This past weekend I attended the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference at Hollins University. (Hollins is known for their exceptional creative writing program, so it’s only appropriate that they host a gaggle of talented writers to impart knowledge and advice.) The sessions were varied with 21 sessions to choose from, but I attended:
- 10 Things You Can Do Now to Promote the Book You Haven’t Even Sold Yet by author Gina Holmes and River Laker of Silver Seas PR (I plan to post the 10 Things List soon so that others can learn from Gina and River, too. Every author should have this list!)
- The No B.S. Guide to Networking by Sarah Beth Jones of Nary Ordinary
- Marketing Your Own Work by author Kathleen Grissom
- Writing Dark Fantasy and Horror for Young Adults by author Tiffany Trent
- Understanding Your Publishing Options Before Your Manuscript is Finished by publisher Teri Leidich of BQB Publishing
- Selling Your Young Adult Novel 101 by author Angie Smibert
- And the final panel discussion, The Evolving Art of Blogging with Dan Smith, Teri Leidich, Dan Casey, Cherie Reich, Bonnie Cranmer, and Roland Lazenby
While there were new things I learned in each session, I had to sit on my hands several times to prevent pulling a Hermione, jumping out of my seat with an answer or my opinion. All writers are at different levels in their knowledge and this conference was no different. I felt good in knowing that I have the right information to help others, but especially in that I can always learn more. I am forever a student!
The best part about attending this conference might not be the sessions (hear me out). I love the motivation that comes after it – I came straight home, halfheartedly waved at my husband in my rush to plug in my laptop to compile the information I’d written. I felt like I could write The Next Good Book, or at the very least market it properly and know how to get an agent, thanks to a couple sessions. The best thing I learned? As it turns out, I know more than I thought. Over 90% of the tips I learned are already checked off (getting a website, proper headshot, adding to your tribe) and thanks to my marketing background, I’m all over social media needs. There’s always more to learn and I have a long ways to go, but it’s a relief knowing I’m headed the right direction.
It was also great to hear from Teri Leidich that self-publishing is no longer a dirty word in the publishing vocabulary. She shook her finger at those of us who might duck our heads as we admit it, reminding me that indie publishing is on the rise and – provided you have proper editing, a good story, and great marketing – we can still succeed at that level.
Traditional publishing will always be around and certainly a course for many authors to take, but what I heard most was that if I truly believe in myself, in my work and goals, that I can achieve them. That alone was enough to tell me I’ve made the right decisions. I’ve never once regretted self-publishing and am really excited about all the things I can learn and do for future titles, but it’s really nice to hear from authors and professionals that my choice is no longer something to sneer at. This does remind me, of course, that self-publishing will only skyrocket from here, which means I (and you, too) better put on my best A-game.
My only change to the conference is the same as everyone else’s – I wish I could attend all the sessions! I hope that every writer got as much out of this event as I did. I’m already looking forward to next year and am excited about the new friends I made in the process. That was perhaps one of the best parts – the people. Rather than sit at lunch with my laptop, as I’d expected, I wound up at a table that kept growing with people eager to chat. By the end of the day, I wasn’t that girl in the hat and sparkly sweater in all the first rows; I was Liz Long, a writer they genuinely wanted to meet. I had several people ask me about my unique job and I was so proud to tell them what I did and how much I love it. It’s not a competition there; writers openly ask for advice or dole out their opinions, offer up services, and gladly introduce themselves to fellow writers. See? We’re only cutthroat to our characters! One of these days, when I can take myself seriously, maybe I’ll even be able to teach a session and help out others with their questions!