Sounds like the name of a drive-in movie from the 1960s, right? Not this time. The Daddy's Girl Weekend I'm referring to is an annual writers' conference hosted by my friend and prolific mystery novelist Carolyn Haines. Carolyn was kind enough to invite me to be on the "faculty" for this year's DGW, which was held several weeks ago in Mobile, Alabama. Here's a link to the conference info.
Since the Gulf Coast isn't far from our home, my wife joined me for the trip--we drove down on the afternoon of Thursday, April 3, and spent three nights and three days at the Riverview Plaza Hotel in downtown Mobile. It rained most of the time we were there, but at least it wasn't cold: I've had quite enough of the Winter of 2013/2014. Until recently, I suspected that the weather gods had confused Mississippi with Minnesota.
As for the conference itself, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and--as I do at all events like this--met some truly interesting folks. One attendee was a former writer for Saturday Night Live and the screenwriter for many of the Eddie Murphy movies; one was a New York Times bestselling author of "cat mystery" novels; one was a cardiac surgeon who'd just sold his second medical thriller; another was an author, agent, and ordained priest; several were former bookstore owners; and so on and so on. I've often heard that writers might be weird but they're always fascinating. And one of the best things about DGW is that it's a readers' as well as a writers' conference. As any Bouchercon attendee will tell you, having fans there makes a big difference.
In my case, and on the off-chance that this might be helpful to others as well, here is some of the information I came away with:
One of the panels I attended included the founder of a publishing company that deals in both printed novels and e-books. He mentioned to the group that although all of us realize that electronic publishing is here to stay, it is not necessarily "the way of the future." In fact he said sales and e-sales have recently begun to level out, and that it appears that e-books will not completely take over the publishing world as was once predicted. Disagree if you like--this was one man's opinion--but he insisted that the traditional novel will remain with us, side-by-side with its e-counterpart, for the foreseeable future.
To most of us who were present, this view was not only interesting but encouraging. I love my iPad and I enjoy e-books--especially when traveling--but it pleased me to hear an expert in the field say that the old-fashioned printed novel will still be around for a while.
In another session, a lady who spoke about blogging and social media happened to mention a place called Weebly.com, which provides a free, easy, and effective way to build a personal or business web site. This captured my attention, since for twenty years now both writers and readers have been telling me I need my own site. Deep down, I knew they were right, but I just never got a round tuit. I had several reasons not to take the plunge: on the one hand I didn't want to find and hire a webmaster and I didn't want to then have to sit around and wait for him or her every time I decided changes needed to be made to the site; on the other hand, I damn sure didn't want to take the time to learn how to design the whole thing myself. Besides, slacker that I am, I've always just pointed folks to my page at my publisher's site.
But I had to agree that this sounded good. Bottom line is, when we returned from the conference I Googled the Weebly program and decided to give it a try. As a result, I put together my own web site in a matter of hours, and at no cost. It's nothing flashy and is still a work in progress, but it's functional and I'm satisfied. If you have time, visit www.johnmfloyd.com and take a look.
The third piece of information that stuck with me wasn't something I didn't already know, but it's something that all of us occasionally need to be reminded of. A person who worked for a publishing company told the group that writers shouldn't be overly discouraged when their novels or short story manuscripts get rejected. She pointed out that publishing is a business. We writers tend to forget that. Publishers have employees just like other companies, and have payrolls to meet. When they decide to pay a writer an advance and produce a novel, they have to be reasonably certain that enough of his or her books will sell to exceed the amount they spend. Similarly, when a major magazine buys a story, the editors need to be confident that that story will help them sell copies, not only of that issue but of other issues in the future. If these things don't happen, that publisher or editor or product won't be around very long. The decision-makers are right when they say it's nothing personal.
Does it hurt when we're rejected? Sure it does. But rejections should prod all of us to persist and work harder. If this whole writing gig was easy, anyone could do it.
On the Sunday that ended the DGW conference my wife and I drove back home (it was still raining, all the way), and when we got here I couldn't help feeling a bit like the traditional story character, returning to his routine after his mythical adventures, a little older and wiser than he'd been beforehand.
I just hope they invite me back next year.