Hard to believe, but after 19 years in the business, I spoke at my first SCBWI conference on Saturday. [Full Disclosure: I have been to the evening cocktail party at the national conference in New York City in February a few times.] I was asked to do a breakout session about how authors could/should work with their publishers to promote their books. And so on Saturday morning, I drove the Palatine, IL (about 30 minutes from my home) to attend the SCBWI-IL Prairie Writers’ Day.
Since it was my first, I attended the entire conference. Listening to editors speak in such detail about the writing and editing process was very interesting. The pacing graph Katherine Jacobs (Roaring Brook Press) created for Holes by Louis Sachar was mind-blowing. Katherine did tell us at lunch that she checked with Frances Foster; Frances and Louis had “absolutely not” plotted out the structure so analytically. But I think that proved the point, writers need to understand pacing, even if they don’t put it in graph format.
You’ll notice from the link above, that there were other breakout sessions at the same time as mine. I was disappointed that I was unable to hear Janice Del Negro (Dominican University) speak — and I heard she was fabulous.
As for my session, when first asked to participate, I thought of it as “How not to be a PITA.” But I quickly realized that not only was that pretty negative. I needed to be positive and to emphasize what authors can and should do to promote their books, not what the shouldn’t do.
So, I explained of how authors are members of the marketing team, not the sales team. That they should not be out there handselling their books, but they do need to “sell themselves” as a brand. To do so, the most important things were to befriend industry influencers (booksellers, librarians, teachers, etc.; speak in public; and talk about themselves to strangers — in person and online. And all of that takes practice.
My slides were far more word-filled than I like, but we printed them as fairly detailed takeways. I’ll be reworking the slides based on the response and taking the show on the road in April for an SCBWI conference in Iowa.
Really great fun — and pizza with the organizing committee afterwards. Great job ladies!