One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about my publishing life is meeting new people at signings and conferences. When I met Jennifer Talty at my very first Thrillerfest in 2007, I knew I couldn’t resist getting to know her. Her enthusiasm was absolutely contagious!
This coming May, her first romantic suspense novel, Rekindled, will be published by The Wild Rose Press–though for those who can’t wait, it will be available as an e-book in early February.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My First Conference…
I will never forget my first conference. I got in the car with a fellow Romantic Suspense writer with an incredible amount of nervous energy. We chatted the whole way there about our current manuscripts and other ideas. When we stopped to get some food, we were beyond giddy. We entered the rest area discussing, my current project, and how the conflict felt contrived and forced. We started brainstorming ideas, without thinking about our surroundings. A man, sitting in the booth next us kept giving us funny looks and finally said, “Why would you want any of those terrible things to happen to a friend of yours?” My friend simply said, “Because it makes for great conflict and a better story.” I don’t think that man knew the people we happened to be discussing weren’t real. As we continued with our conversation, I couldn’t help notice that man was still staring at us, and listening in. Finally, I said, “we’re writers and working on my book.” He replied, “I think I want to read your story.”
During that conference, I spent most of my time perfecting my pitch and focusing on the editors and agents that I would be meeting. About 5 years later, I realized that this had been a mistake. Not that my pitch didn’t need to be good, or that I shouldn’t worry about making a good impression, but that I missed out on many aspects of the conference that could, and would, help me in my career as a writer, because that is what I am, a writer.
It wasn’t until nearly two years ago when I went to NYC for a different conference that I understood what this experience could offer me, personally. I didn’t have a finished manuscript at the time to pitch, so part of me felt as though I was wasting my time and money. I was also dealing with a small publisher that had gone bankrupt and fighting for the rights to my books. Frankly, I was feeling alone, and a bit desperate.
I shared a cab with two wonderful women, whom at the time I thought, geez; I want to know these people. But I was so stuck in my own world; I didn’t really let myself go. Writers tend to be introverts, and I am no exception. I stood in this grand hotel, waiting to check in when the same women I shared I cab with, and two others kidnapped me for dinner. Truth be known, I didn’t want to go. I wanted to go to my room, alone, and do the only thing that at the time made me happy, write. But the words of a very wise multi-published, NYTimes bestselling author boomed into my head, writers generally misuse conferences. Writing is a lonely profession. Make an effort to meet people who have something you want. So, I went to dinner and had the best time of my life, not to mention I made friendship that will last a lifetime.
While I had nothing to pitch, I met with a lot of industry professionals and learned a great deal about the business, the craft of writing, as well as learning a few things out about myself. Heck, Vince Flynn thought I looked like Cheryl Crow. That alone was worth it. Of course, the following year when I went back to the same conference, Lee Child said, “Hey, it’s Cheryl. How are you?” I said, “You remember me?” He said, “Of course I do.” Then, I got to be the snake girl at a book signing with some of the best authors in the world! Not to mention, Laura’s minion.
I think my point is that yes, conferences are about meeting with agents and editors. Promoting your books and yourself. Yes, it is about our business, but it’s also about sharing experiences, strengths and hopes with our fellow writers. Being an author can be very lonely, but it doesn’t have to be.
Thanks so much, Jennifer!
Monday’s guest is thriller novelist Gerry Doyle.