Monday, June 29, 2009

WLOT Wrap-Up and Tweet-Up!

We had a great time at the Writers’ League of Texas Conference this past weekend--it’s always nice to meet writers and authors face-to-face. Hopefully those who attended learned a lot from networking with agents and fellow writers and listening to some excellent seminars.

This year Phenix & Phenix sponsored the event and participated in a couple of panels. Senior publicist Tolly Moseley moderated a panel called "Media Madness: How to Land Ink, Airtime, and Buzz" and had this to say about it:
The two most common questions I get as a publicist are: A) How can I get on Oprah? and B) How can I get my book reviewed by the New York Times? So at Sunday's panel, Allen Chen (editor-in-chief of Austinist), Jennifer Stayton (host of "Morning Edition" on KUT-FM, Austin's NPR affiliate), and Kimberley Jones (books editor of Austin Chronicle) joined me to discuss the ways authors and their publicists can grab media's attention. Knowing how to pitch your own book is a very valuable skill, so we wanted to give attending writers and authors some insights on the things media members look for. We lobbed questions on our panelists on topics ranging from "what email subject line makes you actually open a pitch?" to "how do you decide who gets a book review?" to "man, why doesn't Oprah just say no and stop booking every little guest opportunity that comes her way?" (just kidding on that last part).

We got very nuanced answers from our panelists. While Kimberley Jones is really focused on a book's content when deciding who gets coverage, Allen Chen is a little more interested in an author's backstory and their involvement with the local community. Jennifer Stayton comes at book coverage from a news angle, so what she really needs is a tie to a local, current event before she books an interview. The one consistent answer we got from our panelists is the frequency they're being pitched: they receive, at minimum, 100 pitch emails a month about books or authors. Of those, less than 10% will get coverage. So if you don't get the booking you wanted this time, authors, remember that it really is competitive out there! Research the outlet, find a unique way to link your book in to the show's/website's/paper's audience, and eventually, you WILL land something.
Saturday's "Perils of Publicity" panel discussion went very well. I was excited to be there with Phil West, Susan Blount, and Nashville's Julie Gerke. We talked about the changing face of literary publicity, social media strategies, and fielded questions from the audience.

What surprised me most about the audience were the horrified and overwhelmed looks we received as we encouraged authors to plug in online via blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other avenues to build their platforms. While some authors consider this to be more work--and it certainly is--I encouraged the audience to think about the opportunity it provides for them to take their writing futures into their own hands.

Five or ten years ago, authors had no hope but to catch the attention of a literary agent or editor with their proposal. If that agent or editor didn't like what they saw, there was no way to prove there was a market for the work. Now, a highly-trafficked blog or a large Twitter following allows an author to do just that. Obviously you can still catch an agent's attention without this type of platform, but I hope the audience left excited about the opportunities that such a platform gives an author.

To that end, we also sponsored a “Tweet-Up” at the conference to encourage everyone to be a part of the Twitter phenomenon. There were quite a few authors who already had Twitter accounts, although some were at a bit of a loss as to how to use it. As we explained to them, Twitter is an ongoing, online conversation, and you’ll get out of it what you put into it. There are some great posts about Twitter and how writers can use it here and here. Not surprisingly, many in the book world have joined Twitter and are offering a wealth of insight and information about the industry. For a huge list of book industry "tweeters," click here.

At the Tweet-Up, we asked people to write down their Twitter handles, as well as their websites and book titles (if they had them) and tweet from the conference using the hashtag #wltcon. We’re posting the full list of participants so that these authors can find each other online and start networking with their peers:

Kendra Crispin; @Dancing Writer; Title: Emerging from the Shadows
Tena Laing; @TwinTexTwo; Title: Tokyo Mingled
Matt Schulz; @MatthewSchulz; Title: Cooperstown Band
Sara; @chikitlinski
Eric Gibson; @ecgibsonphd; Title: Nine Lords of the Night
Jay Ehret; @TheMarketingGuy; Title: Straddling the Fence
Beth Sample; @Beth_Sample
Linda Pennell; @LindaPennell; Title: The Calling
Bob Doerr; @rddoerr
Brad Whittington; @SitOnTwit; Title: Welcome to Fred
Alan J. Porter; @ealanjporter; Title: James Bond: The Illustrated 007
Holly Wonder; @hollywon
Sandy Lawrence; @sandylawrence
Matt Patterson; @mepatterson
Toby Heidel; @redplanetaudio
Belinda Acosta; @BelindaGene; Title: Dames, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz
Senay Ozdemir; @femalealchemist; Title: The Wax Club
Writers' League of Texas; @WritersLeague
Shennandoah Diaz; @shennandoahdiaz; Title: A Coyote Among Us
Jason Myers; @jaypers
Lindsay Powell; @Lindsay_Powell; Title: Eagles Over Germania
Stacy S. Jensen; @StacyWrites
Shannon Morgan; @nomadshan; Title: Briar-Bound
Lydia Ondrusek; @littlefluffycat

These authors came by our table but didn’t have Twitter accounts yet, so maybe we can encourage them to start:

Darrell Berry; Title: Early This Morning
David Nowlin; Title: Maggie Mulligan and the Priceless Gem of Fare-Rune
Rhonda Leverett

If you were at the conference but didn’t get a chance to “Tweet-Up” with us, just leave your name and Twitter handle in the comments.

Thanks again to the Writers' League for hosting such a great event. We look forward to next year's!

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