Take-aways From My Time at DitterCon 2014

I sit here at home, a week and a half after leaving New Orleans where I attended the author’s conference DitterCon, so I’ve had plenty of time to ruminate on the experience. Since I am a newly self-published author who is still very green to all of this, I had no idea what to expect and was quite nervous going in. Since it was my first convention, I decided not to rent a table and feature my novels, wanting first to see what all goes on and try to learn what I should do and not do. My main goal, however, was to make contact with a “traditional” publisher and hopefully win them over. I even took samples of my current WIP to hand out. I would later learn that this was actually just a waste of ink and paper, which I will touch on later.

After attending the meet and greet Thursday evening, I pretty much learned all I would need to know. I had the opportunity to meet and hang with the lady for whom the convention is named, as well as many of the featured authors who had rented tables. Some I made immediate connections with, others not so much, but everyone was very friendly. I quickly fell into a small group of wonderful ladies who have been in this business for a while and they were very eager to fill me in on the secrets, the ins and outs of it all. Now, it WAS New Orleans, and being as shy as I am, I WAS quite uh…inebriated, so I think I’ve probably forgotten MOST of what they told me, but I’ll try to list the main points that I managed to hang on to in the Cosmopolitan haze! Here we go!

  1. While not ALL authors are willing to help others succeed, there are A LOT of great authors out there who are very eager to bestow their knowledge on newbies such as myself. As I said, I met some wonderful ladies and I hope that I can continue to maintain those friendships over Facebook, since they live all over the country.
  2. OK, this is kind of embarrassing to admit, but there is a lot of lingo going around that is just confusing! MC. WTF is an MC novel??? And I never really knew what being an “Indie” author meant. To ME, a child of the 90’s, I always equated the word “indie” with the new hippie, akin to Edie Brickell and the like! But thanks to my new friend Laramie Briscoe who actually writes MC romances, I now know MC means Motor Cycle Romance! (PS, I find her covers absolutely awesome and she has some of the coolest swag items I’ve seen!). And “Indie” actually refers to ME! Imagine that! Indie means Independently Published. I’m such an idiot! I seriously should have figured that one out and YES I feel completely embarrassed!
  3. Speaking of Indie authors, when I self-published, I felt a bit of embarrassment. “Oh, you’re not GOOD ENOUGH to be picked up by a REAL publisher.”, you know, THAT kind of thing. That’s why I went with Llumina Press. They’re kinda different from most self-pub outfits in that they don’t just take your money and print anything. Deborah Greenspan, the EiC, is very selective of the works she attaches herself to. If it’s worthy, she works with you, if not, you’re free to patronize one of the other companies. So, in going with them and being “accepted”, I could at least say I was GOOD ENOUGH to be allowed in. Well, come to find out, self-pub is bigger and much more prevalent than I thought! During the Q & A panel on Friday, it was discussed of whether a traditional publisher was better or if it was more advantageous to self-pub. I was always under the impression that traditional publishers also marketed you. Not true according to one panelist. That horror still rests solely on the author. Well, HELL! Then I learned that you basically give up control over your cover and one lady even said her editor had a problem with the word “cum” so she made her change it! Umm, EXCUSE ME! WHO’S the author here???? There are also large dollar penalties for missing deadlines and so forth. So, please, tell me, WHAT are the benefits of being traditionally published? Many in the room were working with traditional publishers but were also self-publishing on the side. So my mind is made up, self-pub all the way baby! I want control over it ALL, my writing, my cover, my timeline and what I can and can’t do! And since it seems I’m now in the MAJORITY, I have no reason to be ashamed of being an Indie-author!
  4. You can publish an eBook on Amazon for FREE! WHAAAT??? I knew Amazon published in some capacity, but I never really looked into it. Apparently, they don’t charge you to upload and format, they just take a portion of the proceeds, which they’re gonna do anyway! If you want physical copies, you can also purchase those on a Print on Demand basis on the cheap. To me, this is a WONDERFUL way for writers who are not too sure if they’ve got it or not to give it a try! Put that book out as an eBook! If it’s free, what do you have to lose? I’m probably going to publish my WIP on Amazon when it’s done, just to see how it goes.
  5. I learned what “Serials” are. I always thought a Serial was the same as a Series, but it’s not. Serials are small books that are published every 6 weeks or so and eventually make up an entire novel, where as a SERIES is a number of full length books put together to form an on-going saga. Not sure if I like the sound of serials. To me, I’d just rather write the whole damned book and release one a year then break it down into bits and be publishing constantly. I also think this kind of floods the market and could work against you. But, that’s just my opinion. Whatever works for you, ya’ know?
  6. There are women who get off on writing Male on Male books. Don’t know if I could do it myself, but there are those who love it and are successful at it. I find it hard enough to write a M/F sex scene (I’d rather be ripping out throats and cutting off heads, LOL), so if you can, as a straight woman, write a scene that has gay men riveted, more power to you sister! I bow down to you!
  7. And on that note, don’t judge a book by its cover. Just because an author presents herself as a shy, soft-spoken older woman, don’t assume that her love scenes are tame. I met one lady who I thought would write a more conventional romance, but NOOO, she said she writes the very erotic stuff. You go, Girl!
  8. People tend to NOT like when you kill off main characters, which is bad news for me, because my characters always seem to want to off themselves. During the panel, a lot of readers expressed distaste for this, and then one author on the panel stated that she felt authors off main characters because they’ve grown TIRED of them. To this, I VEHEMENTLY disagree! I have offed many a main or important character and NEVER has it been because I was tired of them! It has always happened because that character came to me in spirit form (NO I’M NOT CRAZY! STOP JUDGING ME!!!!), and told me that they HAD to die in order for the story to progress. And what tends to follow is a struggle between me and said character, a lot of pleading and anger on my end and then I finally give in, type up the scene and proceed to bawl my eyes out for days on end. So I say NO! It is NOT because I stopped loving that character! It was simply a necessary evil to the progression of the story, no different than when a main character is killed off on Walking Dead or Game of Thrones. I am a proud member of the “If Darryl dies, we riot” club!
  9. I learned a bit about what my morals as a writer are. I learned what the trends are and what I WILL NOT comprise on, despite what those trends may be! I will NOT break one novel down into 10 pieces so I can make quick money as I write. My novels are to be written as a whole, not in 50 page increments. If I get one book a year published, so be it! I write because I love it and want to share my stories with others; it doesn’t put food on my table so it’s not imperative that I have a constant flow of cash. It would be NICE, but I don’t have it now, so it’s not like I’m missing anything. Yes, I am writing a SERIES, but each book is meant to stand alone, not all be a part of one novel. I also decided that, despite this turn from a more subdued, classy love scene to raw, nasty sex scene that involves whips and chains and the words “cock” and “pussy”, I will NOT put one of those scenes in my book unless the setting itself calls for it! There is NO WAY I could EVER describe a loving and tender scene between the two main characters in such a brash manner. To me, it takes away any romance or intimacy. Those words for ME, indicate pure f*cking, just to get your rocks off. Have I written raw scenes? Yes, but even then I don’t think I’ve used the C or P word! I AM A ROMANCE WRITER NOT AN EROTICA AUTHOR! That is something I will not compromise on. I know what I, as a reader what I like to read and don’t like and that is what I choose to write. If it’s not nasty enough you, then go find 50 Shades. Again, to each his own!
  10. This is a HARD, HARD business! Don’t expect to get famous right away…or EVER for that matter! BUT! And that is a BIG BUT, it can happen! There are a lot of famous authors who we all assume were overnight sensations who are actually not! Look it up! Charlaine Harris had many SERIES published before The Sookie Stackhouse Series and once Sookie hit, she was famous! It took her something like 15 years to “make it”! But she kept at it and it paid off! Don’t give up! Keep at it, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be one of the lucky ones!
  11. The most important lesson of all, I believe! I arrived in New Orleans a day early, so I ventured down to Bourbon Street to relax and take in the sights, and unfortunately the smells, of the biggest party place in the south. As I sat in one of the bars enjoying a drink, two separate groups of very drunk ladies came in and sat near me. Each asked why I was in New Orleans, if I was a local or just visiting. When I told them I was there for an AUTHOR CONVENTION, they all went nuts! “OH MY GOD! I’M TALKING TO A FAMOUS AUTHOR RIGHT NOW!” Smugly, I smiled, pulled out a business card with my Amazon author page listed on it and said, “Yes, yes you are!”

So, was the knowledge I gained worth the $1500 spent on the trip? That remains to be seen. I did learn some valuable tid-bits I would not have learned simply over the internet, and I hope I’ve made some long-term friends in the ladies I connected with. Did I enjoy my time in a wild and crazy city with no son and husband to take care of for 5 days, just time spent bonding with my mom/PR person/cohort? Absolutely! Did I learn that MY writing is just as good, if not better than my peers? NO DOUBT! It was a great boost to my ego and just what I needed to make me realize that I am just as worthy as everyone else and that I need to stop being so hard on myself every day. All I can do is write and promote myself, MODERATELY it seems is preferred to constant pushing, and PRAY that people catch on to the awesomeness of my work.

As an end note, Saturday afternoon, as we drove East on I10 toward the Florida line, I checked my Amazon author page which shows my ranking as well as my individual book ranking. My author ranking had been hanging miserably around the 600,000 mark. Miraculously, my networking and publicizing those few days had spiked my ranking up to 100,000! WHAAAT??? Talk about feeling over the moon! It’s the little things, just ONE thing, each day that I look for to keep me going day to miserable day. ONE DAY I will be sitting on my yacht, about to fly out to oversee the filming of the movie based on my novel, and I will look back on all this and laugh and ruminate over the trials and tribulations that faced me as a little-known, thirsty, desperately-seeking-a-review- author. Hey, if you speak it, it WILL happen! That’s my motto!

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