Thursday, February 24, 2011

ITW Roundtables: Get More Than You Give

by Dan Levy

Imagine you’re at ThrillerFest attending one of the many social events. You turn, and just out of earshot, Steve Berry, David Morell, Lisa Gardner, Tess Gerritsen, and Lee Child are talking. You can tell by their faces, the discussion isn’t current events or cocktail party chitchat. They’re discussing something deep…some element of writing thrillers, you’re sure.

More than knowing, you feel the burn that tells you just two minutes with this group would unearth some huge nugget. The kind of intel that would send your own protagonist charging into Act III, and put your novel in the homestretch. Mentally, you begin cataloging the body parts you would give just to be able to stand there, to hear what topic has the thriller elites so rapt.

Then one of them turns to you, “Do you have a minute to join us? We’d really value your opinion on…”

Out of nowhere, you hear a car horn. Reality grabs you. You’re behind the wheel. You look up; the light is green. The delivery driver behind you is creeping his truck to within inches of your bumper. You hit the gas; the kids can’t be late for school.

ITW created the weekly online Roundtable discussions so the scenario above doesn’t have to be fantasy.

Yeah, right.

Writing isn’t algebra. If it was, we’d all take a class, learn how to move X to the other side of an equation and get on with the business of entertaining readers. Writing is this quirky nebulous pursuit wherein writers need community to stoke the fires of creativity and craft, and isolation to breathe life into an otherwise blank computer screen. The Roundtables provide community, connection and collaboration in a way that keeps the energy and camaraderie of ITW and ThrillerFest alive all year long. What’s more, everyone is respected, appreciated, and valued.

At the Roundtables, we’re asking the kinds of questions you’re asking. We’re concerned with the same issues you are. We’re looking for the same kinds of answers and discussions you have when you meet in your writers groups. The best part is that thriller writers from different ages, experiences and countries help make the mix of each group engaging.

Still not sure if you’re right for a seat at the Roundtable? Let me offer two more reasons that you’re more than qualified.

The first reason, I invite you to see for yourself. Legendary New Yorker cartoonist and ITW member Peter Steiner created a cartoon in 1993 that still holds true today. The message: On the Internet, everyone is a dog, resonates because the Internet levels the playing field. The Roundtables are just a bunch of thriller writers meeting at an electronic coffeehouse to discuss the topic of the day.

I think you’ll like reason number two even better. On the publishing food chain, I’m lunch to you. That’s right, I’m an associate member still trying to break through. I’ve developed sixty questions for the Roundtables based on the topics that I find compelling, that I hear others talking about, that writers just like you send me, that I find as I do research to hone my craft, and that I just think will get people talking in a way that can help them.

Just as certainly, you have great discussion input from your own experiences, studies, and thoughtful approach to your work.

Will You Join Us?

There are three ways to join the Roundtables:

1. Dive in. There’s a conversation going on right now. Even better, there are thriller writers anxious to converse with you.

2. Help lead a discussion. Pick a topic that moves you and let me know via this link or the link in The Big Thrill newsletter. As a debut author, this is a great opportunity to post your bio, promote your book and interact with the most rabid thriller readers in the country! Many authors will post on their Facebook pages, websites and Tweet when they’re participating in the Roundtable. It’s a great way to connect with new and old fans alike.

3. Submit a question. Here’s your chance to help shape the discussion of the thriller writing community around the world. As your teachers always told you, ask. Odds are good, you’re not the only one with the same question.

In return, you’ll get connections with new authors and fans, see varying perspectives that will inform your own, and perhaps share a laugh or two.

I work with a number of charitable organizations in my community. I’m constantly reminded that the number one reason people don’t give is because no one ever took the time to ask them.

Would you please consider joining the Roundtables, and helping to shape the discussion on the topics (yes, more than one) that appeal to you? Since we started in October 2010, 86 different authors helped lead our discussions—I would guess as many of one-third of them on more than one occasion. We’ll cross the 100-author mark this spring. Will YOU be among the first 100 authors to take part?

I really hope so.

Thank you for the opportunity to post. I hope it provides a chance for us to learn from each other. If you have participated in the Roundtables, I’d love for you to share why, what was good, and what we could do better.

And, if you haven’t, I’d like to know why as well. What obstacles can I help remove? What questions or concerns do you have that I can address?

I’ll check back as often as I can. I’m looking forward to a great discussion…as I do every week at the Roundtables.

I’ll close by taking off my Roundtable hat. As a 20+-year marketer, I help entrepreneurs succeed. As debut authors, you fit the entrepreneur category. While you’re welcome to anything helpful on my website, two things might be of interest. The Better Writing Worksheet might help frame your thinking for any web posts or other writing you do to sell your books. Also, if you haven’t read Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Black Book of Connections, do. While it’s geared toward salespeople, I recommend it to anyone looking to reach out to others for the purposes of transacting business.

In addition to serving as ITW’s Thriller Roundtable coordinator, Dan Levy is also a freelance writer for the aviation and financial industries, who works from his Lincoln, Nebraska home. His first novel, THE BLOWDOWN LIMIT, is an aviation-thriller in search of representation and publication. Bestselling author Jon Land noted, “Dan Levy’s THE BLOWDOWN LIMIT reminded me of Michael Crichton’s AIRFRAME and Thomas Block’s MAYDAY in all the right ways. Levy pilots his tale in a smooth and seasoned fashion that will make this the next book to make people think twice before flying the friendly skies.”


Tracey Devlyn said...

Hi Dan,

Thank you for joining us at The Thrill Begins. When Tracy suggested this topic, I was really excited we'd have an opportunity to learn more about the roundtables.

I think you do a great job conveying what the roundtables are and their focus. I've hesitated to participate, because I didn't know how "on the spot" I'd be once joining the discussion.

Is there a way for newbies to view/audit a discussion to get the feel for them?

Thanks for all your efforts!


Carla Buckley said...

Hi Dan,

It's a fabulous concept, and I'd love to see ITW's Debut Authors participate more actively. Perhaps we can ask authors whose books are about to launch to consider being a part of that week's discussion?

Nancy Naigle said...

Good morning, Dan
Thanks for the 4-1-1 and invitation to the Roundtable. I've never participated, but I plan to hop over and check out the one you have going on now.

I'm one of the new ITW Debut Authors. I can't wait to dive in and leverage the fantastic resources you've shared.

Have a wonderful day.

Joelle Charbonneau said...

Good morning, Dan! Thanks for information on the roundtable. Like Nancy, I've never had the chance to participate. I think I might have to make the time.

Shane Gericke said...

I participated in one of these Roundtables a couple months ago, and learned a ton. Plus, Carla Buckley was on the panel, and that's always a treat. Highly recommended!

Shane Gericke

Dan Levy said...

Greetings all! Thanks for your kudos on the Roundtables. We're having a great time putting them together, and I think the participants enjoy it as well.

There seems to be a theme about just getting started. Just dive right in, the water's warm!

If you jump over the discussion about favorite protagonists right now, you'll see good discussion thread on Sherlock Holmes. The other great thing you'll notice is how the discussion has shifted to the power of archetypes in developing a protagonist. Great stuff.

Thanks for your willingness to try it out. Here's the link to the current discussion:

Dan Levy said...

I also want to address Carla's point specifically. I get a lot of author requests to participate in the Roundtables based solely on the week of the Roundtable. The reason? Tying their new book into the discussion.

I even have an agent sign up her authors for the weeks their books are coming out. I love it.

At the end of my post, I suggest Gitomer's Little Black Book of Connections. In it, he suggests these three rules for making connections:
1. It's not who you know. It's who knows you.
2. Provide value first.
3. People don't like to be sold, but they love to buy.

I think the Roundtables provide the authors the opportunity to do all three.

Unknown said...

Great post, and three cheers for Dan, and the work he does in organizing and keeping the Roundtable discussions running!

I'd just like to add that perhaps the easiest way to participate (and still get many of the benefits of networking and increasing your visibility) is to post a comment. Anyone including the general public is welcome to comment at any time - you don't have to be formally scheduled for a particular discussion. A simple, "Great post! I never thought of it that way before" is still a valuable contribution! (and a good ice-breaker if you're the retiring, wallflower type - not talking about you, Shane!).

Tracy March said...

Hi, Dan.

Thanks for posting about the Thriller Roundtables. I am an ITW Debut Author and have 'co-hosted' once, and put my $.02 in pretty regularly. It's a lot of fun. I have 'met' some very interesting authors, learned a lot, and gained some new perspective.

Also, as you noted in your comment, sometimes the discussions morph from the thread question to other subjects. It's neat to see the twists and turns a discussion can take--kind of unexpected, like a thriller plot.

To Karen's point, for those who may be timid, just jump in. Anyone can, and I did! And I'm scheduled to co-host again the week of March 7th, so make sure to come over and chat awhile!

Thanks again, Dan, and best of luck with your writing endeavors.


Dan Levy said...

In the category of 'timing is everything,' next week's discussion would be a perfect one to dip your toe in the Roundtable waters. The question is: What is your favorite thriller sub-genre? Why?

This is as much a discussion of personal tastes as it is experience. Though, assuming you've written in your favorite thriller sub-genre, you'll have plenty of experience to reflect upon as well.