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5 Takeaways for Writers of the JRW Writer's Conference

Every aspiring, emerging and established writer should attend at least one writer’s conference a year for not only the need to market your ideas/works, but to stay on top of the changes in the publishing world and, even more importantly, to establish best practices for your business as a writer. That’s right! In today’s world, writers –artists – need to be entrepreneurial in the sense that you need to create and establish methods/skills that will help you to achieve whatever goals and outcomes you have set for your works (your business). I had the pleasure of attending the James River Writer’s annual Writer’s Conference (http://www.jamesriverwriters.org/) October 19-20, 2013 in Richmond, Virginia. Although I was a moderator for a panel on small to mid-sized publishers, I also was there as an author and playwright. And I was there to LEARN. As such, here are 5 takeaways I wish to share with you that I hope will help you navigate not only this difficult terrain of publishing, but to get you thinking strategically and critically about what it takes to be  a successful 21st Century author.

The Publishing World is Ever-Changing

  • First, know the intentions for your work. What do you want to do with it? Sell it to the highest bidder? Get in on the bookshelves? Build credibility?
  • Research which aspects of publishing you wish to delve into that will help you build upon your intentions
  • There 5 significant areas of publishing today:  Traditional, Small Press, DIY (Do-it-Yourself), Partner Publishing, or Assisted Publishing. Take the time to see which one is the best fit for your reality at this moment in time (i.e., your budget, your work/family schedule, etc)
  • Advances are going the way of the dinosaur and yet, you are expected to put in even more work, time and energy to market your book…after you’ve nearly killed yourself writing the book J

Build Your Brand

  • Create a platform – Who are you and what do you write about? Who are your readers and where can they be found?
  • Be consistent in your message  (i.e., the verbage, design, marketing, etc)
  • Put together a team of experts to help you do this (check out freelancing sites or pull from your network)

Social Media Presence is a MUST (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, etc)

  • It’s part of your brand identity
  • It’s a way to reach your intended audience
  • It’s a way to stay connected/available to your audience
  • But know your strengths/weaknesses with this skill set because working social media is a skill. (see bullet 3 in Build Your Brand above)

Create a Pitch for Your Work

  • This is for both conferences and any other social interaction opportunity
  • A pitch is a 30 second to 1 minute blurb which contains 5 essential elements: who you are, what other books your book is similar to, 250 mini-synopsis of the storyline, and the market the book is targeted for
  • Practice, practice, practice delivering your pitch in a mirror
  • Remember, you never know where you’ll meet an agent or publisher. So be prepared!!

Create a Logline for Your Work

  • A logline is 1 sentence descriptor of your storyline.
  • For example, here’s mine for my novel, Murder on Second Street: The Jackson Ward Murders: “It’s October 1929, and WWI veteran and securities specialist Sy Sanford has been hired to find and stop the killer of Negro working class women in the affluent Negro neighborhood of Jackson Ward, but Sy has two big problems: he’s a drunk in the age of Prohibition and the killer has now targeted the love of his life.” It’s a little wordy, but it’s one sentence and it tells the meat of the story as well as the time period of the work: 1929. So you know that this is a work of historical fiction.
  • Commit to memory the logline
  • Remember, you not only never know where you’ll meet an agent or publisher, but a reader! Once you say you have written a book, they will ask the million dollar question: “So what is your book about?” BE PREPARED!!

No one knows your story better than you, so give it the best chance to reach its intended audience and be successful (whatever that means for you). No longer can writers afford to sit behind the computer screen or notepad in anonymity hoping that their agent or publisher will push the work for them. You have to get out there and do the work yourself today. We live in a technologically driven world with many different routes of communication that we expect everyone to use. You simply cannot realistically avoid Facebook or Twitter, I am sad to say. Just learn how to use it strategically – know its place in the marketing of your work.

Surround yourself with hard-working, driven people who believe in your product and get to work. And spend the money to attend a great writer’s conference. It will not only help save your sanity, but thousands of dollars in avoidable mistakes from lack of information/knowledge. Writing is a business.

Rebekah

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