Is a Web Con Worth It?

Is a Web Con Worth It? An opinion by Jacqueline Vick

Writing conferences are a great opportunity for both published and unpublished authors to mingle with others for camaraderie and support; meet agents, editors, and others who can help shape their careers; and soak up information offered by various panels.
I remember my first writer’s conference – Love is Murder in Chicago, IL. I was floored by the warmth and sense of community offered by both attendees and big wigs, such as Charlaine Harris and Ken Bruen.
Now that money is tight for most people, online conferences are popping up all over the internet. But can a writer get the same benefits over the internet?
I recently “attended” both The Muse Online Writers Conference (2010 registration opens up soon!) and The PP Web Con offered by Poisoned Pen Press and the Poisoned Pen Bookstore, and here is what I found.

It’s hard to beat the costs of an online conference.

PP charged $25.00 which was then donated to a library chosen at random. Muse was free. You can’t attend a physical conference for $25.00.

Socializing takes place online, too.

Each of these conferences had chat rooms or “coffee shops”. At the PP Web Con, you did have to schedule time to visit, assumedly to keep the site from crashing.

Plenty of Panels to choose from

Both conferences offered dozens of live presentations, panels, and chats. The difference is, some of these panels were recorded and made available at any time during and after the conference to enable attendees to listen at their leisure. Some classes and panels were offered in text, some were offered as audio files, and some were full-blown video feed. My preference was the video, and my favorite was offered through Skype. I was able to type in questions and the author answered them. It was as close to being there without getting in the car and driving to the author’s home.

What about pitching?

Muse offered a lot of opportunities to meet with publishers and to pitch. Most of these companies were looking for Romance, and if that’s your genre, you couldn’t ask for a better chance to pitch your book. At PP, there was a drawing, and winning participants were able to pitch.

Will I need special hardware?

As far as hardware and programs, the PP WebCon listed the various free programs you might need, such as Skype, and a high-speed hookup will work best for conferences with live video and audio feed. You definitely need working speakers, and if you want to participate in some of the live panels, you will need a microphone as well.

I don’t believe that online conferences will replace physical conferences, since it’s difficult to get the same sense of community online, but they were both well worth attending, and I hope to see more offerings in the future.

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Jackie Houcin

But what about book purchases and book signings? I know I would miss that feature in an online conference. What about raffles and drawings and goodie-bags? And no candid photos of myself with Lisa Scottoline, Michael Connelly or Dan Brown? Ha-ha!
And, the food! Now, I know banquet food isn’t always that great, but sometimes the fresh fruit platters, French rolls with real butter, and of course the desserts are hard to beat. (Yes, I know, we can always raid our own refrigerators if our stomachs start growling or we need something to chew on or to wake us up. But there’s something “pampered” about having your meals provided.)
On the other hand … online conferences do allow you to attend wearing your pajamas.
***
I should have mentioned that the PP Webcon did have a goodie bag filled with downloadable short stories, novel excerpts, and even entire novels. PP also gave attendees a $20.00 gift certificate toward their bookstore.
As for food, since you’re in your pajamas anyway, you can eat at the computer and no one will think you’re a piggy. (Except your significant other!)

An Interview with Pam Ripling

We are pleased to present an interview with Pam Ripling, winner of the Golden Wings Award and author of romantic women’s fiction, young adult fiction, and paranormal-romantic-mysteries.  Welcome Pam!

Pam, you write for the romance, mystery, and the young adult markets. Is it difficult to change hats, and do you ever work on more than one genre at a time?


I do, and I find it difficult to change gears—probably why it took me a few years to finish my second middle grade reader when I was churning out romance novels much more quickly. The two genres are so different, and it takes more effort for me to get into the mindset of youth books. I worry more about authenticity of voice and culture with the middle readers. I feel I have much more flexibility with the adult stuff.

Do you take a different approach to the mystery when it’s for the middle-grade market?

Well, yes. What would seem mysterious to a twelve-year-old might fly right by an adult, and vice versa. Kids have a different focus; they can be much more “in the moment” than adults, thereby catching some types of details we would never notice. Interest level, obviously, varies widely as well. I see the whole interest/ability/availability of titles shifting downward. Teens reading what was formerly reserved only for adults, young teens reading teen lit and children and adolescents diving into more mature themes every day.

Your most recent novel,”Point Surrender”, and your upcoming release, “Cape Seduction”, each take place around lighthouses. Where did your fascination with lighthouses begin, and what additional element do you think these unique locations add to the story?

I thought you’d never ask!! I can’t really say when or where it started. The first lighthouse I visited was Old Point Loma in northern San Diego. I went there by myself, stopped off after a business trip to S.D. I was amazed by the feelings that came forth when I stepped inside. From then on, it became a quest to visit, photograph, study as many lighthouses as I could. I even joined the U.S. Lighthouse Society.

As far as story, goes, to me, lighthouses provide an unparalleled setting for mystique and romance. Lonely, isolated, romantic, mysterious, protectors, beacons, historical, challenged… these are some of the words I gather from others when I ask what comes to mind when they think of lighthouses.

Can you give us the inside scoop on “Cape Seduction”? Who are the characters and what’s the story about?

Here’s the blurb: “In 1949, up-and-coming starlet Darla Foster goes missing after the release of Cape Seduction, a tragic romance filmed in a California lighthouse. Now, sixty years later, the long abandoned lighthouse is causing trouble for its present-day owners. Has the sexy, eccentric actress returned to avenge her stolen life?”

What’s fun and unique about this novel is that it takes place in both 1948/49 and 2009/10. The chapters alternate between the two time periods, with two complete sets of characters that are both caught up in the aura of the lighthouse. Of course, the stories converge at the end, the mystery is solved, and the HEA shines in the sunset.

You also write under the nome de plume Anne Carter. Why did you decide to use different names for the various books?
Anne Carter is my middle and maiden names. Since I write for children as well as adults, I thought it might be prudent to separate the works so that young readers wouldn’t go looking for more work by Pam Ripling and come across an age-inappropriate story!
Congratulations are in order! Your short story “Just Like Jay” will be in the upcoming Sisters in Crime/LA anthology “Murder in La-La Land”. Was this a one-time venture into short stories, or do you plan to write more?
Definitely not a one-timer. I started my writing career in short fiction and even poetry. My first publishing credit came from THEMA Literary Journal, a short story I wrote after the passing of my father. I love the short format, so was excited to attempt and then submit my short to SinC/LA. I couldn’t be more thrilled for my work to have been accepted. And yes, I’ll continue to write shorts. They pose a great challenge after the freedom of 90K word novels.
I saw on your web site that you are considering self-publishing a book. Why choose a non-traditional route for this particular book?
First of all, I’ve always thought it might be a lark to self-pub. The working title of this book is THE UNMASKING OF PAULIE BINGHAM and it deals with a long-term relationship between a gay man and a straight woman. Takes place in 1980’s rock ‘n roll, London, Los Angeles, etc. Definitely out of the box, it’s quirky, romantic, and sometimes, tragic. Nothing like anything I’ve ever written, and I’d have to do a lot of research to see who might be interested in publishing it if I choose not to do it myself.
Can you tell us what’s up next for both Pam Ripling and Anne Carter?
CAPE SEDUCTION (Echelon Press) by Anne Carter will release for Kindle and other e-readers later this month and in trade paperback in Spring of 2010. Look for OLD ENOUGH by Pam Ripling, the next of the Midland School stories, to follow. Once I complete Paulie Bingham’s story, I will get to work on the third and final paranormal lighthouse mystery, working title MACKENZIE’S REACH.
Keep up with me at http://www.beaconstreetbooks.com/ , where I blog and keep my calendar updated with personal appearances.

Thank you, Pam, for a great interview! You can order Point Surrender here.

Building a Platform – Day 11 & 12 and Final Thoughts

Day #11

Don’t Drop the Ball Now. If you have gotten this far, take time to update your website, keep people informed on your My Space page, or Twitter your latest event. Let your targeted audience (chefs, lawyers, senior citizen groups) know what you are doing. Visit all those Internet communities you have joined and let them know what you are up to. Leave a comment on a fellow writer’s blog when they have a new book out. Review somebody’s book on Amazon.com. (Wouldn’t you like somebody to do that to your book?)

As you learn new skills, like doing a TV interview, let people know about it on your website. Polish old skills. (You can always improve.) You should have learned a hundred great writing techniques and mistakes to avoid in that writing group you joined. (We can all learn from other’s mistakes.)

Update your short, one-paragraph biography often, so when someone is doing publicity on you (or you are sending out your own Press Release) you have the latest news on yourself at hand. Something you did in college probably won’t interest anybody five or ten years later, but guest blogging on someone else’s blog is Big News. The fact you wrote poems in high school isn’t very interesting. The fact you interviewed a fellow writer on your blog is exciting. Read other people’s biographies on their websites. You’ll spot the pro from the novice by what the pro leaves out.

Day #12

Go for the Gold. Once you have a book in print, try creating a video book trailer for your website. Hey! If you have done all the previous points, you can do the book trailer. It’s the toughest “new thing” out there, but other writers are doing them.

Tough love segment: Agents and publishers are looking for any excuse to say “no” to you and your manuscript. If you have most of these twelve bullet points under your belt, they are going to find it hard to turn you down. You show initiative and you follow through. That means they won’t have worry about expending time and money on a newcomer. (Let them spend their time and money when your efforts pay off and you have a Best Seller.) Do your homework now and maybe your publisher will spring for the book trailer later.

A Final Thought

You aren’t alone out there. There are plenty of people who are at the same level in their career as you, some a little further along, some even more of a newcomer than you. Writers today are learning that they need to learn these same silly skills to get themselves noticed. Why not you?

These bullet points are meant to give you a heads up in this business and to urge you learn them, try them, and to get your name plastered all over the Internet along with your terrific face. You have a vested interest in getting a book published and selling those books. You are also the best salesman of your work. Nobody knows you like you.

Use all these “platforms” to climb up to the top of the heap and shout your name from the rooftops. Each one will make you a better writer and more interesting to an agent or publisher.

Reviews of Pamela Samuels-Young’s Books

MURDER ON THE DOWN LOW
By Pamela Samuels Young
Goldman House, 2008, $14.95

Pamela Samuels Young knows the law and she knows the mystery-suspense genre. Now, in her third legal thriller, featuring attorney Vernetta Henderson, Young wrestles with a controversial social issue. But it’s not at the expense of her intricate plotting, memorable characters and intense action that readers have come to expect.

A series of apparently unconnected murders of affluent African-American men in Los Angeles has citizens as well as the police department on edge. From her preliminary investigation, LAPD Detective J. C. Sparks suspects a deeper motive than racial prejudice, but someone in the department has told her to back off.

At a funeral across town Vernetta Henderson, best friend Special Moore, sister attorney Nichelle Ayers, and J.C. mourn the death of a close friend, the victim of a different sort of crime. Maya died of AIDS, contracted from her secretly gay husband who got the HIV virus from one of his homosexual lovers… and failed to inform her.

The friends are outraged at how this “on the down low” creep killed Maya and got away with it. Determined to make him pay, they meet together with Maya’s mother to plan their revenge. But Special, who was cousin to Maya, has more in mind than a wrongful death suit. After publicly exposing the man’s lifestyle and accusing him of murder, she secretly – and viciously – begins to harass him. But later, when she is arrested and charged, it’s for much more than harassment.

As Vernetta and Nichelle research for the civil suit and Special’s criminal defense, they find a shocking link to the citywide murders. Suddenly J.C.’s investigation is hot again, and time is running out for Special.

With shades of James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club, the four women use their skills to find justice in a world of deceit, addiction, prejudice and fear, where there are many motives and opportunities for murder.

Whether in the courtroom, the police station, a church or a private bedroom, Young writes with a confidence that comes from first-hand experience and extensive research. And her passion for injustice and the issues that effect women is seen strongly in MURDER IN THE DOWN LOW.

Firm Pursuit
By Pamela Samuels-Young
Kimani Press
January, 2007
$14.95

Reviewed by Jackie Houchin

Los Angeles attorney, Vernetta Henderson is on the partner track. She’s a lone black woman in an all male firm; but her case record is good and the managing partner is her mentor, so she’s confident she’ll make it.

That is, until a highly visible case she’s working on goes bad. Her client is a powerful company who is being sued by the employee they dismissed for sexual harassment. Traditionally they have refused to accept settlements, so Vernetta rejects an extremely low offer, believing she could easily win in court. But when new evidence surfaces, the company suddenly wants her to settle…at any cost. She is unable to negotiate a settlement with the new opposing counsel, and is dismissed from the case.

Her chances at partnership fade even more when a self-important junior associate circulates slanderous rumors about her. And when she most needs support from her husband, he has problems of his own with a sexy young secretary who’s making threats.

Despite stress in her career and personal life, Vernetta is more troubled about several discrepancies in her former client’s case. At the insistence of her best friend – but against her better judgment – she reluctantly begins to investigate. What she discovers puts lives in danger, including her own. Can she “argue” her way out of this one, or will she become just another statistic?

Pamela Samuels-Young has written a fast paced, legal thriller with a fascinating plot and a strong female protagonist. She’s packed her book with tense, dramatic scenes and flashy, memorable characters. She is just as comfortable writing legal dialogue (without sounding pompous) as she is writing sexy “sister talk.” And she handles touchy African-American workplace issues with style.

Building a Platform – Day 9 & 10

Day #9

Your Inner Ham. This one might be scary, but if you really want to cut the mustard as a writer, you have to be able to stand up in front of strangers and read your work out loud. If you haven’t passed out from the mere thought of that, you might think, “Oh, how hard can that be?” Practice it. Have some friends watch you and honestly critique you. Try reading stories to a children’s group. If they start laughing or falling asleep, maybe you should improve your technique. If you mumble in a monotone with your head down, it’s time to take a Toastmasters course.

Reading to an audience is more than saying the words. You must be able to project to the back of the room. You should use varied tones and moods. Your face should suggest the different characters you are portraying. In other words, you should give a performance.

Many books are sold at public readings because the author made his or her book sound like a movie. It can be done, with practice. Read your own work out loud as you are polishing that final draft. Pick the most exciting parts and perfect your act.

As a bonus, while reading your work out loud, you will detect mistakes that you had overlooked while just reading the words off the computer screen. To kill two birds with one stone: record yourself as you read. You will hear your literary errors and you can judge your own presentation.

Remember: It is a performance. Lights. Camera. Action.

Day #10

Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up. If you have anything published, even self-published, do TV interviews to get face time and experience. Local TV stations in many areas do segments on local authors. Public access stations do round-tables with authors. Call them up, tell them what you have done. Suggest doing a panel of several of your writer friends for their station. It never hurts to ask.

Interview with Marilyn Meredith


Marilyn Meredith is the author of the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series as well as the Rocky Bluff P.D. series. In addition, she writes Christian Horror, edits, teaches and freelances. Welcome Marilyn!

 
There was an article about you on the Austin Writing Examiner website, about how you just keep getting better. When did you start your writing career, and what lead you to decide to be an author?

That comment about getting better made me laugh. I certainly hope I’m getting better and I always feel like my latest book is the best.

I’ve always written but didn’t start really pursuing a writing career until I was in my forties. Oh I was writing, but hadn’t started the submitting, getting rejected, resubmitting process until nearly all my kids were grown.

Being a reader is what really made me want to be a published writer.

Your current release, Dispel the Myth, is your eighth Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. This time, she enters the realm of supernatural through the Legend of the Hairy Man. Can you tell us a bit about this legend and how you came to hear of it?

Every Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery contains some supernatural elements and/or Indian legend. In the book prior to this one, Kindred Spirits, I did a lot of my research with a Tolowa woman in Crescent City. In that area stories about Big Foot encounters are many. While doing some online reserach about Big Foot I came across a website about the Hairy Man with legends and a photo of the pictograph that is in a rock shelter on the Indian reservation near my home. Of course I had to learn more.

I contacted the Anthropology Professor at Porterville College to ask questions and he invited me on a class field trip to the rock shelter. Of course I went–and I knew Tempe would have to go there too.

You also author the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, featuring Officer Stacy Wilbur. What are some of the differences between Deputy Crabtree and Officer Wilbur?

Tempe is Native American, fairly tall, dark haired, a deputy sheriff, has a grown son and is married to a preacher.

Stacey Wilbur is white, small, fair, a police officer and now a Vice Officer, isn’t married though she’s in a relationship with a detective, and has a little boy.

What’s the same with both women is they both were widowed after short marriages and they are strong and independent–though I think Tempe is the stronger of the two and she is also older.
Besides mysteries, you write books for the Christian horror market. What are some of the stereotypes about writing for the Christian market that you’d like to dispel?

I wrote three Christian horror–they are all three very scary–but there is a Christian message in all of them. I was never very successful with them because I guess the mainstream publishers were right, they were too Christian for their readers and the Christian publishers aid they were too scary for their readers. I found small publishers who liked the books despite the scary and Christian combination.

You keep an impressive appearance schedule, not to mention you blog, publish a newsletter, freelance write, edit a newsletter, do public speaking and teach. Your energy level puts me to shame. How do you fit in your writing?

It isn’t easy sometimes to fit in my writing. Like today, I should be editing my latest Rocky Bluff P.D. book and when that’s done I need to start another Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. And believe it or not, I do have a life. I do combine things though, I’m having a book signing at our next family reunion.

As one of the first authors to jump into ebook publishing, can you tell us if what the differences are from traditional print publishing?

When ebook publishing first began there were no e-readers like there are today, so it was slow going. The Rocket e-Reader was the first reader to come out, but it was bought by Sony who just recently came out with their own. Many of my books are available for all the versions of e-readers now available.

When the print-on-demand technology came about, nearly all the e-publishers started doing trade paperbacks of their e-books which is what Mundania Press does, the publisher of my Tempe Crabtree books.

The Rocky Bluff P.D. books are also trade paperback, and Oak Tree Press makes them available as e-books for the Kindle.

E-publishers are far more flexible than other publishers in that they are much more willing to publish a new writer, one that is older, and books that cross several genres. All they are looking for is a good book. There guidelines are always posted on their websites and it is really important that these guidelines are followed. They get lots of submissions and not following guidelines will probably mean a rejection.

Your web site list several writing classes that you offer to groups, libraries and schools. One class is Creating Fiction from your own Genealogy. Could you tell us what this is about?

My very first published books, Trail to Glory and Two Ways West were based on my own family’s genealogy. My sister did the genealogy and when I read it I had so many questions I decided to do some research and write a fiction book from what I learned. What fun! It meant researching the time and places where the family traveled, what might have made them move on, and everything else necessary to write a historical novel.

Once I was done with both sides of the family, I had to figure out what I was going to write next. Since I loved to read mysteries, I decided that’s what I should write.

Putting on your teacher’s hat, what is the one most valuable piece of advice you’d like to offer our readers?

If you are brand new to writing, learn all you can. Read the kind of books you want to write. Then sit in front of your computer and start writing. Write every day if possible. When you’re done get someone to edit your work. When the manuscript is as good as you can get it, start sending it out. Then, start the next book. Don’t let rejections stop you. See if there’s something you can learn from the rejection, rewrite it necessary, and keep sending the book out.

Finally, what’s next for you?

I’m cleaning up the next Rocky Bluff P.D. book which should come out sometime after the first of the year. Mundania has my next Tempe which is due next fall.

Marilyn can be reached at her website. You can also purchase a copy of Dispel the Mist by clicking on the bookcover to the left.

Building a Platform – Days 7 & 8

Day #7

Paddle Your Own Boat. Submit articles to on-line writers’ magazines or write for your local weekly newspaper. You can submit book reviews or articles on local writers like yourself, or maybe cover community news or write special interest articles. Write newsletter articles for the groups to which you belong. You will be writing and people will be seeing your name in print.

As a freelance reporter, you can get out there and talk to people, the very people who just might show up at your first book launch. You will be somebody who is doing something in your community rather than sitting back and waiting for things to float your way. Paddle your own boat and you will get to your goal a lot faster.

Day #8

Planning Ahead. Okay, you have honed a few skills, maybe you have even sold a short story or two. You are contemplating the time when that brilliant publisher realizes that you have a publishable book and snaps you up. You will finally have something in print with your name on it. Hooray.

Question: What will you do then?

Answer: Find people who want to read it.

Problem: You didn’t think about this part earlier.

Solution: Let’s think about it now.

Selling one book at a time at a local bookstore might be a little slow. How about finding a group of people who might be interested in your particular subject matter? Sue Ann Jaffarian’s protagonist, Odellia Grey in Booby Trap, is a pleasantly plump paralegal. Sue Ann speaks at paralegal conventions. And lawyer conventions. She parlayed her real life job skills into a series of novels and then doubled down to promote herself and her books at conferences featuring the vary same people. That’s a good marketing technique.

Say you wrote about a “super chef/sleuth.” You might try asking a cooking utensil convention to let you come and speak. Or a food convention. Or a cruise line that caters to caterers. Find groups of people with whom you have a connection. If your protagonist is over forty (or maybe even in their sixties), try senior citizen groups. If your plot centers around the aerospace industry, ask NASA if you can speak at their next get-together.

So, planning ahead sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it? You might even rearrange your plot to put some big business entity in it (in a good light) just so you can be invited to their next convention.

Market your book and yourself. Examine your skills, talents, interests, previous or current job and see how they can be used to promote that book of yours. Remember: you want to sell books, but mostly, you want to sell yourself.