My BSB Camp Presentation

Hey, y’all. I’m back from the Bold Strokes Books writers’ retreat! It was an entire week of presentations, writing sprints, and general tomfoolery. And ice cream. Boy, was there ice cream. Who feels like hitting the gym with me?

This year was my second trip to the retreat, and I was asked to put on a presentation with the fabulous and talented Carsen Taite and the equally awesome Melissa Brayden. We were so professional with our PowerPoint slides…

We spoke about how to pick the right events as an author, how to participate in panels at conventions (cons), and how to give a stellar reading. I tackled the second part, so if you’re interested, here’s what I had to say (minus my joking improv lines because I can’t remember them):

I’ve been a guest at around 15 cons and spoken on about 50 panels on a variety of topics. Some of what I have to say will be old news to many, but I have to begin at the beginning for those who might be lost, starting with:

What is a panel?

It’s a group of pre-selected people at a con speaking on a predetermined topic. Panels on a variety of topics are the backbone of a convention and are scheduled throughout the day. Small conventions might have 1 to 5 panels running at the same time, while large conventions can have 10 to 15 running simultaneously, depending on the space. They usually have a moderator asking questions about a topic you know about beforehand, and I’ve seen them with anywhere from 2 to 6 participants.

Why be a panelist?

Exposure

Meeting other authors

Conventions can be fun

Appearances can lead to book sales, but mostly it’s about getting your name out there and getting people to remember you. Even if they don’t buy your book immediately, they’ll remember you later when they’re looking around the internet or shopping on Amazon. Also, authors buy books, too, and I remember the people who impress me on panels. Also, building your author friend network will help you discover new writing or marketing tips, and it’s always nice to have more friends. As for enjoying the con, I like to pick cons I already want to go to and then volunteer to be a panelist.

Smaller cons have asked me how busy I want to be (how many panels I want to do each day.) I usually pick a lot, but I like to stay busy. Leave yourself enough time to enjoy the con.

How to be invited to do panels:

The convention organizers invite you out of the blue.

or

You volunteer to be a panelist.

The second is much more common than the first. Even with all the panels I’ve done, I’ve only just been invited to speak at a convention that I’ve never been to without me having to ask them first. It’s Houston Comicpalooza, and I’m pretty jazzed!

As for volunteering, scour the website for information on how to volunteer. If that doesn’t work, trying searching their Facebook page. You’ll want to do this many months in advance. If the convention doesn’t have readily available info on how to be a panelist, you might have to dig a bit, find an email address for whomever is in charge of guests, and if you can’t find one, you’ll have to email whatever address the convention gives for their contact info. I’ve gotten in touch with many cons through their Facebook pages as well as their websites. And you probably want to do it as soon as the information for their next convention becomes available. Some conventions plan a year or so in advance.

Speaking on panels:

Pick your topics well

After I’ve been formally invited to be a panelist at a convention, I’ve often been asked about what topics interest me. They’re usually pretty general at first and then become more specific as the date for the convention gets closer. For instance, the sci fi conventions that I do often have writing or world building panels, and I like to volunteer for those because I have a lot to say on the topic. I also volunteer for things I’m very knowledgeable about like mythology, so I can sound smart. I would not volunteer for a YA panel, say, because I don’t think I’ve read or written enough to contribute. If there’s a topic you think you can make lots of jokes about, pick that.

Informative or entertaining?

Panels come in two types: informative and entertaining, usually the former. A writing panel would probably try and teach the audience writing techniques, where an action movie panel would just be discussing films for the entertainment of the audience. Even if I’m on an informative panel, though, I try to be entertaining. You want to try and hit that sweet spot of smart and funny. I know, I know. If only we could hire someone to do it for us.

Talk about your writing and your books (but not too often.)

Remember that you’re there in a professional capacity. People come to listen to you because they want to hear about your processes and about how you do what you do. So talk about your work and how you write or whatever the panel is about but try not to mention the name of your book too often, maybe once or twice. Unless the panel is about something like Gothic literature, and then you probably won’t mention your work at all. You’re just trying to be memorable at that point.

Are you at all funny? Be that.

Funny is memorable. People follow funny people around a convention, and they will be more likely to remember you and look up your work later.

Be succinct.

Limit your responses to the topic and try to be as succinct as you can. People always remember the asshole who talked too much and not in a good way.

Include the audience when you speak.

Try and look at everyone while you’re speaking, including other panelists. The more people you make eye contact with, the more they’ll pay attention because people are scared of looking away if they think you might catch them at it.

Proposing panels to conventions:

Each convention usually has info on their website about how to propose a panel. Some want a panel topic, some want a topic and a list of panelists. Some big conventions require you to propose a panel in order to speak at all. But just because you propose a panel doesn’t mean they’ll accept. And be warned, if you propose a panel and the con accepts it, you will probably be the moderator unless someone else has already agreed to do the job. If you’re the moderator, you can still answer all the topic questions, but you’ll be the one coming up with all of them first.

What kind of panels you propose should depend on the con audience and general vibe. A sci fi con would probably not welcome a panel on westerns unless they were also sci fi. Again, the con website is invaluable for research. They often have info on past cons and you can see what other panels they’ve had, so you avoid any repeats.

How do I get paid for speaking at conventions?

Usually, you don’t. But you might get in for free. Sometimes, headliners get paid. But even then, a small convention may not be able to pay you but might offer you a comped hotel room or a travel stipend. Most small cons have offered me and my friends free entry into the convention, but some have offered it only to me. Most big cons still require you to buy an admission ticket, though some offer a discount for speakers. The only time I’ve ever gotten my room comped was when I was a guest of honor, and even then, I didn’t get paid.

Some pro tips:

Pick the seat that will give you maximum success.

Panels will almost always be set up along a table. The moderator will usually be at one end, though sometimes in the middle. If you sit at the ends, I guarantee you will be asked to speak first at least once during the session. Don’t assume that just because you’re at the opposite end from the moderator, that you will be last. If you always need time to think of an answer, sit toward the middle but never at the moderator’s side. If you’re that nervous about going first, speak to the moderator beforehand and ask them not to call on you first.

Fake it until you make it.

If public speaking terrifies you like it used to terrify me, pretend you’re someone else. Sounds insane, but it works. I’m an introvert, so to deal with stressful situations like cons, I create a persona that can perform at them. Then I have to go take a break and be quiet for a few hours. Sometimes, there are pills involved. Yummy, yummy pills.

Linger after the panel is done.

Unless the next panel is breathing down your necks for their turn at bat, linger after a panel is done for just a few seconds so anyone who wants can come up and engage you in conversation. Someone you’ve engaged personally is more likely to become a fan.

Wear something memorable yet appropriate.

When I do sci fi cons, I often wear funny, geeky t-shirts. When I do other cons, I try to dress in bright colors or wear distinctive jewelry. This helps people remember me and pick me out of a crowd.

Bring some swag.

Many cons will have tables where guests and panelists can put out freebies for people to take. Take advantage of this by putting out bookmarks, postcards, or pens with your name and book title on them. Never spend lots of money on swag. Keep it simple. If you make your own swag, limit it to something cheap that you enjoy making, like buttons, fridge magnets, or key chains. GotPrint.com is an excellent webpage that allows you to create your own bookmarks and postcards.

Why is everything so hard?

Why, for fuck’s sake, after writing a book do you have to do all this crap?!?! Because we’re all in this business to sell books. Even if you’re motivated by a nobler purpose than mere money, you have to get your books into the hands of readers, and the more appearances you do, the more your name gets out there. They get easier with time.

 

And that’s it! It went over very well, especially after I started sprinkling references to The Pyramid Waltz in after that “don’t mention yourself too often” business. I got some laughs. A wonderful time was had by all, and even if it wasn’t, they hid that fact from me. So hooray!

Please, ask questions if you have them. I’m here for you. 🙂

 

Lone Star LesFic is here! Plus, a new book?!?!

Come see me this Saturday, April 2nd from 8:45am to 6:30pm at the Lone Star LesFic Festival! It’ll be at the Norris Conference Center at Northcross Mall, 2525 West Anderson LA, Austin, TX 78757.

For all the details, visit the Lone Star LesFic Festival Facebook page. You’ll see fab authors, have the chance to win some great prizes, pick up some free swag, bid on some great items in the silent auction, and most importantly, BUY BOOKS! Including this little beauty:

Books, books, books!

Books, books, books!

That’s right, you can get your hands on Paladins of the Storm Lord a whole month early. Now, you don’t want to miss that, do you?

Here’s where you can catch me specifically:
10:30 -11:30 – I’ll be moderating a panel called Bad to the Bone: Profiling Villains. We’re gonna have a blast.

2:30-3:30 – I’ll be doing a ten minute reading from Paladins during this hour-long reading block.

4:45-5:15 – I’ll be autographing with the others authors, and

5:15-6:15 will be a giant group discussion featuring all the authors!

Best news of all, this event is totally FREE. No, you’re not hallucinating. If you’re in or near Austin, please come and see us. Don’t make me put on my hypno glasses.

YOU WILL NOT RESIST.

Also, also, check the wallpaper for one of my books coming in 2017!

House of Fate Wallpaper

It’s a space opera. Can’t give any more details right now, but you’ll have them soon!

Any new releases for anyone else on the horizon?

My 2016 schedule so far

Here’s where to find me this year! As each event draws closer, you’ll hear more about it in detail, but if I’m going to be near you, please mark your calendars to come out and say hello!

February 12-14: ConDFW, Dallas, TX. They have a preliminary schedule up on their website and are finalizing it now. You’ll get more detailsfrom me next week.

April 2: Lone Star LesFic Festival, Austin, TX. A great event that just keeps getting better. It’s free for all, and you get a chance to see lots of fab authors!

April 12-16: Romantic Times convention, Las Vegas, NV. I’ll be doing a panel called Writing F/F Sex for Romance and Erotica on Wednesday, April 13, from 1:30pm-2:30pm in Tropical E at the Rio.

May 10: I’ll be on the Bold Strokes Author blog because…

May 17: Paladins of the Storm Lord comes out! Now available for pre-order on the BSB site! Blurb:

Paladins of the Storm Lord 300 DPISurrounded by dead crewmates, marooned above an unknown planet, the bridge crew of the Atlas awakens from a crash with extraordinary mental abilities. When their most powerful member jettisons their passengers to the planet below, they have an unprecedented opportunity: they can become gods.

Two hundred years later, Lieutenant Cordelia Ross is a paladin serving the Storm Lord, her city’s patron deity. Her faith is absolute until her people are attacked by a native species, harmless creatures turned devious by an unknown hand. Cordelia tries to solve the mystery of their development before they kill anyone else, but the secrets surrounding them are too deep. As orders from the Storm Lord begin to value obedience over integrity, Cordelia wonders whose side her god is really on.

See how I just slipped that blurb in there? Smooth.

Also on May 17: Jewel Book Club, Dallas, TX. The wonderful ladies of Jewel are inviting me up to talk about Paladins!

June 18-19: Denver Pride, Denver, CO. Come see the BSB booth, now with even more authors hawking even more books!

June 25: Houston Pride, Houston, TX. Come see the Texas BSB authors as we slowly melt…and sell books. 🙂

July 26-31: The Bold Strokes Retreat. Okay, so you can’t see me at this one unless you’re with BSB, but I just thought I’d throw it in here in case you wanted to marvel at how much I’m traveling. Also, this is the same weekend as ArmadilloCon this year, so I won’t be there. I’ll miss you, too.

September 18: Dallas Pride, Dallas, TX. Less hot than Houston, but we’ll still be there, selling out! In a good way. I hope.

That’s it so far, but I might be adding more as the year goes on. I hope you can make some of these. I’ll be looking for you. AND I’ll have swag. Sweeten the pot for you? Maybe?

Anyone else have their year all planned out?

This weekend, 11/14

Join the Lone Star LesFic organizers this Saturday, November 14th from 2pm to 4pm for the fundraiser for the next Lone Star LesFic Festival. From the press release:

Time to hone your trivia game skills! BSB authors Barbara Ann Wright, Carsen Taite, and Laydin Michaels say they’re ready to compete with you for prizes.

We’re raffling off some great books, too! Affinity and Bold Strokes have generously donated their latest publications. What a deal – free admission and refreshments, too!!!

The Trivia Event is in Austin at 1607 Colony Creek Drive. I’ll see you there!

Dallas pride, here we come!

Don’t forget Dallas Pride this Sunday, September 20th from noon until 7 pm at Reverchon Park in Dallas. 2015 Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade and Festival. Bold Strokes Books is in the orange section, booths 8 and 9, near the family zone. You’ll also find Carsen Taite, Laydin Michaels, MJ Williamz, VK Powell, and David Swatling. If you’re in town, please come out and say hi! We will have swag to give you.

And in case you missed it yesterday, here’s the Thrall: Beyond Gold and Glory trailer again:

Come see me!

Happenings are afoot!

The official release date for Thrall: Beyond Gold and Glory is less than a week away, though you can still buy it off the BSB webstore. Look for a trailer in the coming days. I’m so excited for this one, the first book after the Katya and Starbride series. It’s already gotten one good review due to its presence on NetGalley, and I’m hoping for more! If you happen to spot a review for it, give me a shout. Sometimes I miss them despite my best efforts.

In case you missed it, I blogged about my experiences writing a Viking-esque novel on the BSB blog. Make sure to check it out. Thrall also got a cool shout-out on Okazu! Very awesome.

On Sunday, September 20th, I’ll be at Reverchon Park in Dallas for the 2015 Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade and Festival. Bold Strokes Books is in the orange section, booths 8 and 9, near the family zone. You’ll also find Carsen Taite, Laydin Michaels, MJ Williamz, VK Powell, and David Swatling. If you’re in town, please come out and say hi!

On October 14-17th, I’ll be at Women’s Week in Provincetown with a lot of BSB authors.

Anyone looking forward to these events? Where can I find you?

Houston Pride!

I’m back from Denver, and that means now it’s time for Houston Pride! I’ll be there at Houston Pride on June 27th along with authors Carsen Taite, Laydin Michaels, MJ Williamz, and Tanai Walker. The booth will be in the park in front of city hall in downtown Houston. We’re pretty close to one of the entrances, and will have a double booth, so come and find us and buy some awesome books!

Two Pride Fests!

Count ’em. Two! First, find me at Denver Pride June 20th and 21st along with authors Merry Shannon and Jerry L. Wheeler. We’ll be at a booth located behind the center stage in Civic Center Park in downtown Denver. The festival is set out in a big square, so just keep going around, and you’ll spot us.

Next, I’ll be at Houston Pride on June 27th along with authors Carsen Taite, Laydin Michaels, MJ Williamz, and Tanai Walker. The booth will be in the park in front of city hall in downtown Houston.

For both fests, look for the BSB banner and the tons of books for sale! I’ll have some great deals and some cool swag. Plus, BSB is sending some BOGO books to the Denver PrideFest that are sure to go quick. Come out and see us!

Spring is here!

Spring in Austin brings one special thing to everyone: allergies. Luckily, that’s my only problem at the moment. I started therapy for my rheumatoid arthritis, and I’m happy to say it’s going very well. I have to go in to the doctor’s office every few weeks and get an infusion, and then I feel really good. No joint pain, minimal shakiness. No more bad hand days!

Of course, after my first infusion, I got really sick because my immune system is so compromised, but this time, I’m going to be more careful. I’ll just have to be satisfied with run-of-the-mill sneezing and coughing brought on by Austin’s spring season. I’ll muddle through somehow.

My gluten experiment never got far off the ground because I backslid so often, but I did take away a few things from it. I don’t buy bread anymore and very little pasta, so I’ll be able to reap the health benefits there.

Hopefully, I can keep improving and write more and more books until someone finally tells me to stop…or Austin kills me.

AND I have the schedule for the Lone Star LesFic Fesitval! Here’s when I’m scheduled to speak and such:

9:45 – 10:15 Registration

10:30 – 11:30 Group discussion: “Lesbian Fiction: Dreams, Affirmation, and Entertainment” about why we love lesbian fiction and how we came to write it.

11:30 – 12:30 I’ll be reading in room B

1:30 – 2:30 I’ll be signing books at the book signing table

2:30 -3:20 “LesFic Super Powers: Vampires, Demons, Ghosts, and Psychics” I’ll be moderating this panel.

Plus, there will be many more authors, another group discussion, more panels, signings, and readings. We have something for everyone, including a silent auction, a $3 book table, plus lots of vendors selling books, jewelry, clothing, and more! And on top of that, there will be at least one giveaway, possibly more.

And I will be fully mobile. ^_^

How’s everyone else feeling? Anyone up to traveling?