Saturday, June 21, 2014

E. Stoops on Succeeding at Conferences Without Really Trying #WriteTip #AmWriting #Authors

at 10:00 AM
I used to be staff for a medium-sized convention and while I was there,  I saw authors make all kinds of mistakes that are probably still following them around even today, which is years later. This advice goes for little guys and big guys:
1. Even if you are just doing a reading on Sunday night,  come in the day before the convention starts.
The real value in conventions is having face time with potential fans. To come out as your best, you need to be well-rested and on top of things. Getting in the night before will help you deal with jet lag and give you time to get in healthy breakfast before you have a whirlwind weekend. Sleep and healthy food tend to become increasingly rare as the weekend goes on, so getting it in beforehand is vital. If you are coming from a great distance, sometimes you should even aim to come in two nights before to get yourself calibrated to your new time zone.
2. Treat Staff and Other Pros Nicely
Well, you should honestly aim to treat everyone with due respect, but I’ve seen plenty of authors take their frustration out on staff.  Cons are often exercises in frustration, and sometimes things come out, but this is the best way to shoot yourself in the foot. First of all, con staff  is often comprised of local pros. Secondly, con staff tends to be friends with other con staff, from other cons. Snarling about your botched scheduling to the guest liaison doesn’t sound like the worst thing you could do, until you realize three days later on Sunday afternoon she’s one of the teachers that was going to invite you to come talk to her drama class. Con staff can hold open a lot of doors, but they can also close them by simply saying how unpleasant it was to work with you to other con staff. I know more than one pro that has gotten politely run off.
3. Don’t Bite the Hand that Feeds You
I know Kindle/Amazon is kind of a bad deal for authors in certain ways, but sitting through a panel in which two authors ate up the time whining about Kindle and Amazon when the panel was supposed to be about e-publishing (and over half of the attendees had a Kindle) was just painful to witness.  Everyone that walked out of that room was highly unlikely to purchase any books by either author, ever. I’ve also sat in panels where Authors mocked fan groups. Again, they disgusted an entire room full of potential fans.
Related to that – keep your business about you. Call out or shout out good people, but don’t make yours a double act if you can avoid it. I’ve seen a number of authors make their attendance contingent on their friend or spouse also being invited as a pro. I admire people’s efforts to ‘send the elevator back down’ as Kevin Spacey has said, but if the crowd doesn’t take to them, this can backfire not just on the friend or spouse, but the pro. I’ve seen an author make themselves unpopular with both fans and con committees by holding them hostage this way. Fans really do catch on, too. Some folks just assume that someone blabs the details of the deal, but I’ve seen fans make some remarkable guesses with nothing but observations to lead them.
4. Don’t Be a Used Car Salesman
Don’t be the author with bookmarks, pins, postcards, badge flags, etc. Don’t launch into your spiel at the first chance you get. Let your conversations grow organically – you’d be impressed by how many people give you a chance to sell yourself to them in the course of a normal conversation. But don’t have a stump speech: I once approached an author just to speak briefly with them. They gave me a stump speech that lasted 30 minutes and had nothing to do with the one question I wanted to ask them.
5. Partake, Eat, Drink, Be Merry
Some pros show up for their panels and then go hide away in their room. No fun for the fans. Go to the room parties and chat with people. Dance to the bad music, wear a costume, if you get invited to role play or play Cards Against Humanity, do it. People are much more likely to buy a book from a ‘cool guy’ that chatted with them and added to the fun than someone that did a great reading.
6. Don’t Worry That Much
You’ll screw up. You will, just accept that you will do a reading to a room that hates it, or your funny panel gets no laughs. People will forgive you.
7. Be Creative
I said something would go wrong. Your projector doesn’t work. Your reading room has no chairs.. Your computer has just died a sparky death, taking your reading with it. You have some choices: panic, or creative. Think like a kindergarten teacher: No projector? Walk around with the laptop, giving everyone a chance to see the image. No chairs? Well, blast-from-the-past people, guess we’re sitting criss-cross applesauce. Sparky death?  Time for a quite change of panel topic (I highly recommend asking the crowd what they REALLY want to talk about in this situation. I’ve been dragged on great tangents over the years, and people really seem to enjoy it.)
This all might seem like common sense, but it can be hard to juggle on the fly. Always count to three before responding if you feel completely overwhelmed. A great phrase to learn is “Please give me a second to catch my bearings.” It works like a charm. You’ll always come across better after a deep breath anyway. Makes the voice more resonant.

In an alternate universe where the twentieth century gave rise to individuals with psychic talents, the Great War ended far differently, and the flow of history led the United States into a losing war with China by the middle of the twenty-first century. The combined submarine navies of Britain, Russia, France, Canada and the United States are holding back an ever more hostile enemy that is intent on winning a war of attrition. A desperate Navy presses antiquated boats into service to supply the main fleet and mans them with the leavings of the Navy’s worst sailors. For Chief Petty Officer Lucius Tagget and his best friend Aaron Fredrickson, it’s their ticket out of naval prison and a chance to clear their names.

What should be an uneventful assignment behind the front lines turns into a nightmare when Aaron is killed in an accident that claims the lives of all the men on his submarine. Terrified of condemning another boat and crew to eternal patrol, the Navy assigns the CPNS Puget Sound a talented seer in hopes of preventing another accident. Instead, that decision changes the entire crew, and ultimately, the entire war.
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Genre - Alternative History
Rating - PG-15
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