On the Conference Trail - by Chris Longmuir

          Many authors, myself included, are embracing the e-publishing revolution. We are taking control of our own destinies and no longer dancing to the tune of the big publishing conglomerates. The freedom this gives us is exhilarating.

          E-publishing, however, has expanded so rapidly it has given rise to the problem of how to get our books noticed among the multitude of e-books available. In other words, how do we promote ourselves and market our books without making a nuisance of ourselves? I don’t know about you, but the constant stream of authors advertising their books on Facebook and Twitter, turns me off.

          So I’m not going to talk about Facebook or Twitter. What I am going to talk about is writers’ conventions or conferences.

Now I know some of you don’t like these events but they are worth considering. For a start there’s the networking. You meet up with other writers and readers and get to know them. Chat about anything but your books, don’t turn it into an advertising session.
         Of course, if you get a little bit of encouragement, or someone asks, then talk about your books, but in moderation. One thing I picked up from my latest convention was the comment from various readers, that they disliked authors aggressively pushing their books. What they want is to get to know the authors, chat with them, and just generally have a nice time. If that is the kind of contact they have with an author, they are more likely to buy that author’s book.

          When I attend these events I always travel with flyers which I produce on my computer, and I leave a paper trail wherever I go, in this way I can publicise my books without having to go through the ‘Buy my book’ routine which most folks hate. The other thing is, if I’m asked to talk or go on a panel, I always accept, no matter how nervous it makes me.
Typical poster/flyer for paper trail

          Did I mention I’m just back from Crimefest in Bristol? I had a fabulous time there and met lots of nice readers. One Canadian is taking my flyers to distribute to a crime convention in Toronto, and a lovely American lady is taking some to distribute in her local library. And I didn’t ask them to do this, they offered. I’m hoping it will result in some interest in my books in both places.
           Oh, and I was asked to give a talk, it was one of the ‘In the Spotlight’ talks lasting twenty minutes. I knew about this less than a month before I attended Crimefest, so it was a bit frightening. I had to pick my own topic and just do my own thing. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I was at school and was asked to write a composition or essay on a topic of my own choosing, I always found this far more difficult than if I was given a topic. However, I didn’t hesitate, and keeping the word ‘promotion’ firmly in the front of my thoughts, I accepted with alacrity.
            I had to supply a topic and title within a couple of days so the thinking cap went on and I decided to talk about Scottish crime fiction and writers. The title I came up with was ‘Tartan Noir: Following in the Footsteps of Jekyll and Hyde’.
            The next panic was compiling something to fit in with the title. So what followed was three weeks searching the internet for information on Tartan Noir, plus rereading Jekyll and Hyde, as well as James Hogg’s ‘Confessions of a Justified Sinner’, both of them apparently the original Scottish influences on Tartan Noir. Then I had to become familiar with the American and French influences, and I compiled a list of Tartan Noir authors. Did you know there are over ninety Scottish crime writers? I think it was Denise Mina who said that if you threw brick on Sauchiehall Street, it would hit someone writing a crime novel.
 Chris delivering her 'In the Spotlight' talk at Crimefest

          Anyway, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know the talk went well and the audience enjoyed it, and after my initial nervousness I enjoyed it as well.
          So if you’re hesitating about attending conventions and conferences then I suggest you give them a try, but don’t go without a batch of promotional materials so you can lay your paper trail. Then just enjoy yourself, mingle, get to know people, and have a good time. I certainly had a fabulous time at Crimefest, and I met some lovely new friends.
If you want to check out some more about my recent attendance at CrimeFest, then head over to my blog http://chrislongmuir.blogspot.co.uk/

Chris Longmuir tweets at @ChrisLongmuir


Dan Holloway said…
Crimefest has a fabulous reputation. Fantasy and SF also have wonderful conferences and conventions.

I've found academic conferences to be a great home for writers working on a related subject - and for those runing such conferences, inviting "practitioners" fits the Research Council agenda of wanting to fund academic events that reach the general public (in my day job I spent five years on that side of the fence, working with academics to persuade research councils to give money) - if you can combine a reading with something about the themes of your book, so much the better - and you will ofetn get a signing table for the duration of the conference
Bill Kirton said…
As with all your insights into publishing and crime writing generally, Chris, this is excellent advice. One of the aspects of conferences which has surprised and pleased me is how generous most authors are to one another. Yes, there are those whose sense of their own importance can be wearing, but they're in a tiny minority. And thanks for reminding me that I ought to have the sense to take along flyers and the like. I will from now on.
Anonymous said…
Wish I could have been there to hear you speak.
Chris Longmuir said…
Thanks for all the nice words.
Melanie said…
Great post as always, Chris. Wish I could have been in Bristol and last weekend at Tetbury. Just curious was the Canadian who offered to take your flyers to a crime festival... would that have been Bloody Words?
Sue Fortin said…
I was fortunate enough to be at Tetbury and hear Chris' talk - it was great. Am reading Night Watcher at the moment and Dead Wood is on my list.
Sheryl Browne said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sheryl Browne said…
I agree with Sue. Loved your talk, Chris. Sooo natural! I think if you put yourself out there, people realise you are bound to be a bit nervous. I think they are very forgiving if you do slip up. In fact, it even relaxes the atmosphere a bit. Makes us human - and we all are, let's face it. Thanks for the reminder to post flyers re my new books in libraries! Head like a sieve sometimes, I swear. Good luck, Chris! :) x
Janice said…
I too wish I'd heard your talk at Crimefest, Chris, and have taken on board your wise words and advice about flyers and discreet promo at such events. I really enjoyed your talk at The Summer Audience in Tetbury and at having the chance of a proper catch up and chat.

Janice xx
Unknown said…
I shall be adding 'Deadwood' to my reading list. HB
Wish I'd heard your talk, Chris. Is it available online anywhere? I remember thinking Justified Sinner one of the scariest books I had ever read. David Manderson (Lost Bodies - but you've probably read it) has, I believe, almost finished writing a biography of Hogg.
Chris Longmuir said…
Thanks a lot for all your lovely comments, I've enjoyed reading them. In answer to a couple of questions - Melanie, I don't know the name of the guy who took my flyers to Canada, just that he came from Toronto and was attending a crime event there when he got back. And Catherine, I was thinking of writing a blog based on my Tartan Noir research and talk but don't have anything written down yet because I do all my talks off the top of my head (I'm a pantster) Of course being a pantster there's always the possibility I'll fall flat on my face!
Well Chris you never stop! I take my hat off to you, as you zip around the country. It's always great to catch up with what you are doing and having seen you in action I'd say you were a pantster with panache!

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