Monday, October 27, 2014

MHC and Marketing

I attended the annual Mile Hi Con up in Denver this weekend. This was my third year attending. It didn't seem as busy to me as it usually is, which was pleasant, though probably not for folks trying to sell books, artwork, and other products. I didn't run into many of the interesting characters I've run into in the past, which was odd, but there were still plenty of costumed folks.

This year I focused more on fun than on the learning aspect. Yes, I still attended panels, but not as many as I have in the past. One I attended was on the future of the publishing industry, but all four panelists basically agreed on what was going to happen (traditional publishing won't die, but it will be diminished, and e-books are The Thing for the future.) A panel who all agree is dull. There was a side conversation that began that raised interesting questions, though, and that was how to find ways to assure readers a self-published book is quality. Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads have been bought in the past, and the argument we've all heard about self-publishing is that the original gatekeepers in the form of agents and editors are lacking when someone self-publishes, and sadly, the bad creeps through with the good. So how do we reassure the reader that this book they're considering buying is good, outside of reviews that might not be trustworthy? Will there be a professional organization set up to do this? To provide a guarantee that there was a thorough editing job?

Another panel was on world building. It was helpful to hear the approaches different authors take to it. Do you build your world first? Is the story contingent on your world, the world contingent on your story, or a combination of both?

There were several panels I was disappointed with or bored by (or both,) so I won't mention those here. Then there were several I liked that weren't intended as learning ones to begin with, such as my friend Patrick's podcast and a Meet the Toastmaster one, where her critique group presented with her. There was some good discussion of critique groups, and it was good to see one where the members have all found some manner of success (some of them quite a bit.) Our critique group has really just begun, and we all aspire to be in the same situation as this critique group.

All in all, I had a great time with friends, including two I shared a room with this time. I finally got to see the midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show. I've seen the movie multiple times, but never with a bunch of a people. Plus, we got to introduce two people to the movie for the first time, which is always fun.

Question mark by Mohamed
Ibrahim, shared by Gayane
Since Mile Hi Con is all about panels, I figured I'd ask a question of you guys related to a panel I've set up for the November Write Brain this month (a free monthly workshop put on by Pikes Peak Writers.) It will be a panel on marketing, author platform, and book launches. I'd like to have questions prepared in case the audience doesn't ask enough. What questions do you have on marketing, platform, and book launches? If I end up asking one of your questions, I'll post the answer here for you, as well (or, if we record it, I will post a link once it's ready to go, so you can see the panel.)

The panel is November 18, so if you think of questions before then, post them in the comments and I'll keep track.

Have you seen Rocky Horror with a group of people? Have you seen it at all? Love it or hate it? What questions do you have about marketing, launches, and platform? How do you feel about "quality checks" being put in place for self-published books? How do you do world building?

May you find your Muse.


Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I've taught an online class on world building. I do a lot of it for my fantasy and science fiction novels.
I love The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I first saw it with college friends.
I don't have a question for your panel but I would love to sit in on that.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Not a Rocky Horror fan.
Sorry some of it was boring.
You could probably get a few questions from my post today.

Tonja Drecker said...

Sounds like an interesting visit. . .even if some of the panels were boring. Wish I had some questions, but I'm coming up blank at the moment. And nope, I'm not a Rocky Horror fan.

Maurice Mitchell said...

I've never been, but I've heard midnight showings of Rocky Horror Picture Show are amazing.

A Beer for the Shower said...

I hate when panels are boring or uninformative. And we have to check our schedules, but hopefully we'll be free for the next Write Brain. It's been too long.

Julie Flanders said...

I admit I'm weird but I've never seen Rocky Horror except clips here and there.

Sounds like an interesting conference - glad you had a good time.

shelly said...

I haven't gone to a conference in a while. Yours sounded interesting.

Giles Hash said...

Saw Rocky Horror on Netflix. Alone. It was pretty good, but not my favorite.

Sounds like you had a good time at Mile High con, though, so that's awesome! I really wanted to go this year, but I'll have to wait until 2015, I guess.

dolorah said...

I watched most of Rock Horror on TV. Kinda cheesy, but one of those movies that should be seen at least once in a lifetime.

It seems a good review of a book is even more important than ever; and from general population readers, not author friends or paid agencies. I think I write good reviews that aren't just a recap of the storyline, but who knows how many people read those.

Andrew Leon said...

I've seen more than a few incidents of traditionally published authors purchasing reviews, so reviews are about as reliable either way.

Mina Burrows said...

Cool conference. I think they need to have an entire panel discussion on email marketing and the importance of collecting your own data of readers. There's not enough of this practice and sadly writers end up chasing readers and get lost in the social media mulch.

cleemckenzie said...

That side panel discussion needs to be continued. I've bought self-publilshed books and been very disappointed in the quality. Others have been stellar. Who are the gatekeepers? It can't be the readers. It's too late by that time.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Susan, I'm glad to hear the topic is interesting. How did your online workshop go?

Alex, I'll check it out, thanks!

T.D., it was a fun weekend, despite the panels. Quite honestly, they are the least of the reason I go there these days.

Maurice, this one was fun, but I'm betting the live ones are even better.

B&B, yay, fantastic! Hope to see you there.

Julie, it could be argued that the weird ones are the ones who have seen it. ;)

Shelly, it was. And inexpensive. $40 for the weekend, unlike a full-blown writers conference (though I learn way more at actual conferences.)

Giles, I think RH is meant to be enjoyed in groups. The fun is contagious. If you go next year, maybe we'll run into each other.

Dolorah, oh, definitely cheesy! But I do think it's something worth watching once just to have the experience.

Andrew, I definitely agree. The reviews can be equally false, whether tradition or independent.

Mina, interesting point, thanks! I'll have to bring up email marketing.

Lee, it definitely needs to be continued. I would have been far more interested in that topic than the overall one they were discussing.

Mina Lobo said...

I did get to see RHPS with a handful of pals in the mid-80s, but it was rather past its heyday, by that point. Also, I believe I fell asleep somewhere in the middle. :-)

The "gatekeepers" in publishing aren't in it for altruistic reasons, they simply act to promote things which, in their opinions, hold the greatest commercial value (as opposed to promoting "good" fiction over "bad"). While they do their best, presumably, they're only human and subject to making mistakes (errors have certainly appeared in traditionally published books which I've read). There's no governing body providing "quality checks" to ensure that what traditional publishers promote/sell isn't poorly written/edited. And it's not like readers of traditionally published books are "assured" of satisfying reads simply because those books *were* traditionally published.

Fundamentally, the tests I use for either type of book are the same: do the title and cover catch my eye? Does the back cover summary spark my imagination? When I read through the first page, do I want to keep reading? If all of those are true, I'm buying that book, regardless of how that sucker was published. :-D But I understand that either kind of book can be a great success or a disappointment, or just something in between. You know what, as an indie-author, I'd like to see some regulation for? The fees charged by freelance editors (not mine; she's fabulous, professional, and really reasonably priced), as well as some agreed upon qualifications a person must have before s/he sets up shop. (Though I admit, I don't know if the latter already exists.)

Panel questions:

1. Is blogging still perceived to be a valuable tool for author platform building?

2. When I last researched social media for writerly types (early to mid 2013), it seemed Facebook was the way to go, closely followed by Twitter - are these still the places to connect with readers, or have other online hangouts superseded them? (And what are some resources for learning the demographics for various social media sites?)

3. How much import do they place (if they place any) on the idea that low pricing of an e-book turns folks off, rather than on? Also, it seems the "sweet spot" of e-book pricing has fluctuated quite a bit in just a year or two (price points one frequently sees are .99, 2.99, 3.99); any thoughts on why this changes so quickly and/or what the next "sweet spot" might be?

4. Can the panel members recommend any online sites for authors to advertize on? (A related question: Have any of them used Facebook ads and have they found them to be helpful?)

Shannon Lawrence said...

Mina, those are excellent points. I'm not sure whether there's regulation for editorial qualifications or not, but I doubt it. I recently discovered someone who is in business for editing and is terrible at it. Anyone who wants to hang that particular shingle is free to do so. Thank you for the questions! I'll pass along answers if I end up getting to ask these.