Posts Tagged ‘writing from the peak’

Happy Birthday Harriet Beecher Stowe

Photo courtesy of USA NARA, public domain

Harriet Beecher Stowe, born on June 14, 1911 in Connecticut and lived much of her life in Cincinnati.  Her best-seller, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, helped galvanized the abolitionist movement, leading to the Civil War. 

Harriet saw the value in being surrounded by books. Does the presence of books impact your writing?


 Gabrielle V Brown, Contributing Editor

Gabrielle V. Brown writes all manner of fiction and nonfiction.  Find her on Facebook, and instagram ; contact her at gvbrownwriter@gmail.com.  For more about today’s birthday author, visit her website.

Author Readings

How do author readings work?

There’s a lot of variation in how author readings work, but they basically go like this:

You’re invited to participate in an event and read something you’ve written. You may be asked to read for a certain amount or time, or read an entire story regardless of how long it takes. What you read from could be a specific story, from any published work you’ve written, or from anything you’ve written – which might include a project you’re currently working on.

Participating in a reading can and should be a fun and wonderful experience.

Depending on the venue and situation, you may or may not have the opportunity to bring/sell books. Some places (ex. bookstores) will sell your books, either print or ebook, through their own system.

Readings usually involve multiple authors reading at an event, but there are situations where you’re the only author reading. If you’re participating in a multi-author event you may have a fixed slot, or can request to go first, last, etc.

After the reading is over, you’ll have the opportunity to sign copies of your book(s) and talk with members of the audience.

Why participate in a reading?

Readings are a great form of marketing the title you’re reading from, and they’re a great way to promote you as an author. Not only does the audience get to hear your story, they have the opportunity to connect with you as a person.

Having people show up to listen to your story is an awesome experience, and it can be incredibly rewarding to have the opportunity to meet with members of the audience afterward.

Should you participate in a reading?

Do you enjoy speaking to a crowd, or are you super introverted and hate being the center of attention? Or perhaps you don’t mind talking to an audience, but the idea of reading something of your own gives you the heebie jeebies?

If you’re really uncomfortable with this type of activity, it might not be the right thing for you – and that’s okay! You can be a super successful author without ever reading any of your stories aloud.

If you’re comfortable (or comfortable enough) with reading to a group, consider the setting. Will you be reading in a quiet area where the audience can hear you well, or in a noisy bar? Is the location convenient, or will it involve a three-hour drive each way?

In addition to considering the setting, consider the situation. If it’s a multi-author reading event, how do you feel about the other participants? Will you be reading from a romance novel, but the other authors are horror writers?

Don’t feel obligated to participate in a reading just because you were invited. Make sure the situation is right for you.

How to prepare

If the venue allows you to sell books, make sure to bring some to sell. Or if the venue will sell your books for you, make sure they have all the information ahead of time so they can stock print copies and/or get your ebook in their ordering system. If you’re reading at a place that sells your books through their system, they will probably request that you not bring your own copies.

Bring a pen! You may be asked to sign copies of your book! If you haven’t autographed a lot of books yet, you may want to think about what to write ahead of time so that you don’t have to come up with this on the fly.

Bring business cards, bookmarks, or whatever materials you have – or prepare some, if you don’t have anything like this put together yet. Sometimes you’ll have an area to set up a display where you can showcase more than one of your books. You could make a banner, print out a giant version of one of your book covers, or do something quirky that fits your book and/or your brand. For example, horror writer Mark Leslie has a life-sized skeleton (it’s fake, don’t worry!) named Barnaby who he takes to readings and signings.

One of the most important things you can do is practice reading ahead of time. If you’re given a fixed amount of time to read, this will allow you to ensure your selection will fit in this time period. If you haven’t read to an audience before, or if you’re not sure which approach to use for this particular story, practicing will allow you to decide how you want to read. For example, do you want to use different voices for your characters? Or read them in more of a narration style?

Readings are fun!

Participating in a reading can and should be a fun and wonderful experience. Figure out what is important to you with this type of event, and vet each opportunity to make sure it’s a good fit for you and your career.

And have fun!


Jaime Ferguson

Jamie Ferguson has curated ten multi-author collections and is working on many more, including a monster-themed anthology series. She is a member of the Uncollected Anthology, an urban and contemporary fantasy author collective, which she joined in the spring of 2018. She loves creating colorful spreadsheets and has spent her day job career working in software. Jamie lives in Colorado and spends her free time in a futile quest to wear out her two border collies, since she hasn’t given in and gotten them their own herd of sheep. Yet.

Marketing on a Budget

by: Margena Holmes

Start marketing when you start writing.

Marketing—one of the least favorite things a writer needs to do. We have to come out of our writing cave and actually talk to people about our books. They say (and just who are “they”?) you should start marketing when you start writing your book. But how does one do so effectively? I haven’t a clue! Okay, I have a little bit of a clue. All kidding aside, there are several ways to market your book and yourself.

Facebook Groups

The easiest and least expensive way to market your book is through Facebook groups. There are sooo many groups on Facebook dedicated to readers, authors, and promotions, and a lot of these groups will host events for authors to sell their books. Join them and then start posting your information on your books. Make sure you follow their rules for posting (once a week? Once a month?) and then change it up a bit each time you post within that group.

Make up an ad in Paint, Photoshop, or Canva one week, then post a description of your book next time. Include a link to where readers can purchase the book, and always include a picture no matter how you advertise. Photos draw potential readers in, as social media is very visual. This is one of the things you can do before your book is even released to build excitement and generate interest for your book.

Amazon Marketing Services

Another good way to advertise is Amazon Marketing Services. Starting from your KDP page, select which book you want to promote and follow the prompts. It will ask you the amount you want to spend per click, how long you want to run the campaign, and if you want to customize your ad. I was finished with my ad in under fifteen minutes.

Book Signings

I like to think outside the box, too. Does your book have a theme? Tie in a book signing to the theme of your book! It’s a great way to advertise. For my book Dear Moviegoer, I asked a movie theater if I could set up a table to display my books on an afternoon during a major movie release. You could do the same for a science fiction book, fantasy, horror, etc.

Comic Cons

Comic Cons are also a good way to get yourself and your book out to readers, but they could be hit-or-miss depending on the Con. I’ve had some success with big and small ones, but it depends on the type of Con. They’re not cheap, though, and you probably won’t make your money back, but it’s a fun way to sell your book and talk to readers, especially if you like going to Cons anyway.

Printed Material

If the thought of having to talk to so many people makes you a little queasy, see about placing business cards, postcards, or flyers on tables of cafes, bookstores, and restaurants. Ask first, however. You don’t want your items tossed into the trash by the manager.

Vista Print

There are several places to get advertising materials made inexpensively. I like Vista Print. They always have a deal running for something. You can get 500 business cards for $10. Look around and see if there are other deals by other companies. You can always mix and match—get your business cards from one place and bookmarks from another (though if you want them to match, it may be better to pick one company).

Marketing is a necessary evil that we writers must do to advertise our books and ourselves, whether we like it or not. Get creative and have fun with it!


photo of margin holmes

Margena Adams Holmes was born in Bellflower, CA sometime in the 1960s. She has always had a love for both reading and writing, writing her first song/poem in 1st grade. Margena is a big supporter of indie authors and will read anything that draws her into the story. She is an observer of life, and many everyday things could (and do!) end up in her writings. Her publications are available through her author page. Contact Margena via email: jedi_anegram@hotmail.com.

PPWC2019 – Reflections

Although PPWC2019 fell into the history books almost a month ago, the buzz is still electrifying. Here are just a few things people had to say:

“There’s a reason PPWC is one of the longest-standing and productive writing conferences in the country. The level of talent, professionalism, access to both industry leaders and Mother Nature create the ideal opportunity for writers at all levels to move ahead in craft and career.” ~~Susan Wiggs, New York Times best-selling author

What really stood out at PPWC was the clear affection that attendees felt for each other.  Clearly, many were experienced veterans of the conference, and they were so happy to see each other again.  And still, they were very inclusive of new people.  Plus, present company notwithstanding, I thought the programming and the level of instruction to be phenomenal. ~~John Gilstrap, New York Times bestselling author

I’ve attended the Southern California Writers Conference a couple of times, and while the workshops are on par with PPWC, they don’t include meals into the conference (except for the Saturday night banquet), so I’m very happy PPWC does that! It’s nice to be able to talk with authors and faculty there in an informal setting. They’re pretty normal, in a nerdy sort of way–like us! ~Margena Holmes, Author

PPWC has long been my favorite conference to attend. It was the first writers conference I ever went to–as an attendee in 2007–and it set the bar high for others. I’m always thrilled when I get to come back as faculty and reunite with so many familiar faces, be part of the top-notch presentations you offer (one of the many reasons I adore PPWC), and be around such an enthusiastic, supportive, focused group of writers. This past year, as I always do, I filled my days when I wasn’t presenting attending the presentations of others–I learn so much there every time. And I am inspired and charged up every time I come by the authors I get to work with in my workshops–everyone is so fully engaged, dedicated to their craft, and wonderfully interactive. It’s also one of my favorite places to lead workshops. Coming to PPWC is like coming home, every time. ~Tiffany Yates Martin, Editor/Owner, FoxPrint Editorial

PPWC 2019 was my first time teaching at a writers conference, a longtime goal of mine. I was a little nervous, until I realized just how friendly and enthusiastic all the attendees were. Everyone at PPWC came with an open mind, ready to learn new things and build their writing skills. I was so impressed by the knowledge and curiosity of everyone who attended my classes–I think I learned more from them than they learned from me! ~Rachel Craft, Author

As I sit at home, drinking a hot mug of coffee, I like to reflect on the things I’ve learned, the people I’ve met and the knowledge I’ve acquired. I try to process it all and allow it to motivate my writing. By the end of that first cup of Joe, I want to write all the things. I want to finish my manuscript, edit another and submit to every anthology. ~Jason Henry Evans, Author

I thoroughly enjoyed the presentations and workshops I was able to attend; the faculty was top-notch. And who can leave out the networking benefits of Barcon?  But ultimately, the very best part of PPWC was the friendships I made.  Writing can be such a lonely thing, but I have now gathered my tribe!  ~Kate V. Conway, Author

PPWC2019 met all of my expectations. My favorite quote from the weekend came from John Gilstrap when he said, “Don’t write a book – tell a story.” My favorite class was…ALL of them. So much information filled my notebook with knowledge and my mind with ideas. My favorite thing to do? Volunteer. I have been on the Query team since my first conference in 2012. It is a great way to contribute to this amazing event. These reasons (and many more) are why I return year after year. ~K.J. Scrim, Editor PPW Blog and Author

For the six years I’ve been attending PPWC, I’ve heard how the Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference is one of the best, friendliest, and most respected conferences in the country, and while I believed my astute fellow conference volunteers, I am bred from the school of trust but verify. So, this year, when I was approached by many editors/agents, as well as all of the keynotes, I requested details when they told me how happy they were to attend a PPW Conference.

In summary, this is what I was told:
–The variety of material, genre, and skill levels catered to by the workshops, invited guests, and keynotes. A little something for everyone.

–The amount of coordination and organization conducted prior to and during conference by the conference volunteers.  “I can’t believe this is all done by volunteers”.

–The overall vibe of the conference is positive and light. We are able to maintain a joviality throughout the days and nights, something that is rare as time presses on.
~Kameron Claire, PPW President and Author

6 Lies You’ve Been Told About Your “Author Platform”

Jennifer Lovett Herbranson

Number, 1, One, Digit, Background, Scrapbooking

An Author Platform is Only for Nonfiction Authors

Get outta here! Platform is for everyone!

Ok, so it’s definitely easier for a nonfiction author because they already know what question they are trying to answer for their audience. All the information they’ve spent years learning through doing or academic rigor can be shared in droves. Nonfiction authors really need to organize and dose out their information strategically to keep the platform alive.

For fiction writers, however, a platform is simply what you offer your readers. What experience are you providing they can’t get elsewhere. Don’t say nothing because otherwise, why are you writing? Figure out what you offer your reader. Create a world around that online. That’s your platform. It isn’t a place. It’s your public persona and what you offer. You do this because people buy books from people they know or think they know. Let them get to know you.

Number, 2, Two, Digit, Background, Scrapbooking

You Have to Tell Readers Everything About You or They Won’t Like You

Why yes, you are amazing. But you have to tell them everything because information goes on the interwebs??? Uh, okay “eye roll.”

Your platform is about your reader and what you offer that reader. That’s it. It’s what YOU decide you want your readers to know, and they don’t need to know everything about your private life. Unless of course you become an overnight New York Times bestseller and all the media come banging on your door, digging through your trash and talking to your middle school Spanish teacher. Well, hey, every job has its downsides!

Seriously, figure out what you want your Public Persona to be. What do you want to offer the reader? I encourage authors to think of three things about themselves they are comfortable sharing with the world. I talk about Alabama football, world traveling and anything that has to do with the Karate Kid. Does this appeal to everyone? Nope. Does it have anything to do with my books? Again, nope. But it does allow potential readers to get to know part of me. Even better is these things are innocuous and don’t intrude on my private life.

Number, 3, Three, Digit, Background, Scrapbooking

You Can Build a Platform Without a Website

No you can’t.

You can build a platform without a blog but you can’t build a platform without a website. Sorry, but it’s just expected. Like having a colonoscopy when you’re 50. You just have to do it. The industry, the readers, the universe expects to find you at www.AUTHORYOU.com so just unplug your ears, and go ahead and build the site.

You only need to include a short bio section with a hi-res professional headshot, and your social media or buy links and a place to sign up for your author email. That’s it. It doesn’t have to be anything extensive. It just has to be. And it has to be professional looking. While it may not have much information, it does need to look like you’re taking your own writer career seriously. Use Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace or WordPress. (WordPress is the best for SEO and lead generation on Google searches.)

Number, 4, Four, Digit, Background, Scrapbooking

You Must Have a Million Followers

ONE. MILLION. FOLLOWERS! Sure, okay. You have a million followers who love you and found you organically online even though you opened your Instagram account….yesterday.

Ever since the industry got a clue that people could buy followers, this whole “how many followers” do you have thing isn’t as relevant anymore. What you need are engaged followers. People who actually comment, like and share your stuff. These people become fans who can become superfans. That’s what you need, so stop worrying about how many followers you don’t have, and create a genuine relationship with the ones you do have.

Number, 5, Five, Digit, Background, Scrapbooking

Setting up a platform can be done in 5 minutes a day

Yep, still eye rolling over here!

Anyone who tells you creating a platform can be done in only five minutes a day is a liar. To create a solid platform, a community for people online, you have to spend time doing it. There is no other way around it, and yes, it is worth it. When you are ready to launch a book, you’ll have people to launch it to.

Use a dashboard like Hootsuite (no longer free) or Buffer or TweetDeck to help you save time on social media or blogging. Schedule out posts as far out as you can.

Pick one social media platform to update. That’s it. Just one. These days Instagram is the best place to be but don’t discount other platforms that may work better for your genre. Spend time every day or every other day responding, liking, sharing.

Number, 6, Six, Digit, Background, Scrapbooking

Set Up a Platform AFTER The Book is Finished

No, no, nope, no, nope! 

You love your book, right? I know you do! Starting your platform after the book is finished is like coming home with a new baby and having no diapers. It’s like starting your race 15 minutes behind the pack. It’s like…like…I don’t know…like trying to start your car with no gas in it.

Look, the industry will tell you that you only need to write your second book and that’s good enough. Yeah, the industry will also tell you if you already have a following, you’re higher up on the list of maybes. Why wouldn’t you want every edge you can get?

If you’re going to publish indie, this is not even up for debate. You need to have a following. Give your readers progress reports, free scenes and snippets from the book or from your research, have your kid interview you on your writing process. If you’re a lawyer, provides case notes (without privacy info of course). If you’re a spy thriller writer, redacted case studies are fun. Do whatever you can to keep them hungry for your book. That way when you launch that book, they’ll be your biggest fans and can help sell it for you.


Jennifer Lovette Herbranson

Jennifer Lovett Herbranson is the founder of Writer Nation, a podcast and Facebook group dedicated to helping writers market their work. With 17 years communications experience, she regularly writes on social media, internet marketing and face-to-face publicity. She currently lives in South Korea and travels around Asia for fun. You can find her on her WebsiteFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest: @jennylovett

Happy Birthday Nayantara Sahgal

Novelist and photojournalist Nayantara Sahgal celebrates her birthday today, May 10th. Her novel Rich Like Us won the Sinclair prize for fiction. 

Have you ever encountered bewildered looks when explaining your yawns were the result of getting up at 3:00 am for that idea that couldn’t wait? Or found yourself trying to explain why your antagonist has their own playlist?

Some may consider we writers just a bit quirky. Acknowledge them politely. Then get back to following your passion and write those words.


Profile Photo of Gabrielle V Brown Managing Editor Pikes Peak Writers Blog

Gabrielle V. Brown, Contributing Editor with Writing From the Peak, writes all manner of fiction and nonfiction. Visit her website, find her on Facebook, and instagram orcontact her at gvbrownwriter@gmail.com

Marcus Aurelis Turns 1,898

Photo of bronze of Marcus Aurelius courtesy of the Louvre.

Today’s writing advice is nearly two thousand years old. Roman Emperor and Philosopher Marcus Aurelius would be celebrating his 1898th birthday today*.  His core work, Meditations, originally entitled “To Himself”, may be one of the earliest self-help books. 

Aurelius’ advice is 65 generations old, yet still valuable. You’ll not get that next project finished until you start!

*appropriate calendar adujustment


Lit-Quote provided by, Gabrielle V. Brown who writes all manner of fiction and nonfiction.  Find her on Facebook, and instagram ; contact her at gvbrownwriter@gmail.com.  For more about today’s birthday author, visit her website.

Using the Tax Code – Part 1

In this two part series, Jason Henry tells us about how the tax code can be used to further your writing career. Jason will be teaching, Understanding How the Changes in the Tax Code Effect Your Writing Career, with his wife, Linda Evans at PPWC2019.


Today I want to talk to you about your writing journey, but first I want to talk about my wife.

The Fetching Mrs. Evans has put up with my shenanigans for over fourteen years. Why I’m not living in my car trying to watch Youtube on my laptop while stealing the wifi signal from McDonalds, I’ll never know. She is truly a saint for putting up with me.

She is an accountant and tax preparer by trade. She was introduced to the business by her merciless parents who forced her into child labor at the wee age of nine by chaining her to an adding machine. (I kid, I kid!)

You know, your view of the world is bound to change when you’ve married an accountant. For example, the Fetching Mrs. Evans has taught me the ways Congress has tried to modify our collective behaviors in this country by incentivizing some acts and de-incentivizing others. For example we are all encouraged to put money away into retirement accounts because that money doesn’t get taxed until you use it. We are encouraged to own and not rent housing because we can take a portion of our monthly payment off as a write-off when we own. Stuff like that.

So I want to talk about how you can use the current tax law to help you with your writing craft.

In the beginning …

The tax code is designed to incentivize certain actions. For most of the 20th century, Congress wanted to reward people for being good neighbors and community members by creating the Schedule A on the tax form. Your mortgage interest deduction is noted on the Schedule A because we believe homeowners are better community members. Those uniforms you bought for the local little league team? A Schedule A write-off. That computer you donated to the Boys Club? A schedule A write-off. The mileage on your car you gained by driving your daughters dance team to the competition? A write-off as well.

Amateur writers used to be able to take their deductions off under the Schedule A. Taking a writing class? Schedule A. Going to a writer’s conference? Schedule A! Talking on a panel at Denver Pop Culture Con? The mileage and food purchased were on deductible under the schedule A!

Things have changed.

Unfortunately for us, Congress gutted the provisions of the Schedule A in the latest round of tax reform. No more writing off convention hot dogs! No more mileage deductions for pontificating about Dr. Who at a sci-fi convention.

In order to use those deductions now, you have to put them under a Schedule C. The Schedule C is for business. All of those deductions you could have taken off for your writing hobby you can now use under the Schedule C – provided that you treat your writing as a business.

Business Best Practices

In order for you to take advantage of the tax codes you have to start practicing the habits of a business. So what does that mean?

  • Keep track of incoming revenue and outgoing expenses
  • Starting a separate checking/savings account
  • Using contracts when you hire people to do services for you. (Cover artists, editors, formatters, & web designers, to name a few.)
  • Issuing 1099 tax forms

Deductions

The great thing about treating your writing like a business is that it opens up a lot of petty expenses you’re paying for as deductions.

  • Going to a writers conference and you need a new dress? That is a write-off.
  • Did you donate a set of your books to a library or school? Write-off!
  • Did you buy a table at your local geek convention? Write-off
  • What about the mileage you drove to that book signing? Write-off
  • Did you have to pay for food or a hotel room for a writing event? Write-off.
  • Do you pay for meals or dues in a writing organization? (Like a critique group?) Write-off

Now please don’t feel like you can write everything off. You can’t. But you if you were going to make a purchase for your writing career – and you’ve gotten into best business practices for writers everywhere – then you can legitimately claim that purchase as a write-off.

Here are some examples.

I write historical fiction and I blog on for Pikes Peak, as well as my own website. So I take 70% of my internet access as a write off. I can’t take all of it off because I, like you, watch HULU, Netflix, goof off on game sites, and send non-business emails with my wifi at home.

I take off about 50% of my phone bill because I have a smart phone and I use the data to talk to other writers through FB messenger, text, and email – which I access from my phone when I’m not at home. I will also use the internet for research, too. I can’t use any more than 50% because I gab with friends, send funny memes and other shenanigans with my phone, too.

I live close to Denver Pop Culture Con, so I don’t take the mileage – I take the cost of the lite rail.

When I teach at Pikes Peak Writers this year, I can’t take the any of the registration or hotel costs off because I’m on faculty and that’s being comp’d. But I can take the mileage for the drive down there and back.

I will have my black suit dry cleaned for the conference, so I’ll take the write-off for that, too. (I only wear suits for conferences and book launches – so this is a legitimate business expense.)

I’m going to end this blog here, but next time we’ll talk about book keeping, writing contracts, & whether or not you need to issue 1099’s in your writing business.


Jason Evans

Jason Henry Evans says that life is funny. “In 2004 I moved from Los Angeles to Denver, newly married with a desire to be a great teacher and husband. I dedicated myself to public education and realized my heart was not in it. So I moved on. At the same time I stumbled into a creative world of art and literature I now call home. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worthwhile.”
You can catch up with Jason on his Facebook 
Author Page or on Twitter. You will also find up to date posts on his blog.

Networking for Writers

This blog post originally appeared on the Killzone Blog (TKZ), to which John Gilstrap contributes every other Wednesday.

————

Like any other business, this publishing game is built in part on personal relationships. Want to rise to the top of an agent’s slush pile?  Want to get a blurb from a big-name author? Want to know how to deal with the frustrations of cover designs, finding an editor, or fleshing out the technical details of your plot?  All of these challenges and just about everything else you want to know or do can be flushed out through networking.  That’s what I want to talk about in the paragraphs ahead.

In no particular order of importance:

Followers, Friends, Likes and Contacts don’t count. 

There’s a widespread presumption “out there” that the way to start a writing career is to build an enormous social media platform.  I see the logic when it comes to nonfiction expertise, but when it comes to fiction, it makes no sense to me to concentrate on finding customers for a product that doesn’t yet exist.  Yes, I suppose a well-done blog about one’s writing process could be interesting to other writers, but here’s the sad truth: Writers don’t buy books. I’ve overstated that, of course, but in large measure I think it’s true when it comes to writers’ blogs.  I’m not being bitter here at all, but we get statistics every week on how many people visit TKZ every day, and trust me: If all those people bought all our books, we’d all be driving better cars.

Now, think of the number of writing-related groups and blogs you subscribe to through Facebook and LinkedIn and all the other social media platforms.  I get that those are the safe spaces that make you comfortable, and give you an opportunity to actively participate in conversations, but if you’re writing, say, about police procedures, might your time and efforts be better spent on groups and blogs that talk about those things?

I don’t think it’s insignificant that the social media push is largely driven by people who make money by helping people build their social media platform. I mean, think about it: Authors are brands and books are products. Would you be more inclined to buy a Chevy over a Toyota because the president of Chevrolet posted a picture of his breakfast?

Step out of the virtual world into the real one.

Given that you’re currently reading a blog about writing, I feel a little awkward telling you to push away from the computer and stop reading blogs about writing. None of us are truly who we pretend to be in public forums like this. Many of us try to be genuine–I know that I do–but my armor is always up in an online interaction.  My inner-cynic won’t let me get but so close in a cyber-relationship, and I expect the same level of cynicism from others. I would never dream of asking advice or asking a favor from someone I have not met in person.

Go to where the experts are. 

It’s no secret to TKZ regulars that I’m what you might call a gun guy.  I like firearms and I know a lot about them. I also know that there are people who know far more than I do, and that a large percentage of those people will gather in Las Vegas at the end of January for the annual SHOT Show, which is to weapons systems what the Detroit Auto Show is to automobiles. I need to be there.

My first SHOT Show was in 2012, and it was there that I met a guy who is a world renown expert in martial arts and edged weapons. We bonded and became friends. Through him, I’ve met a number of Special Forces operators, and through them some FBI special weapons experts.  I try not to bother them too much, but they always take my phone calls and answer tough questions.  They trust me never to write things that I shouldn’t and I pay them every year with an acknowledgement and a free book. Most of these guys have become good friends.

But you don’t have to go to Vegas. 

Want to know about how cops interact with each other? Start with a community ride-along program and chat up the officer who’s driving you around.  Listen not just to the words, but to the attitude.  Ask that cop if he can introduce you to other cops–say, a homicide investigator–so that you can ask a few questions.  I think you’ll be surprised by the results.

BTW, for police-related immersion learning, you cannot beat Writer’s Police Academy.  Lee Lofland puts on one hell of a 4-day show every year. His blog, The Graveyard Shift, is informative, too.

You need to meet other industry professionals. 

Pick a conference, any conference. They grow like weeds around the country–around the world, for that matter.  I can’t speak to other genres, but in the world of mysteries and thrillers, you could spend virtually every weekend at a conference.  Yes, they cost money, but before you complain about that, remember that writing is a business, and every business requires investment.

  • 100% of all business at a conference is conducted in the bar. You don’t have to drink, but just as lions on the hunt target watering holes for their dinner, smart rookies scope out the bar at the conference hotel to meet people. Authors of all stature are there to hang out with old friends and meet new ones. Agents and editors are there to develop relationships with existing clients and to scope out new ones.
  • Have a plan. Are you attending the conference to simply get to know people and hang out, or are you going there to accomplish a particular goal?  If you’re on the hunt for an agent, be sure to research who’s attending and what kind of books they’re looking for.  Basically, read the program booklet.
  • Don’t be shy. Okay, you’re an introvert and are uncomfortable around people.  I get that.  Now, get over it. This is a business, and contacts are not going to come to you. To a person, everyone you see at the bar knows that they’re in a public place among hungry strangers, and they’re willing–anxious, even–to talk with shy rookies.
  • Know what you want. After sharing a laugh and a few stories about life and family, be ready for the question, “So, how can I help you?”  That’s your cue for your ten-second elevator pitch delivered without notes. With a smile.  The home run here is a request to send a manuscript. Then chat some more.  This is a people business, so be a real person.
  • Hang out with the crowd you want to belong to.  I’m always amazed–and a little dismayed–at conferences when I see all the rookies hanging out with each other, while the veterans and bestsellers hang out separately. I don’t mean to be crass–and remember, this is a business conference–but your fellow rookies are not in positions to help you.  If Connolly and Lehane and Deaver and Gerritsen are all hanging out, drinking and laughing, pull up a chair.  If the Agent of All Agents is holding court, join the crowd. Unless it’s an intense one-on-one business meeting, I guarantee that no one will ask you to leave. (And why in the world would anyone choose such a public forum for an intense one-on-one business meeting?)

Overall, “networking” as a concept attempts to complicate something that is inherently simple.

 You have goals that you wish to accomplish, and you want to get to know people who can help you get there.  As an alternative step, you want to get to know someone who can introduce you to someone who can help you.  It’s as easy–and as hard–as showing up and asking.


John Gilstrap
John Gilstrap

John Gilstrap is a New York Times bestselling author with four books optioned for the big screen. He will co-produce the film adaptation of his book, Six Minutes to Freedom. A frequent speaker at literary events, John also teaches seminars on suspense writing techniques at a wide variety of venues, from local libraries to The Smithsonian Institution.  Outside of his writing life, John is a renowned safety expert with extensive knowledge of explosives, weapons systems, hazardous materials, and fire behavior.  John lives in Fairfax, VA.

Lit-Quote with Tom Clancy

Today, April 12th, is the birth anniversary of Tom Clancy.

Tom Clancy was once a Maryland insurance broker with a passion for naval history. Then he wrote The Hunt for Red October, which catapulted onto the New York Times bestseller list after President Reagan pronounced it “the perfect yarn”. Clancy was known for  weaving realism and intricate plotting into can’t-put-it-down suspense novels.

Photo taken by Gary Wayne Gilbert, 20Nov1989 at Burns Library, Boston College and is used under Creative Commons License..

Have you ever written real life situations that were just too unbelievable to be included in your work?


Profile Photo of Gabrielle V Brown Managing Editor Pikes Peak Writers BlogLit-Quote is provided by, Gabrielle V. Brown, Contributing Editor with Writing From the Peak. Gabrielle writes all manner of fiction and nonfiction.  Find her on Facebook, and instagram ; contact her at gvbrownwriter@gmail.com.  For more about today’s birthday author, visit her website.