Last weekend, I went to the second annual mini-conference for the Northern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America. I missed the first annual conference, and all the monthly meetings in between, so this was my first MWA experience. Glad I finally went. I've been missing out on some fun stuff.
The focus of the conference was the business aspect of writing, the things you have to worry about once you've actually finished that manuscript. Several veteran writers, including Penny Warner, Camille Minichino, and Simon Wood, held court in different conference rooms, offering advice on a particular topic for fifteen minutes. After those fifteen minutes, the audience members would rotate to a different conference room and listen to the next presenter.
The discussions were insightful and informative, though I could have easily spent more than fifteen minutes on the ebook and marketing topics. Ebooks are such a pivotal topic right now, with debates raging about whether print books are fading faster than CDs or whether ebooks would fizzle after a few years, that you could fill a couple of hours talking about them. But that wasn't the point of the conference. The point there was to give tips about publishing and promoting your ebooks. Simon Wood talked about the benefits of Smashwords for self-publishers, how authors should consider keeping the ebook rights when dealing with traditional publishers, and how Amazon forums aren't the marketing tool they once were due to oversaturation.
Speaking of marketing, other presenters offered up suggestions on promoting your work, such as finding a side market to tap into. If your book focuses on a main character who works in a Harley shop, then contact local Harley shops and ask to sell your books there. If your main character practices yoga in between sleuthing, contact yoga studios and organizations.
As for the issue of whether it's worth the money to hire a publicist to promote your work, which is something I hadn't given any thought to, the conclusion was that it's only worthwhile if you have a considerable sum of money to spend. Otherwise, the publicist will essentially be doing the same things you could be doing on your own.
The conference was great fun, and it gave me some ideas avenues to explore whenever I need to promote my first book. I'm ready to sign up for next year!