June was a busy month for me. I finished up the rewrite of my Cry of the Sea sequel, Whisper of the Woods, and got it approved to be published by Fire and Ice Young Adult Books. (Tentative publishing date is in November.) Yay!!! Then I pulled out the rough draft of my middle grade dragon novel that I wrote during NaNoWriMo in 2013 to start cleaning it up. I’m still working on that but hope to have it done soon and ready for submitting to agents and publishers. But what really kept me busy last month were the three different events I attended to publicize my books.
First was UtopYA 2015. This is a conference that is specifically for Young Adult authors and bloggers. And it’s right here Nashville. How convenient! I had heard of it last year but didn’t go. Kind of at the last minute, I decided to get a ticket for this year. I also pooled in with group of authors based here in Nashville called Nashville Meetup to buy a table to display our books. I was super excited to attend this event, because the buzz about it on Facebook was intense and two favorite authors I’ve featured on this blog were going to be there. This was the 5th year of the conference. It was 99.9% women. Nearly all of them were indie authors. I thought I’d fit right in, learn lots, and come home with new friends, a million new ideas, and maybe sell a book or two.
Alas, this was not the case.
I am a shy gal, and I felt a lot like I was crashing the party. It seemed like everyone there already knew each other from years past. They were all super sweet. I didn’t meet a single person who wasn’t smiling. Only, I constantly found myself sitting to the side of someone’s conversation, awkwardly eavesdropping. (Oddly, my character Hayley does this very thing in the opening chapter of Whisper of the Woods). I even attended a session titled “Advice for Introverts” or something like that, where they said encouraging things like “everyone here is the same as you and we all want to like each other.”
Yeah. That’s what extroverts always say.
A couple of the workshops were great as far as getting me motivated to write more and try some new ideas in my marketing. Most of the sessions left me frustrated, though. They were led by these amazingly successful self-published authors, one of whom said a bad month for her was when she only sold 1,000 books. Sigh. There were great tips like ‘give away the first book free to attract readers to buy the rest of the series’ (can’t do that because I’m not self-published), and ‘spend lots of money on BookBub or Facebook ads’ (how do I find the money to pay for that????), and ‘get lots of books out there quickly’ (I’m trying but I have this job and a family and stuff). Oh, and the number-one piece of advice I heard over and over again? Quit the day job and dive in. Yeah, well…
Then I got in my car and drove back to my job for the rest of the afternoon.
And that was another thing. It seemed as if the main thrust of the conference wasn’t the workshops but the socialization in the evenings. One panelist at the “introvert” session said she doesn’t even go to the workshops. There was a dinner, a dance, a breakfast, and even a big awards show. I read on the social FB page that a couple of them were going out together to get tattoos. I didn’t attend those things. Remember the shy part? Plus, I live in Nashville. I wasn’t staying at the hotel with everyone. My family was at home and not super excited about me partying it up with a bunch of women I didn’t know. So, I kind of missed out on a lot of the bonding time.
The third big thing about the conference was the vendor room. That was pretty amazing. All these authors and publishers spent some serious bucks and had tables full of swag and copies of their books. So. Many. Books. I was overwhelmed by it. My little book on the local authors table looked so sad and wimpy next to these displays. I walked around but didn’t buy any books. I simply couldn’t choose. I was afraid to make eye contact with all the authors, because I didn’t want to talk to them and then not buy their books. It’s always awkward. I collected a lot of bookmarks. I’m not a book reviewer, so I didn’t feel comfortable asking for ARCs. I couldn’t help wondering if any of them earned back the money they spent to be there. (There was a huge signing event open to the public on Saturday. I didn’t go to that, but I assume that’s where the real sales were. Even so, I imagine most of the books sold were by the better known authors present.)
Will I go back next year? Haven’t decided. I’m thinking about asking some of the other Fire and Ice Young Adult Book authors to share a booth with me, make it really swanky looking, and basically man the table instead of doing the writing conference part. I know one thing. If I go back, I will need to be bold, brave, and try harder to make it count.
This isn’t even half the swag I collected at UtopYA. Funny thing about having so many bookmarks? I mostly read on my Kindle.
An author friend named Patricia Wiles gave me this pin at my first SCBWI Midsouth writing conference in 2004. I pimped it up a little for UtopYA with the plan of wearing it on my shirt as a conversation piece. When I got there, I felt super self-conscious about it and wound up pinning it to my tote bag where no one probably saw it. Do you see my problem?
I know I’m not the only introverted author out there. I’d love to know how you handle events like this? Any tips that work for you? Please leave a comment. Coming up in a couple days: Shy Girl at the Con, Part 2 – the fantasy/scifi conventions.
D. G. Driver
Author of Young Adult books Cry of the Sea and Passing Notes.