Friday, September 28, 2012

What I Learned at Killer Nashville

by Linda Todd

Killer Nashville is a three day writers conference dedicated to all things mystery. I stayed for three days rubbing elbows with some 500-plus fellow mystery writers.

Registration opened at 8:00 on Friday morning and the opening session started at 8:35. It was entitled "The Rocket's Red Glare: Putting the Pieces Back Together after a Fireworks Factory Explosion." They had a disclaimer that it was not for the faint of heart (or stomach). They were right. I bailed after fifteen minutes. The facilitator was Dr. Bill Bass, Forensic Anthropologist and creator of "The Body Farm."

I went down to the book stores and hung out till time for the round table critiques, which I found interesting but not very helpful for me. It's kind of hard to comment intelligently on two pages out of 394.

My first session was after lunch. The title was "Beyond Dark and Stormy Nights: Creating a Setting with Mood and Atmosphere." The four panelists all had basically the same advice. Reread your description aloud with an eye to making it more vivid. Use setting to visit the history of place. Setting is like seasoning. Use it sparingly. While rereading, look for magic lines to leave in. Describe certain things that trigger memories in readers. If you are writing historical novels setting is very important, and it's important to get it right.

The next session I attended was about e-publishing: "The E-Explosion: The Impact of the E-Revolution on Traditional and Self-Published Authors." There were five authors on this panel, and they all said the internet has changed everything in publishing. There are six big names left in the traditional publishing industry. The panelists recommended The Naked Truth About Book Publishing by Linda Houle. Traditional publishers now want e-rights. Another recommended book: 55 Ways to Promote Your Book by Bob Baker. Other things mentioned: a Facebook author page; Smashwords; Internet Radio Stations; LinkedIn; Create Space.

My last session for Friday was "On Beyond Facebook: Making the Most of Social Media for Book Marketing and Promotion (What Works, What Doesn't)." Whew! That's a mouthful. There were five people on this panel, and they all agreed on one thing: you need an online presence. You should have, at least, a Facebook account, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Start following other authors, agents, and publishers on Facebook and Twitter. Also genre-specific blogs and websites. They also mentioned Book Reporter and

My first session on Saturday was the best one so far, presented by C. Hope Clark, who will be one of our speakers at the conference in November, so I won't spend too much time on it since she'll be doing the same one for us. "Business Workshop: Funding Streams that Enable Your Writing Career: Using Your Strengths to Earn a Living." She gave us an 8-page handout which I'm sure she'll have in November. One book she recommended was The Well Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman. Also, Photo Bucket is a good site for images.

From there I went to a session titled “Male Sexuality, Fidelity, Infidelity and Perversity in John Sandford's Lucas Davenport Prey Novels.” I went to that one because I was in the middle of Sandford's latest Davenport novel. It was very interesting.

The remainder of Saturday was spent listening to interviews with the guests of honor, Peter Straub, C.J. Box, Jeffery Deaver, and Heywood Gould. What I learned from that was that Jeffery Deaver usually went through 40 drafts before the manuscript was ready for the publisher. Forty! You could hear a collective gasp all over the room.

The awards banquet was Saturday night. I made it through the meal fine. Had some good conversations with my table mates. Just about the time the after-dinner speeches got started I had a coughing jag and had to leave, so I didn't hear who won any of the contests. Had to read about it next day on the board by the registration table.
My last session, on Sunday morning, was the “Getting Published” Workshop. We had four panelists. Their advice:

This is a business. Treat it as one.
When querying an agent, check on how many clients they have.
The main trouble with self-publishing: errors in the manuscript. Get a book doctor.
Marketing and publicity is up to you, no matter the route you take.
If you're really serious about publishing try to get an agent first.
Go to conferences where you can meet face to face.
Check out the agent's website before making any decision.
Check your query letter before each submission.
It's okay to query multiple agents at the same time, but not to query agents and editors at the same time.
Two websites to check: and
Here we go again: FACEBOOK, TWITTER, LINKEDIN. Get an online presence.

What I took away: Keep at it. Write. Submit. Write. Submit. The competition is terrific. The sheer number of people walking around with bags and satchels tells you what you send out has to be your best work if you are to be noticed. Oh. And get an online presence. So get busy, everyone.


  1. Linda, I want to hear more about the “Male Sexuality, Fidelity, Infidelity and Perversity in John Sandford's Lucas Davenport Prey Novels" session ;-)

  2. Sounds like fun, Linda. I'm glad you got to go again this year.