Had a great time learning about the publishing industry process tonight at the WNBA (Womens National Book Association) - Charlotte Chapter, which met at the most lovely independent bookseller, Park Road Books. My husband is greatly amused when I told him that I would be joining the WNBA; in fact he chuckled quite gleefully about it, since I am most certainly not adroit with a basketball. But, amusing abbreviations aside, joining an organization like this is so wonderful for new authors, and I highly recommend it. The WNBA is active in ten chapters all over the US, and offers help with networking, conferences, meetings, workshops, and so much more. I am lucky to be relatively close to one.
That said, it took me a while to get there this evening.
Word to the wise: be wary of bing directions, folks. It dumped me in the middle of downtown Charlotte. However, there was a very nice parking garage attendant who whipped out his smart phone (mine is dumb, unfortunately) and got me the proper directions.
I wasn't too late to the meeting, and everybody was very welcoming. I got to hear from a talented panel of speakers: author and wonderful lady, Marybeth Whalen, who is managing to write her fourth novel WHILE raising six children; literary agent Quinlan Lee, from Adams Literary, who is just so open, helpful and forthright about the industry; editor, Carin Siegfried, who let us know that editors are not in this for the money, but for the love of books, because editing is a difficult and sometimes thankless job; independent publisher Angela Harwood, from John F. Blair publisher, which specializes in quality literature of the Southeast; former literary publicist, Nancy Clare Morgan, who discussed the ups and downs of promoting books and the importance of author self-promotion in the digital age; book distributor, Amanda Phillips, of Baker & Taylor, and book-seller, Sally Brewster (owner of Park Road Books), who talked about the importance of fostering a front-of-mind image in the battle for shelf-supremacy at the bookstore; and book marketing, sales and promotion consultant Susan Walker, who started the evening's panel and provided an overall picture of the industry at large.
My drive home was far better than my drive there. Over the phone my husband reminded me that he put a tom-tom in my glove compartment, along with the car charger that had gone missing over a year ago and was recently found. So I dug the infernal thing out, plugged it in, and let it get me home - far more efficiently than how I got to the meeting in the first place.
The tom tom had been programmed with Darth Vader's voice. (for an amusing recording scene, click here)
I don't know how many of you are familiar with the Darth Vader global positioning system, but it's very effective. If you veer off-course, take a wrong turn, or just turn prematurely, he tells you to "Stay in formation. I find your lack of faith disturbing." And if you make the correct turn he grudgingly congratulates you: "I see you have controlled your fear" and "You have reached your destination, but you are not a Jedi yet."
Now, I cannot help but see a parallel between Darth Vader's sage advice on getting me home tonight, and the panel of speakers' many, many words of wisdom on how to trod the path from Book Idea to Bookshelf. As I drove home, while Vader kept quiet, that is, I considered many of the things that had been talked about, and I found myself considering my two novels and what I needed to do to make them the best they could be as well as how to market them the best they can be marketed. I have been writing for so much of my life, and I am seeking to improve my craft, but the one thing that I am crazy-good at, is self-promotion! There has never been a job that I wanted, interviewed for and did not get. I love to talk with people. I love learning from people as well as sharing things with them. I LOVE social networking. When my manuscripts are ready, I am going to be some publicist's dream - an extroverted author who loves to speak in public!
It really is a balance between letting your voice tell an amazing story on the page, and yet following the market's protocols and tastes. What do readers want? How do you give it to them while staying true to that voice?
I guess what it all boils down to, is that I will be dividing my brain over the next several weeks and months, to editing one novel and finishing writing another. Why not just set the one down and focus on the other? Because I feel an urgency in both stories, that's why. They are both speaking to me right now. I can't shelve either of them. It's just like parenting two children. I will make time for both. I may need a different agent for them, however, but I'll see.
Though there is no clear GPS for getting manuscripts sold, I do feel like I'm more in touch with the path I need to go down. I may not be a Jedi yet, but the Force is strong in me.
Visit me at RebeccaOfTomorrow