26 April 2014

Daddy's Girl Weekend



by John M. Floyd



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.

The time passed quickly. Each night after the final session my wife and I went out for some great meals (usually seafood), and during the daytime hours at the conference I was a member of four different panels, I was moderator of another, I was interviewed by a lady from Suspense Magazine, and I signed and sold a lot of my books, all of which was fun. I also learned some useful things about writing and marketing. Actually, I don't think it's possible to spend several days in the company of dozens of other writers and NOT learn something useful about either writing or marketing or both.

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:

E-predictions

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.

Untangling the Web

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.

Curses--foiled again!

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.

Denouement

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.



11 comments:

Dixon Hill said...

John, DGW sounds terrific. Also visited your new website. It rocks, buddy--just like your writing!

--Dixon

Fran Rizer said...

Sounds like a great weekend!

janice law said...

I think the website is a great success!

John Floyd said...

Thanks, Dix, Fran, and Janice. It was a fun weekend. As most of the SSers agreed in a column not long ago, the best thing about these writers' conferences is seeing old friends and making new ones. Had a great time.

As for the website, I'll try to add some pizzazz to it soon, but it at least serves as a starting point. I'm impressed by what I've seen in fellow writers' sites and will try to plug some of that into mine. Best thing about this Weebly deal seems to be the ease of making changes.

David Dean said...

Lots of good info here, John. Thanks! Glad you had a great time and I like your website, too.

John Floyd said...

Thanks, David. Some conferences, as you know, are better than others. I actually think I most enjoy those where everyone goes to the same sessions throughout, rather than having concurrent sessions--although I realize that depends on the size of the group.

I'm about to head out to a booksigning today, and sometimes you learn a lot from those as well.

David Edgerley Gates said...

Webpage looks good. I was going to say there are a couple of programs you can use to design your own, without a steep learning curve, and you simply pay them for the hosting. In my case, I hired a designer, but your point is well-taken that updates have to go through that third party, although my page allows me to post comments whenever I want. In any event, it's a necessary tool in this day and age.

Vicki Kennedy said...

Enjoyed your post, John. It sounds like you got to meet some interesting people. You already know I like your new website. Sorry, but your weather in Mississippi, bad as this winter was, couldn’t hold a candle to that of Minnesota. I grew up in Colorado and we still had a mild winter here compared to what I experienced there. Stay safe tomorrow, there’s some bad weather headed our way, with lots of tornado activity possible. I don’t know if it’s going to head your way or not.

Louis A. Willis said...

Sounds like you had a ball, John.

Like the website.

R.T. Lawton said...

John, nice looking web site. I'll have to take a look at Weebly.

John Floyd said...

Thanks, David. I figured there were probably other programs out there that are just as easy--I used Weebly only because it was mentioned in one of the panels I attended and it sounded good. As I said, though, I do have a lot yet to do.

Vicki, I heard there are indeed some bad storms heading through OK and AR, and will probably dip down into the deep south tomorrow and Monday. But no kiddin', I'm just glad the cold weather's done. Gimme some of them 80s and 90s--I don't mind the summertime.

Louis, you would've enjoyed the conference, my friend--there weren't just fiction writers there, but nonfiction folks, poets, etc., as well. And by the way, thanks for taking a look at my fledgling site--as I said, it's a W.I.P.

R.T., I'd be interested in what you think of the Weebly program. If you check it out, watch the YouTube video tutorials--they're pretty darn good.