A Not-So New Promo Strategy

Conference season is afoot and I’ve been taking note of some that I would like to attend next year.  With the state that the economy is in, I plan to live more below my means than ever before.  However, I still want to do a little promo if I get the chance and I have a plan.

With the exception of Moonlight and Magnolias, no writer’s conferences for 2009.  That means no RWA Nationals.  RT’s Booklover’s Convention is gone, too.  Why?  Their guest list might give you a clue.  IMHO, there will be more authors attending than readers.  Why would I want to sell to my own peeps when there’s a world of readers out there who remain untapped?  No more author-centric conventions/conferences next year.  The only reason why I’m committed to M&M is because it’s the cheapest of the writer’s conferences (for me anyway), and I need to be around writers, agent, and editors at least once a year.

Now with that being said, what conventions am I targeting?  First, they’ll most likely be here in the southeast and within driving distance.  Second, they’re small, but their hearts aren’t any less committed than the big cons.  Take my local con, Trinoc Con, for example.  It’s small, but that’s where I met one of the most amazing, giving writers I’ve ever known.  Allen Wold.  Also, I’m looking at Richmond VA for RavenCon, which I hear is getting bigger every year.  DragonCon is without a doubt, the largest conference I’ve ever been to.  Case in point: RWA averages about 2,000 attendees while DragonCon brought in 40,000 last year.  It’s a mismatch of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy, and a thrill every second of the day.  There’s also ConCarolinas, which is also a smaller version of DragonCon and happens just west of where I live.  SheVaCon is another sci-fi fantasy conference with a different twist because it caters to women, though men are there, too.  Go figure.  I’m only relaying what I was told.  😉 StellarCon is another small convention in my neighborhood.  Heck, I can probably drive the hour and a half each way, thereby paying only for the convention itself.  That’s $33 for registration, food, and gas money.  Not bad.  You’ll find that pretty much all of the conferences I’ve listed are around the same pricce, give or take $10.

Normally, I don’t hang out at this many cons, so I’ll be choosing wisely in terms of which ones I plan to attend.  At a place like RT or RWA, I’m nothing more than another blade of a grass on the lawn.  At a smaller, local convention, I’m more like a patch of lawn itself.  Guess where I’d rather spend my conference dollars?  😉

How important do you think it is to promote to other authors?  Where does your core audience lie?


26 thoughts on “A Not-So New Promo Strategy

  1. Wise choices! You’ll be promoting yourself on a local level and that’s a fabulous way to create a lasting fan base, imo. People love supporting their local talent – it’ll make your books a more personal experience for them.

    Damn! You are the smartest writer I know. I’m so lucky to have you in my posse. 😉

  2. Kath, girlfriend, right back at ya. 😉

    I’ve always been a big believer in taking care of business at home before venturing out to wider field. Might as well do the same when it comes to writing, too. Other than M&M, which I put in a different category because it’s solely for writers, the most expensive conference/convention on my list is DragonCon. Their registration fee is $70 over the entire Labor Day weekend. RWA and RT can’t touch that price. With them, you’re going to pay for those so-called “freebies” regardless.

  3. Hey Marcia! I love this post. And yeah, I have much the same view when it comes to cons. Why go to writer cons as a marketing exercise? I know naturally we are drawn to other writers, and other writers tend to also read. But many of the most supportive fans are non-writers and not only that, they are largely untapped.

    I think these kinds of cons you’ve picked for yourself are very smart. I’ve thought along those lines. I know one of the core groups of people who would probably like my fiction, are Buffy fans. Specifically buffy fanfic fans. Because a lot of the buffy fanfic is shipper fanfic, and that is basically paranormal romance. In fact it’s how I found PR in the first place.

    I’m hoping to figure out how to appeal to and connect again with that group of people, except from the original fiction side of the fence as opposed to the fanfic side of the fence.

  4. Awwww, Edie. You say the sweetest things.

    It’s hard to find a good place to fit books these days that are outside the normal conference or convention. I’m lucky enough that I can find one…or two…or three. 😉 I’m sure DEAD PEOPLE would fit in perfectly, too.

  5. Zoe, I think it’s important to not only know your core audience, but know where to find them. That last part is the hard part, if you don’t write something like sci-fi, fantasy, or horror. There are TONS of cons for the stuff that I write and I’m blessed that many of them are right here in my corner of the country.

    I wish I could meet every one of those 1000+ people who bought my book the first month it was released. I’d love to hug each of them and thank them for their purchase. In fact, I’ve already done that with about ten. 😉 It’s one of the best parts of being an author. So, if I can find more of them at these local cons, then count me in.

  6. I’m with you. I’m downsizing my conference trips and saving for book signings instead. However, one thing I’m going to focus on full force is promos and online presence, radio shows and advertising. I’m crossing my fingers the economy will improve. With all the publishing lay-offs, you can’t help but be concerned.

  7. Marcia, not that I know anything about conferences/conventions, but before I launched the Titanic known as my writing career, I read a lot. I never heard of readers going to conventions/conferences until I got into the business. But then again, reading wasn’t my main form of entertainment. My point is that books are those fans biggest form of entertainment, so for them going to a conference is equal to going to the Oscars.

    I think that so many readers shudder in the light of an in-the-flesh published writer. I think some might be frustrated writers even, and know the difficulty of getting noticed by a publisher. You are their rock star. And when it’s local talent, all the better. It makes it real to them, that someday they could do what you’ve done.

    I hope you do a book signing in Utica. 😉 I’ll be there storming the doors of Borders.

  8. I hear you, Jax. Save those promo dollars for where it counts. Book signings! Nothing beats hanging out with readers who would like to read what you’ve got. With everything going on in the publishing world, the best thing to do now is to hunker down and do your part to survive it.

  9. Kath, you hit the nail on the head!! I remember when I went to my first conference (RT 2006) and I was floored by the number of authors I met and how awesome it was to be among them. In fact, I was so star-struck that I refused to even approach them out of drooling my fears at the feet.

    Romance Slam Jam was the first time I experienced what it’s like to be on the other side. To be the author and have the readers and aspiring authors approach me. It was amazing and I loved it. But what I loved more was just encouraging them. If I can do this, anyone can. My luck usually rots worse than two-month-old bread.

    And silly me, when I was in Utica, I completely forgot to stop by the Barnes and Noble to see if maybe they had their “semi-local” author’s book. C’est la vie. 😉

  10. Pseudonym has a very strict policy of not promoting to authors, not getting in the “author’s circle” on MySpace, and not talking about writing. She (I) believe an author should search for readers, not writers.

    If someone shows me statistics otherwise, I’ll rethink it.

    Which is, of course, why I spend so much time blogging for fun at spyscribbler and talking about writing all I want, LOL!

  11. HELLO?! I’m with you, Spy, which is why I’d rather spend my money and my time where it counts. With readers. There are a few authors who have bought my book and I love them for it. But I need to reach readers who don’t know I exist and give them a reason why they might want to care. While I don’t mind recycling money (I buy your book and you buy mine), that won’t get me closer to making writing a full-time job, hitting bestseller lists, or gaining recognition. I need readers to survive. If that means going to smaller conventions to find them, then so be it.

  12. It’s all about being your own PR person. I’ve spent hundreds of promo hours, including trying to break into the international market as well as with my own Asian community. I get frustrated when you send out 100 emails and only 15 respond but you just keep at it until you get people interested. I’m focusing hard on getting an arsenal of proposals going so that when I hit the big times, the publishers will help with the PR work. But even so, you still have to keep doing your own personal PR if you want people to know who you are.

  13. I’m committed to RT, I’m moderating the Starships and Sorcery Panel there, but it will be super-costly for me for sure. With THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL TALE OF MISS PERCY PARKER out next fall, I figure I have to cast my net really wide at first, and put a lot of money into conferences, but I’m always looking for more ways to tap readers on every level, as my base will come both from romance and from fantasy. I’m totally cross-genre, which is great, and I know you understand this Marcia, but there’s also the push/pull of which of the genres do you try and sell yourself to, where, when and how much? I’m not sure yet what that balance is. When you figure it all out, hon, will you let me know? 🙂

  14. Jax, you’re so right about being your own PR person. I’ve put out feelers where and when I could and the majority of the time haven’t received a response back. I’ve spent above and beyond my advance to promote UNSTABLE ENVIRONMENT this year and I doubt I’ll break even because I’ll be promoting it at the conferences I’ve listed above, too. Between the bookmarks, post-it notes, book video, conferences, hiring a promotional company to help, new website, signings, and mailings, my “writing” business is in the blood red. Why? Because I wanted to try everything and see what works for me when it comes to promote future books. So, I consider UNSTABLE ENVIRONMENT a promotional experiment. That’s also why not meeting my ROI (return on investiment) doesn’t bother me as much as it should. Thank goodness I have a great day job to help ease the financial burden.

    That’s what we need to do if we want to keep our names out there. Like you, I have proposals waiting in the wings, too, for when my time comes to sell to NY. Luckily, some of those books are already written. 😉

  15. One sweet thing about your situation, Leanna, is that you sold to NY and the timing for the release of your book is perfect. BTW, do we have a release date for that yet because it’s in my 2009 book-spending budget. 😉 If I had sold to NY and had book coming out in 2009, RT would be a different story. I’d certainly put a lot more consideration it in than I am now. IMHO, RT is the best convention around for connecting with readers. I wholeheartedly believe that. My biggest problem is that it’s too expensive and my 2009 budget is few. The only thing I’ve sold this year is an ebook that probably won’t come out until 2010, and if my editor likes THE HIVE, it won’t come out until the same time. So, that’s when I’m targeting RT again. While the price will probably be more expensive, at least I’ll have two books to pimp, which would REALLY make it worth my while.

    As for what the balance is, your guess is as good as mine. It’s an ongoing topic that has circulated around writer’s circles for years. One thing I’m going to do is give a report on each of my cons. Maybe it’ll help readers and writers figure out if the smaller venues are worth their time, too. So start tuning in around the end of April, for sure, and I’ll let you know how my experiment goes. I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll get a little closer to meeting my ROI by going this route. 😉

  16. Yes, darlin’, it looks like September of 2009 STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL will hit the shelves, the sequel tentatively slated for early 2010. Whee!! So my 2010 conference schedule will have to be packed too. Thanks for this Con list, I followed your links above just to see what else is out there. I’d been thinking about DragonCon for a while and actually just submitted my stuff to DragonCon today. I like the smaller Con idea too, I’ll especially have to check out my home state of Ohio where they might let me be on panels and stuff since I’m a hometown gal. 🙂

    As for PR, I’m thinking about teaming up with other authors to do joint promotion; you share on money, resources, fan-bases, energy, etc.

    On your end, Samhain has some great authors to network with. Isabo Kelly (my bestest buddy) and I were just talking about you, about how excited we are about your Samhain sale and I told her I think you guys should do some joint promo since she does paranormal stuff at Samhain too. 🙂

  17. Yay!!! I just love the idea of a Victorian Ghost Busters novel. 😀

    And that’s great news on the sequel. I’ll meet you at RT in 2010 for sure, which is supposed to be in Columbus, OH, by the way. I wasn’t sure if you knew that or not.

    I haven’t sent anything in from DragonCon just yet. Though I really, really want to go, I have to be careful of the things I’m planning out after six months because of family. They have things going on that might impact my plans. 😦 Still, I’m going to put my bid in for a guest spot, just in case. I’m telling you girlfriend, it’s going to be AWESOME!!

    I completely forgot that Isabo writes for Samhain! Gosh, I feel like a moron. Heck, I even own her Samhain books with autographs and all. I really need to hit that chick up. She’s such a sweetheart!! Joint PR certainly can’t hurt anything. In fact, it’ll be more fun.

  18. I’m thinkin’ the same thing, Marcia. I do plan to go to RT if only because we plan to make it a family vacation in the tourist traps before I drive up to Orlando and leave hubby and daughter in the Disney area. RWA I’m gonna have to skip because it is incredibly cost prohibited. The hotel alone would break me.

    I always attend Wisconsin’s conference, but plan to look into some of the other local (i.e. drivable) conferences in the midwest. The funny thing is that by doing the smaller cons, I can probably squeeze in several more than I would if I were doing just the Big Two.

  19. Same here, Liz. I had planned to attend RT this year and turn it into my Mother-Daughter vacation, too, since Mom and I both love Disney. But when I looked at the registration cost, that pretty much blew any vacation plans and then some out of the water. The same for RWA Nationals. Instead, I could use the money for one of those conferences to pay for at two of the ones I listed above, if not more.

    Speaking of conferences in the local spots, have you heard of Wiscon? Check it out here: http://www.wiscon.info/ I stumbled across it while looking up conferences on web and was wondering if that was in your neck of the woods. Believe me, I’ve thought about it, if it meant hitting both you and Edie up for dinner or drinks while I’m there. 😉

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