Jambalaya Writers’ Conference – Houma, LA

photoLast year, I attended the JWC with what I thought was a completed manuscript and an open mind. After a day of education and a little bit of truth, I left knowing that my novel was not quite ready.

This year, I came prepared. I had query letters, synopsis and even an entire manuscript printed out. I’d practiced my pitch and was confident that I’d written the best book I could.

I woke up early, enthusiastic and feeling prepared. However, once I arrived at the conference, I learned that all of the meetings with agents/editors had been taken. I was a bit bummed, but was still ready to attend sessions and learn.

Session 1 – Intro to Online Book Marketing
by Farrar, Straus & Giroux Publishing‘s Online Marketing Manager, Nicholas Cage
Here I learned so much about online marketing, who to target and effective ways to target them. With social media growing, word of mouth is the #1 way that books get recommended. Nicholas taught us how to target our demographic, how to get fans and keep them.

Session 2 – The Pitch
by NY Times Best Selling Author, Heather GrahamHeather had a great way of explaining all aspects of pitching, from writing your query letter to verbally pitching in meetings. I was lucky enough to get to practice with her. She made me feel comfortable and most importantly, I realized that my excitement for my book can be contagious.

Session 3 – DIY Book Publicity
by Literary Agent, Rachel Ekstrom
Rachel gave us some great tips and fantastic resources to get your name and work out there. Social media and retaining fans seem to be the most common themes.

Keynote Speaker – Tim O’Brien
Tim was a likable guy who entertained us with personal stories while teaching us to focus on the simple things.

Session 4 – Meet the Agents: Q & A
Rachel Ekstrom of Irene Goodman Literary Agency and Paige Wheeler of Folio Agency
Both of these ladies explained what they do as literary agents. It’s mostly about being an advocate for the author while performing seventeen tasks, answering emails and solving world peace.

Session 5 – Meet the Editors: Q & A
Rose Hilliard & Monique Patterson of St Martin’s Press
Again, we were granted inside knowledge into what editors do on a daily basis. They were very helpful, answering questions honestly and informatively.

Session 6 – The American Idol of Opening Pages
Heather Graham, Molly Bolden, Rose Hilliard, Monique Patterson, Rachel Eckstrom & Paige Wheeler
This session is always exciting. This panel of industry professionals critique the first page of author’s work. It is anonymous, so they don’t know who they are critiquing. I love to brag, so I’ll say that among some pretty great writing, mine did very well!

The day ended with a wine & cheese social on the roof of the library. We drank, ate and got to network with fellow authors and professionals. With mild temperatures and a cool breeze, the sun set on the bayou and a day of fun and learning. Until next year…