Despite its title, Killer Nashville was one of the most benign conferences I've ever attended. There were only about 300 attendees, all Southerners except for a San Francisco agent and me. At dinner, the two of us wondered when mac 'n cheese and Jello had become “vegetable side dishes.” Welcome to Tennessee!
I went to see Jeffrey Deaver. It amazed me that such a small conference managed to get him as keynote. I told him that he was much more fun in person than his books led me to believe. He says he likes to write in complete darkness—perhaps that explains his dark plots.
Surprisingly, most of the participants were unpublished authors looking for agents and publishers. I turned out to be one of the “big” names on the program. Pitch sessions were constantly going on but Billie and I had side-stepped that obligation. I'm an acquisitions editor and we did pitch sessions on the fly. I picked up three promising authors and several others emailed me query letters.
My panels were short story writing and “Lightening in a Bottle,” which was marketing. I talked about the “posse” idea of promotion, which is simply leading a pack of beginners to sites and teaching them to blog and set up personal pages (I'm on 35 such sites). That became a buzz word used throughout the conference.
One of the panelists on the marketing panel pooh-poohed the whole idea of little marketing give-aways. Heck, I love them and love coming up with something creative. Mine usually center around food: miniature boxes of raisins because my books are set in the Fresno area, Raisin Capitol of the World. I also ordered fortune cookies from Oriental Traders with my name and book title as the fortune because a fortune cookies is a clue in FOOLS RUSH IN. The next book, WHERE ANGELS FEAR, has a bottle of heart pills as a clue. I got prescription bottles, ordered labels with my book cover and my name, and filled the bottles with candy hearts or red hots. We don't buy Cracker Jacks for the stale popcorn. We want the prize inside!
There was little humidity for August and I never got to actually see Nashville. The city is still recovering from the floods and the Grand Ol' Opry isn't open. The hotel was “a good piece aways” as they would say in the South. Billie and I couldn't fight our need for a Mexican food fix and found a great restaurant. They screwed up her order (twice!) so we got free flan for dessert.
I may never get out that way again, but it was a terrific, homespun conference to experience.