing smoke.

The next post will go over the content side of the Branding Yourself presentation.

Session I Missed: To see this session, I had to miss the Meet the Publishers session. If you attended that session, consider doing a simultaneous or guest blog to correspond with my CWC Recap!