Monday, February 24, 2014

Observations from LTUE

So there was this one time when I blogged frequently... then I got a publishing contract...

Well, it's true. Way back when I was hunting for my second unicorn (aka publishing contract #2) I blogged a lot more. I had all sorts of things to say about writing, and life, and editing, and life, and publishing, and life. Then I was hit with the cold hard reality of publishing: Work.

A lot of it. Interspaced with periods and waiting. A lot of waiting. The perfect time to keep up on my blog. Or my TV shows. Or my reading. Or my housework. Or my many, many many projects (you can read all about this particular passion here.)

So that's what I did (all except the blogging part for which you will forgive me because I'm here now, aren't I?) Until I went to my first writing conference in, like, forever.

Last week (or was it the week before), my writing group and I attended Life the Universe and Everything (LTUE). We went all out. We booked a room in the same hotel as the conference, showed up early, went to as many classes as possible until our brains wanted to explode, and even stayed for the Gala Banquet.

This was our one and only 'from author to fan-girl' moment of the weekend. Once Upon A Keyboard (minus Meghan who couldn't make it (sniff)) at the Gala Banquet. Mistcloaks made by Callie and photo taken with their creator Brandon Sanderson. (For understanding as to why this is so cool please go hither and read his Mistborn trilogy this instant. You won't regret it.)

LTUE proved to be a wealth of information. My purpose there was a little more complex than the last writing conference I'd gone to. At that time (LDS Storymakers 2010), I wanted to know everything there was to know about the craft of writing. This time, so many years later, I was pleased to discover that a lot of the information I garnered from the different panels on writing were things I already knew. Hallelujah, I've grown as a writer.

That isn't to say I didn't leave there without a jam-packed brain, but just full of information of another sort. This time around I wanted to know more about marketing, and what attracted readers to an author's books. The answer surprised me.

Marketing a book these days is done in a large part online. People read your cover blurb, see your gorgeous cover, read the reviews and make an assessment as to whether or not they want to read your book. However, when it comes to face to face conversation with potential readers, the rules change significantly.

During the panels, no matter what the topic, I found myself studying the panelists themselves. Were they smart, engaging, funny, humble, enlightening? Or were they narcissists who cared only about talking about their book, their characters and themselves?

Since the conference I have bought several books by authors on the panels and my decision for picking up which one of the many, many, many, many novels written by the presenting panelists was clear cut. I picked up the books by the smartest, friendliest, most knowledgable authors I met. I did not pick up a single book that had been pitched during a panel. I didn't even look at an author's novel if they couldn't interest me while speaking. I mean, if they can't interest me with their verbal words, I'm worried they won't be able to with their written ones either.

I know we shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but the truth is we do. And that goes for their personal cover as well. When the conference was over, I took my very limited book-buying funds and put them behind authors whom I thought would give me the most entertaining book. I figured their real-life voice couldn't be that different from their writing voice, and so far I have discovered that is true.

To all the writing introverts out there who are fantastic authors but may have a hard time putting that across in person, I'm so sorry. There are so many books flooding the marketplace these days that an author can no longer afford to write in solitude and hope their written words speak for themselves. You can, of course, still have a successful writing career but your battle will be uphill. An author needs the entire package. Even authors whose books I've read and enjoyed, if I meet them in person and am turned off by their personality or attitude, I am unlikely to pick up another of their books.

Take what you want from my nonsensical ramblings. These are just my personal observations of what I learned during LTUE. This is by no means all I learned there. I learned that I love reading and writing horror (lightbulb moment). I learned a ton about the craft that I had never before considered and honed some that I thought I already understood. I learned that I can meet and speak to new people without finding myself rocking in a dark corner an hour later hoping they'll all go away.  I can't even put all I learned into one blog post.

So tell me, what do you expect/like from an author when you meet him/her?


  1. I expect them to be interesting and perhaps funny. Loved this post Christauna----great thoughts!

  2. I want someone who is interested in talking to me and not about selling me their book. Much like you, I expect them to be a person first, a marketer second. Loved this post!!

    1. Thanks, Terra! You look great as a Mistborn, btw. ;)

  3. Those mistcloaks were excellent! We should definitely mingle at the next LTUE. :)

  4. I agree that how an author presents themselves in person definitely impacts my interest in their work.

    That being said, I think in most cases, the average reader will never get a chance to meet an author they've read (or are considering reading), in person. So while I like your comment about writers no longer being able to rely on their writing alone to help them get by, I think it should be applied to all situations where an author can reach their readers, particularly through blogs and social media.

    1. Very good point, Paul, something I should have better portrayed while I was rambling. Thank you for your insight!