Chip MacGregor

August 9, 2012

Thursdays with Amanda: Promoting Yourself at a Conference Part 3


Amanda Luedeke Literary AgentAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent.

Last week, we started to touch on brand and how a great brand can help you stand out at a conference. If you didn’t catch his posts, Chip’s been talking about brand as well over the past few days. His first post on author branding is here and his second is here.

Take a minute to read through those. There’s quite a bit of good content there, and “brand” really is so important these days.

So clearly, one of the first things you want when promoting yourself at a conference, is a brand. A promise. Clarity on who you are as a writer and what kind of content you produce. Whether you’re published or not, the same is true…you want to communicate what you’re about so that the right readers and the right supporters are attracted to you.

Which leads us to not only a vital piece of the conference puzzle, but a major piece of the author career puzzle: who is your target audience? and what is your genre?

The last thing you want is to walk around a conference, declaring yourself the author of historicals, YA, thrillers and picture books. Not only will your conference experience lack focus, but every professional who comes in contact with you won’t take you seriously. And every potential reader you meet is going to wonder whether they’ll have to wade through a bunch of historical or YA muck to get to your Thriller stuff (and so on).

I argue this at least once every conference when meeting with authors…careers aren’t made by dabbling in multiple genres. Careers are made by focusing on ONE genre, to ONE audience type. Do that well, and you’ll have a bright future ahead.

“But I have so many ideas!”

So do I! And so does any writer with an overactive imagination. But the voices in your head don’t have to be satiated. You can tell them to “shut up!” every once in awhile. Really, you can.

“But Stephen King writes lots of different stuff!”

He’s also a gazillion-time bestselling author and already considered to be one of the great American writers. And if that’s still not enough to convince you, take a look at his bibliography page. He focused on horror and thrillers for a long time before doing anything else.

“But what about pen names?”

Do you really want to operate four websites, four Facebook pages, four Twitter accounts and work at promoting four different authors’ books while also writing four books a year? Yeah, probably not.

“So how do I just pick one?’

Focus on whatever genre best fits your writing voice. You may want to be the next Stephen King, but if you’re better equipped for romantic comedies, you’re probably going to have a short career.

So those are the two foundational things when it comes to promoting yourself at a writer’s conference. 1) Brand and 2) Clear Career Direction.

Next week we’ll look at specific ways in which you can take these things and maximize your reach at a conference to grow your readership.

In the meantime, have you found your ideal genre/audience yet? How did you go about making that decision? And if you’re still in the decision process, is there anything we can help with?

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  • Thanks. Good advice.

    I’m still trying to find a way to break in and I’ll be happy with whatever genre I break in with.

    I love YA girl books, but I also love MG boy novels and since many general market agents and editors are asking for this now, I’m working on one. I think if I break in with MG boy books, I’ll have to stick with that genre for awhile and that’s OK with me.
    But I think I’ll be able to do the YA books after I several MG books. Do you have an opinion? Do you think it’s common for children’s writers to do both YA and MG, or do you think you have to be as successful as Suzanne Collins is to pull that off well?

  • Tiffany Amber Stockton says:

    As usual, great stuff, Amanda. 🙂

    And to add, I believe when you’re not yet published, the goal is to focus on what you are writing *right now* so you can be ready to answer questions about your audience, your vision, and your marketing strategies. If you get into a certain genre and realize it’s not for you, there’s time to change.

    Don’t get hung up on thinking the first book you publish is going to set your genre from here on out in your career. But you DO need to hone your voice and writing skills so the true you shines through.

    It’s like going to a carnival and wanting to go on every single ride, or eat from every vendor available. You might have fun at the time, but it won’t take long before you’re worn out and probably sick to your stomach. Same goes with writing in multiple genres at once. Like Amanda said, you’re going to wear yourself out and burn out fast!

  • Jan Cline says:

    This is great advice. Before my first time at Mt. Hermon, a now very successful author friend of mine (who got his start at Mt. Hermon) told me I would have to hone in on one genre. I didn’t believe him till I got there and realized he was so right. I opened myself up to the possibility of focusing on fiction instead of both fiction and non-fiction. By the time I got home I knew it was where my heart was. This is the great thing about conferences – they help you discover your direction.

  • Jackie Layton says:

    Thanks for clearing that up. I’m not published and have taken turns writing romance and romantic suspense. I’ll only focus on one now.

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