Ah! RWA 2013 is over and done, and what a great time it was! Aside from the fact that I injured myself on day one, minute one, second one of the conference, I learned so much, got to meet some of my long-time online friends in person, met some fabulous new people, I was really able to get a grip on this whole writing as a career thing. I feel like I’ve got a clear idea of where I’m going from here.
So what did I take away from this whole experience?
Write. You have to write. And when you’re done with that, write some more. That’s what it’s all about. A lot of time and attention has been given to social media, but now the tide seems to be turning. Social media is still super important, but not so important that you should drop everything you’re writing to do it. Especially in the growing ranks of successful self-published authors, the more books you have out there for readers to buy, the more successful you’re going to be. More is better.
I was particularly struck by this concept in a workshop taught by Liliana Hart. She recommends releasing 5 books all at once. Granted, this is if you’re just starting out, but she has a very valid point. Readers are voracious and you want to strike while the iron is hot by having books available for them to buy to feed their appetite. I have experienced this myself. Every book I release causes an exponential rise in sales of all of my books. So Liliana taught me that when I release my sci-fi series, I want to release at least the first two books at the same time.
Another key concept that was talked about in several workshops was branding. Candice Hern gave a terrific workshop about the importance of tying your “look” together, through book covers, websites, and other materials. She talked about the importance of your name especially and how many authors use the same font for their name everywhere. Also, your name should be the biggest thing on your book, because people care more about you as the writer than the title.
But she also talked about how the real branding comes in your writing style or how you write. It doesn’t matter what genre, there should be something unique about the kinds of stories you tell that sets you apart from the pack. It made me realize that whether it’s my historical romance, my sci-fi, my inspirationals, or even the dystopian gay erotica I won that award for, the theme of everything I write is finding where you belong, finding a home. Deep stuff! I should pay Candice for therapy sessions!
Then Courtney Milan opened my eyes to metadata, what exactly it is, and how I should be using it. Which, of course, led to the fact that I’ve been using it wrong. Metadata is things like categories, keywords, back matter, blurbs, all that data about your books. She brought up a very good point that if you’re not a bestseller, you should be as specific as you can about the categories you’re in. Because there’s a lot of competition out there, and just tagging your books as “historical romance” isn’t going to get you noticed. For me for my Noble Hearts series, for example, “medieval romance” is closer, but tags like “strong heroine”, “tortured hero”, “betrayal”, or “redemption” are much more specific, useful tags. And yes, I immediately went back and retagged everything online after that session.
But like I said, the biggest message of all was that the only way to make it in this world is to write. Keep yourself writing at whatever cost it takes. All of the social media, professional editing, designing, and formatting in the world means nothing if you don’t have a product to put out and another one after that and another one after that. Ah, but the size of the work doesn’t matter as much as it used to. Shorts and novellas are a great way to make sure you’re getting a lot of content out there. I loved that idea! It works and it’s also fun to do. And it means that I need to get out of vacation mode and back into writing mode so that I can bring you a bunch of new releases in the next year or so!
Also, just a quick side note since a lot of people talked about it…. Apparently blogging is dead. Hmm. Not sure what I think about this yet. I’ll get back to you on that one.
Okay, back to that story about injuring myself on the first day of the conference. Because you can’t make this stuff up!
I was just coming up to the hotel where the conference was happening. There was a curb. I didn’t see it. I tripped off the end and tried to catch myself, but I heard my ankle snap, and down I went! Sprawled everywhere, skirt up over my head, underwear for all the world to see. Then this amazingly attractive chauffer jumps out of a limo and runs up to me. He says, “Are you alright? Can I help you?” in the most gorgeous French accent. I blink and say, “I think I’m okay.” He asks, “Can I bring you some ice?” I blink again, astounded by the concern in his beautiful eyes and say, “Okay?” so he runs back to the limo and returns with a handful of ice that he proceeds to put on my ankle. “Here, let me get you some paper towels too so it won’t melt on you,” he said and runs back to the limo. He returns with a handful of Kleenex and holds it to my ankle. And I, in my infinite wisdom, thank him and get up to walk on into the hotel. Now, if I was a real romance novel heroine, I would have asked for his phone number! Or he would have driven me somewhere in that limo. But no, this is the real world. If ever there was a call for me to write a contemporary romance with that as the opening scene, then that’s it.
And now it’s back to the real world.