Education

LTUE Notes: Thursday Edition

Yesterday was the first day of the Life, the Universe, and Everything Symposium, and I loved it. I’ve attended the symposium for the last several years, including stints of helping coordinate it.

This year I am just an attendee, and I’m having a blast. I’ve decided to post each day’s notes for my own records but also for the people who weren’t able to make it.

Once I get a chance to catch my breath, I’ll be talking about my experiences in general.

(9:00) Marketing and Publicity—What Can You Do?
(Bree Despain, Lynn Hardy, Jenn R. Johansson, Elana Johnson, Chris Schoebinger)

  • Marketing is a plan and direction for your book. (Blog tours, etc.) Publicity is getting the media involved. Marketing is the stuff you have to pay for; publicity is the free stuff.
  • What can an author do for their own marketing and publicity?
    • There are some things that are really hard for an author to do for him/herself (submitting books for trade review). You can make sure your publisher submits it to those reviews.
    • An indie publisher will focus on Amazon—they struggle for shelf space in brick & mortar stores.
    • The publishing industry is changing. There are a bunch of new options available for marketing and publicity. Everyone and every publisher are different. It’s hard to say what the publisher will do for you until they do it. The more you do, the more likely it is that the publisher will notice and put more effort into your book.
    • Authors should learn how to write a press release. You can submit that locally, and if it’s good the local media may pick it up.
    • Go into publishing with zero expectations from your publisher. A good expectation is to look at how much they bought your book for—the more money they bought it for, the more likely they are to promote your book.
    • You should stalk and steal. See what other authors are doing, copy them, and pitch your idea to your agent/publisher.
    • You can pitch your ideas to your publisher. The worse thing they can do is say no.
    • Anthologies are a good way to get your name out.
  • Marketing online is difficult. It’s hard to get attention, but sometimes things can happen. Marketing is about throwing stuff out and seeing what sticks.
  • Make sure you keep as many rights as you can when you sign a contract so you can sell/market things connected to your books (shirts, jewelry, etc.)
  • It’s never too early to start building your platform. If you can find a group of like-minded authors to create a group blog, that’s great.
  • You are totally a user when you are marketing—use other people, but make sure to help them in turn.
  • As an author, social media is your best friend. (Example: Elana Johnson’s TAGGED barcode on twitter.)
  • Bloggers are your friend. Don’t discount the contacts you can make online. (Book tours on blogs.) They can get your book out to people who don’t normally read your stuff.
  • You are one person, and you need to pick a couple of key things that you enjoy doing. Focus there for your marketing.
  • Review Saundra Mitchell’s marketing timeline.
  • It’s all about hours and dollars: what can you do and what can you fund? –Elana Johnson
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • A good contract can help maintain friendships despite business dealings.
16

(10:00) What Exactly Does an Editor Do, Anyway?
(Lisa Mangum, Joshua Perkey, Kirk Shaw, Rick Walton, Stacy Whitman)

  • An editor works a long time on fixing the big picture—not the spelling, punctuation, etc. That happens later.
  • An author gets all the praise; the editor gets all the blame.
  • You want to develop the best possible relationship with your editor. It can be a long-lasting and profitable relationship.
  • An editor is a catalyst to help the author communicate with the readers.
  • An editor is an advocate for the book—not just in-house. Social networking has changed that.
  • Be approachable and friendly and not needy when you approach an editor. That way they know you’re not crazy.
  • Editors don’t want to work with people that can’t follow directions. It’s a lot like a job interview. Present yourself in the best light possible.
  • An editor can give you a unique perspective that your family/writing group/friends probably can’t give you.
  • Authors should be approachable. Entitlement is an absolute turn-off for editors. You’re not entitled to a detailed list of reasons why you were rejected.
  • An author needs to be able to fix the problems that the editor points out.
  • The editor and the author are a partnership.
  • Every day you don’t write is poison to an author. Don’t just sit there and stew over your submissions. Keep writing.
  • You need to go beyond the first chapter. It’s important to hook your reader, but it’s just as important to keep them hooked.
  • Editors can fix pacing, characterization, plot, etc., but they can’t teach voice.
  • Children’s market word count: picture books = as small as possible <500 words, chapter books (beginning readers) couple k to 10k, middle grade (8 to 12) = 25k to 70k/80k, YA (12+) 40k to 100k (but that’s pushing it). Stacy prefers YA under 80k. If you are a brand new author, keep the word count low.
16

(11:00) Queries and Pitches
(Lisa Mangum, Donna Milakovic, J. Scott Savage, Chris Schoebinger, Kirk Shaw)

  • A verbal elevator pitch needs to be down to a sentence. You need to be able to rattle it off in one breath. When asked, you need to follow up your elevator pitch with what makes your book different from the rest of the market.
  • High concept = take a very small idea and make it your hook. You take something normal and change it to something big.
  • Manuslit.com (literary agency—read series on queries and pitches)
  • Editors want to know, from beginning to end, about your book.
  • Position yourself within your subgenre (my book is in the style of x, or it will attract fans of y)
  • Four things your pitch needs to be memorable: 1) likeable hero, 2) noble goal, 3) the obstacles s/he faces, and 4) consequences of success and failure
  • Be simple, memorable, powerful, and then stop talking. If you can’t sell someone on your story in four sentences or less, you’ve lost your chance.
  • Don’t give up on your writing.
  • Timing is huge in the publishing industry. Sometimes publishers have already accepted a really similar book to yours and will pass even though it’s good.
  • How many people have read your manuscript (besides your mother)? If it hasn’t gone through critiques already, agents/editors don’t want it.
  • A lot of beginning authors will sit on their manuscript and wait while agents/editors get back to them. Keep writing; don’t wait.
  • “I am more interested in developing a brand than publishing an author.”
  • There’s a difference between ridiculously annoying and pleasantly assertive.
  • Write your first book, and then move on to a different book. Don’t write book two in the series. Start something new.
  • Don’t be afraid to work on multiple projects, and don’t be afraid to tell other people what you’re working on.
16

(2:00) Feeling Fake: What to Do About that Pervasive Feeling that Everyone Belongs in the Publishing World Except You
(Jason Alexander, Ami Chopine, Sandra Tayler, Chris Weston, Stacy Whitman)

  • Imposter Syndrome = it sucks
  • One of the benefits of Imposter Syndrome: when you know that you don’t know it all, you are open to learning.
  • Our fear can keep us from doing what we love. We need to get over the fear of making a mistake.
  • Fear of public humiliation—we’re terrified that we’re going to screw up and that everyone will see that we’re frauds.
  • Just get it wrong and move on.
  • Set goals and do what you want to do. You put on the clothes of the profession you aspire to. Do the work and you won’t be an imposter.
  • Reminding yourself what your goals are is important to keep perspective. Our goals shouldn’t be to compare ourselves to other people—they should be to compare your current self to your past self.
  • Have somebody be your sanity check. More than one person is better. We all need to be told to stop doubting ourselves.
  • Learn to say “I don’t know” and then have the humility to actually listen to what others say.
  • The internet is full of blog posts all about what it is you’re trying to do.
  • Check writer beware & preditors and editors for more information.
  • Self-perception is always skewed. How you see yourself isn’t how others see you. You need to gather the evidence of your own competence. (Note: This is different from inflating your own ego.)
16

Dialog Tags and Speech Patterns
(David Butler, Angie Lofthouse, Kasie West, Tyler Whitesides, Lani Woodland)

  • What are some common mistakes or pitfalls when writing dialog? Overuse of adverbs; when people masquerade narrative as dialog; dialog not staying true to characters; identical speech patterns (rhythm/rhyme is identical/repeated)
  • Suggestion: assume that your readers know as much of how the world works as your characters do.
  • Instead of writing out the accent phonetically, substitute phrases or foreign words. Keep note of what vocab words characters use.
  • If all your characters sound the same, you may not know your characters well enough.
  • As long as your dialog moves your plot forward, it’s good. The minute what your characters say stops mattering, you’ve lingered too long.
  • Dialog should have an element of tension to it.
  • Ask yourself this question: How will your dialog naturally lead you to what you want your reader to know?
  • Try reading your dialog aloud and see what words/phrases come to you naturally.
16

It’s All About Who You Know: A Guide to Building Professional Relationships in the Publishing World; AKA, Stalking your dream agent without getting Arrested
(Donna Milakovich, president and area director of the lehi area chamber of commerce)

  • “Every opportunity has its root in a relationship.” –Jeff Rust, Corporate Alliance
  • Think marathon vs. sprint when it comes to networking.
  • Likeability is important
  • A first impression is 55% face and body, 38% sound of voice, and 7% actual words
  • Your face needs to be open—like you’re happy that the other person is here.
  • If you are likeable, you are innocent.
  • A year from now, how do you want to be remembered?
  • Your story is a part of who you are.
  • Be memorable (but not in a bad way). Example: Marine biology camp (I’m right; you’re wrong) vs the pirate jacket (buying someone a cool jacket)
  • How to earn trust in 30 seconds or less: make eye contact, be genuine, be competent, look trustworthy, remove the walls
  • Don’t tell me everything you know. Tell me what I want to know.
  • Friendship scale: Freak = don’t like you (I avoid you when possible. AKA stalker) || Fan = like you (I’ll smile at you in the hallway and chat about the weather at the book signing) || Friend = like you and remember you (I’m glad to see you. Let’s do lunch.) || Fave Five = like you, know you, and trust you
    (You get to know where the bodies are buried.)

  • Your fave five are the people that develop your life
  • Helpful: Do things just because.
    Meet people just because. Go to conferences just because.

  • Be kind because we’re all human beings trying to get into the same field.
  • Be simple, memorable, and powerful. Then STOP talking.

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