A couple of days ago, I wrote a bit about the PNBA (Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association) conference in Portland, Oregon. What an amazing event! I had an opportunity to meet dozens of other authors and pick up many new books for the bookstore. I also connected with some great publishers, editors, and other folks in the trade. I wasn’t the only one at the show wearing two hats, either. A number of the authors also worked as editors, consultants, or illustrators.
It would take more than one post to tell you about all of the wonderful people I met at the show, but I’d like to talk about a few of them just to emphasize the importance of networking at a show like this.
Author Marketing 101
This was one of the seminars in the author track, and it was put on by two engaging and enthusiastic ladies named C. Morgan Kennedy and Therese Patrick. Right from the beginning, they engaged the audience. After giving us a bit of background for each of them — and laying out their credentials — they split us up into groups and gave us collaborative assignments.
I’ve been writing professionally for a long time. My first paid magazine article appeared 30 years ago, and my first book came out 17 years ago. Why would I attend a seminar called “Author Marketing 101”? As a friend of mine once said, “If I learn one thing at a seminar, it was worth my time.” I did indeed learn something. More than one thing, in fact.
But the most important thing about events like this is networking. Meeting new friends like Morgan and Therese was great. We’ll be able to help each other in the future. Watch their blog for a guest post by yours truly, for starters (I’ll post an announcement here when it appears). I also met an author who will hopefully be visiting my store to do a talk, a bookstore owner who will hopefully be hosting me for a talk, and several other people that were just great to chat with.
Hey, I just noticed Therese mentioned me on her blog. How about that? Networking at work!
Isn’t it great meeting someone and hitting it off instantly with them? Keith is a Montana author who writes small-town outdoor-oriented mysteries (which I love), yet somehow we’d never met and I’d never read his books. Even though he lives just a few hours from here, we ended up meeting each other in Portland, Oregon.
Keith and I and our wives ended up sitting together at the author luncheon on Tuesday and chatting afterward until we just had to leave. We exchanged stories about his day job at Field & Stream magazine, bookstores we’ve both visited, life as a writer, and our homes in Montana.
We don’t live in a place like Seattle or New York City where authors are as thick as flies on fresh wolf scat (sorry — I write poop books, so I can’t help phrases like that sometimes). In Montana, we’re spread out across the landscape. It’s a mighty big landscape, too. If you’re in the southeast corner of Montana, you’re closer to Texas than you are to the northwest corner of Montana.
Ask the Experts
I know. I’ve met with “experts” who knew a whole lot less than I did. Nonetheless, I have some rather complex contract issues with some of my new projects, I’m crossing genres (again), I’m having difficulty finding an agent, and I need some publisher contracts in other countries. So I went ahead and signed up for a one-on-one “ask the experts” session with a publishing consultant named Sharon Castlen. I got a lot of good advice in 15 short minutes, but there were a few questions she didn’t feel that she could answer properly.
Sharon set me up with another “ask the experts” volunteer, Cynthia Frank. Cynthia is the president of Cypress House, a publishing services company in California. She was able to answer some questions and also suggest some agents and illustrators for future projects.
It’s tempting to spend all of your time at a show like PNBA just wandering the exhibit floor, attending the cocktail parties, and trying to pick up as much free stuff as you can. In the long run, though, the contacts you make are far more important than swag or free books.