Family life

Inspired by NYC

Tracy Chappell gives you the highlights on her experience at the BlogHer Writers' Conference in New York City

By Tracy Chappell
Inspired by NYC

I’ve been back from New York for three days and have left you hanging! Sorry about that. As you can see, has had a glorious facelift so we’ve been in a blogging blackout — just when I had things to tell you!
New York was….fast. Everything about it, from the hustle and bustle of people on the streets, to our mad dashing to fit things like shopping and theatre-going around the conference.
But first, the BlogHer Writers’ Conference. I feel incredibly lucky that all the planets aligned to get me there because it really felt good. And right. This conference was specifically designed for bloggers who are looking to get books published and gave us access to editors from Penguin, agents, publicists, marketers (and, of course, 200 other writers). Also speaking were three successful athors, Jean Kwok (Girl in Translation), Ann Napolitano (A Good Hard Look) and Kathy Cano-Murillo (Crafty Chica's Art de la Soul). The key phrase that hooked me in the conference outline was that we would leave with “actionable steps.” That was important to me.
I learned so much from listening to the discussions about how a book goes from manuscript to store shelves (from the people who take it each step of the way), the roles of agents and what they’re looking for in a query, and the reality of getting published. Panel discussions explained that the publishing industry is alive and well, and though fewer books are being published overall, book sales are not dropping.
Probably the biggest thing I learned was how important a potential author’s “platform” is (this was the big word at the conference): how much marketing you can do for yourself, how involved you are in social media, etc. Gone are the days of multi-city book tours, and in their place… tweet-ups, I guess? I’m trying with the whole Twitter thing, I really am (@T_Chappell - Jean Kwok is following me now, you should too!) but as they told us, it doesn’t come naturally to many, and ironically, writers in particular. So I have to try harder (any tips?). What this also means is that if I do ever publish a book, I need each of you, my wonderfully loyal and brilliant (not to mention witty and beautiful) readers, to buy it. And buy copies for your all of your friends (no lending!). And colleagues. And your mom and her friends too. Deal?
Because the other take-away from the conference is that fewer than five percent of published fiction writers can make a living at it, unless they’re getting royalties from lots of books or they sell movie rights.
But you know what I really got from the conference? Hope. Not to get all Shawshank on you, because I know hope can be a dangerous thing, but I got to sit face-to-face with a New York City literary agent and talk to her. I got email addresses. I got business cards. I got inspired that a dream in my heart can come true. I mean, why shouldn’t it?
Next up: Part two of my whirlwind trip to NYC — all the non-conference stuff, including an arrest, a hangover and Samantha Mathis.

This article was originally published on Oct 25, 2011

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