Monday, January 18, 2010

SCBWI-IL Prairie Writer’s Day Conference 2009, part 1

Last November, I attended my local SCBWI conference called Prairie Writer’s Day. It’s been great every time I’ve gone, and this time was no exception. We had some amazing speakers: Cynthia Leitich Smith, Yolanda LeRoy, Alisha Niehaus, Nicholas Elipulos, Stacy Cantor, and Michael Stearns. Each spoke to the attendees all together, and then we had separate breakout sessions. I had my sessions with Michael Stearns and Cynthea Liu.

So, for the next few weeks, I’m going to post about the contents of this conference. I apologize that it’s so late, but with kids, the holidays, and revisions for my agent, this is the soonest I was able to get to it. Still, I hope it’s helpful.

I’m going to start with Cynthea Liu. Her breakout session was titled Harnessing the Power of PR. Her presentation was FULL of great stuff, way too much for me to list every detail. But I can share the highlights, which I found amazingly helpful.

When you sit down to promote your books, ask yourself this question: How do you want your readers to connect with you? Do you want them to connect with you as a person? With you as an author? Or just with your books? The answer to this will determine what you put out for the world to see.

There are different things to do depending on where you are with your book. Is it on the shelves already? Is it about to be released? Or is the release still pretty far away?

If your book has not come out yet, there are still plenty of things you can do.
*Find out what your publisher is planning to do. And, if it’s not as much as you’d like, don’t whine to them about it. Instead, figure out ways to supplement on your own, while building a good working relationship with your publicist. Above all, don’t start off your working relationship by asking what they are going to do for you. Instead, ask how you can help your publicist.
*Generate a contact list – family, friends, writers, etc. – of people who already know you.
*Create a website, and include your contact info as well as your how to book you for a speaking engagement.
*Create a basic press release so people can see why your book is important and special. Your publisher will probably do this for you, though.
*Develop your online pitch and your elevator pitch. The online pitch is (obviously) for your website. Your elevator pitch is for people you meet who ask you what your book is about. Be succinct so the person asking doesn’t feel overwhelmed with information. Instead, structure your pitch such that he will want to ask more.
*Get a nice author photo taken.

If your book is about to be released, you can do all of the above, plus a few more things.
*Identify any niche organizations or media outlets who might be interested in your book and contact them.
*Make personal contacts with schools, libraries, booksellers, etc. Don’t ask what they can do for you – ask what you can do for them. Tell them what you have to offer besides your book.
Consider social networking and online communities (facebook, twitter, blogging, goodreads, etc) to extend your reach beyond where you live.
*Have lots of swag to go with your book. I.E. business cards, bookmarks, discussion guides, bookplates, postcards, flyers, unique items that tie directly to your book.
*Plan your launch: Online or offline party? Is your goal to celebrate or sell books? Or both? Think outside the box, and do what makes sense for your book (not because another author did it). And, ask yourself this question: what will your supporters gain from participating?

When your book comes out, you can do all of the above, plus more.
*Notify the people you know that your book is available. Put your ISBN number on your website to make it easy to look up your book.
*Continue to make connections. Follow up with people, but don’t become a stalker.
*Assess what’s working well, and adjust what isn’t.
*Pay it forward. Support other authors, and they will likely support you.

Throughout all this, Cynthea made one point again and again: CONNECT. By that, she means you need to connect with others like a person, not like a walking sales pitch. Because a walking sales pitch is the equivalent to walking spam, and people filter spam. Instead be a real person. An author.


Bish Denham said...

Wow, Tabitha! Lots of excellent information and a bit overwhelming too. There's so much to think about/do when one becomes a published author.

And PS...Tomorrow, Tuesday the 19th, there will be a little something for you over at my blog. Hope you'll come and check it out.

Kelly Polark said...

Great info! I so wish I didn't have to miss that conference! I knew it would be amazing! Thanks for sharing!

Angela Ackerman said...

Looking forward to this series--great info so far!

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

hey girl - ill add you to my marketing round up this week on friday :)

Donna Gambale said...

Love this info. Much appreciated, and don't worry about being a little behind schedule!

Tabitha said...

Bish - thanks! I will definitely check it out. :)

Kelly - I was bummed I wouldn't be able to say hello to you. But maybe next year?

Angela - there was lots of good stuff at this conference. I hope I can do it justice, especially since it's been so long.

Shelli - thanks!!

Donna - glad you enjoyed it! I hope the rest of these posts are worth the wait. :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for the great post. Your notes are really detailed. I really wanted to go to the conference and it's so nice that you're letting us know what you learned. I can't wait for your post on Michael Stearns. I saw him at a SCBWI-Michigan conference and he was great.

Jim Danielson said...

And I missed meeting you again this year (and I was there). Next year for sure.

Anonymous said...

This is totally awesome information! Saving it in bookmarks for future reference. Sounds like a very fun and informative conference.

Christina Farley said...

So much great stuff. Wow. It's a bit overwhelming but good. Tell us more! I don't get to go to conferences much living overseas.

PJ Hoover said...

Cynthea is awesome isn't she. She does so much and has a fantastic attitude. Great post!

Barrie said...

That Cynthea! She is chockfull of info and energy! I met her last September, and she is delightful. :) Great post, BTW

MotherReader said...

That's a great write-up of some extremely valuable information. Thanks for sharing it.