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SXSW: Days 2 and 3

So, I was too drunk to blog on Saturday, too tired to blog on Sunday, and left my ID in my pants and got turned away at a party tonight so I finally have time to talk about all the cool stuff I saw over the last couple days.

Saturday was a crazy busy day for panels, but I learned SO much about what I need to do to get my book going for realsies.

I was just in time for the So Long and Thanks for all the Babelfish panel with Tim Holden, who will forever be impregnated in my mind as the person who called copywriters “fuddy-duddies”. It was a panel about the costs and trends with content translation, a topic I don’t care a whole lot about, but one that I have to deal with, and one I figured I could learn a little bit about.

The next panel I attended was the one I was most excited about for the year, and it did not disappoint. The Self-Publishing Novel: Report from the Trenches panel featured self-published writers from all corners of the spectrum, including Carolyn McCray of the Indie Book Collective. I came away with the following takeaways for things I need to do to get my book ready for self-publishing, because it’s a route that I really should take:

  • First and foremost, when I get home, I need to solicit a beta reader group to get valuable readership feedback to figure out if my book is a complete piece of crap.
  • I need to step up my Twitter game. I don’t think I can (or want to) realistically follow 50 people a day, as McCray recommended, but I can reach out more for sure.
  • When you are an independent author, you are your own marketing department, so I need to approach every day as “do I want to go to work or not?”.

It was a great panel, and one that you should watch when it’s available.

Next was Tell & Sell Your Story with Stephanie Klein and company. They billed it as a panel about writing a book proposal, finding an agent, and maintaining balance as a writer. They didn’t get to the proposal information until the end,¬† but Stephanie Klein took the reins on outlining in great detail all the elements you need a book proposal:

  1. An overview, written in your own voice, that is like an ad for your book.
  2. An analysis of the books that are like yours, but includes why your book is unique.
  3. A chapter-by-chapter summary
  4. 2 sample chapters that show your range as a writer

Klein also gave great advice about not holding back as a writer based on a worry about a specific person reading your work. One of my favorite lines from the conference so far: “the minute you start censoring yourself is the minute you become inauthentic.”

Every year it seems I find a panel that I completely misinterpret. Last year, it was a panel on editing that turned about to be a panel about film editing. This year, it was a panel called Semantically Yours: Dating Tips for the Semantic Web, which I thought was about using word nerdery in online dating (a topic that recently became relevant to me that I’ll have to talk about in an upcoming post) but turned out to be about creating semantic data. I still don’t know what that is, but I know it’s not relevant to me at all. Another lesson in why you always read the description. I did cut out in time to make the Q&A for the bloggers vs journalists panel, which was a spirited and timely debate.

That ended day 2 for me, but not until after some sweet parties and far too much alcohol. Sunday morning started surprisingly on time and on task:

The first panel was a very interesting one… there were 12 slides with 12 concepts of the writing lifestyle on them, and 3 writers each to give their take on each of the concepts. I got both affirmation that some of the crazy rituals we have as writers aren’t crazy and some tips on how better to approach the writing process.

After that, I hit up a transmedia storytelling panel that thankfully was more about creating a great story through character development, plot advancement, and rich world creation and less about the crazy buzzword that is transmedia. It was a little bit story 101, but it was a wonderful reminder/affirmation for writing a great narrative first and focusing on the medium second.

The next panel I hit up actually WAS about the future of online dating, and while it didn’t have anything to do with writing in an online dating context, it did apprise me to the fact that there are services out there that will easily make my freelance job obsolete.

The final panel of day 3 was Gavin St. Ours’ Why New Authors Should Think Like Indie¬† Bands, and was all about the practice and promotion that unknown authors need to follow to get their names out there and build a readership base. There was heavy talk about the different forms of publishing beyond traditional New York publishing house dead tree methods, not all of them revolving around self-publishing, which was comforting. After all, they can’t be the only 2 options out there.

I’ll be delving into the meat and potatoes of all these panels after I get home from South by Southwest, but that’ll have to wait until I am done partying it up here in Austin.

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