Whew! We did it. We finally have the panel sessions selected. Not gonna lie — it was TOUGH. We had a lot of great suggestions submitted in the post-con survey. We also had requests to bring back a couple of older panels that people really wanted to see a more evolved version of. Choosing was extremely challenging. Ask UTOPiAcon event manager, Lindsey. She knows. We wanted to pick so many more than are listed below. Ultimately the choices are based on past attendance at a panel, if it fits with UTOPiA’s goals, if we feel we can get the best talent and expertise on the panel, demand for the topic, and if we have room for it.
The good news (for some) is that there are MORE panel sessions in 2016. We will be toggling some of the time slots to give you a chance to attend at least partial panel sessions when you want to be at more than one at the same time. If you can’t make it to all the panels you’d like, we suggest dividing and conquering with friends.
We get asked a lot if we will be recording sessions for the option of viewing later. At this time we can not promise that due to stretched team time and resources.
Here are how the panel sessions play out:
* there are some for newbies
* there are some that could be considered intermediate to advanced, depending on where you are in your career
* there are some that are genre or age-group specific (a couple of MG panels, for instance)
* there are a couple more fan-friendly options
* there are biz and marketing sessions, and there are mindset sessions and talks
We feel that the panels suggested and created will offer you a variety to help you make the most of your convention experience, as well as have positive impact on your community and career.
We got a lot of amazing and useful feedback in the post-con survey, and we are so grateful. Thank you!!
A Final Note About Being on a Panel:
We get a lot of requests to be on panels. A LOT. This is all on our FAQ page, but I’d like to address our panelist process here, as well:
We select moderators who then select panelists they feel are qualified to speak on the topic. The UTOPiA team, then fills in the blanks on the panels with people we believe to be experienced, positive and a good fit for the topic and the con.
If you are not selected by a moderator or the UTOPiA team to be on a panel it is NOT a reflection of you, your expertise, or your work. It is also not the only way to make your mark at the con. We are simply buried in requests. You can participate from the audience, and at other activities and opportunities within in the con weekend. We encourage everyone to blaze their own trail at UTOPiAcon!!
#UTOPiA2016 Panel Sessions
Without further ado, here are the panel sessions. These are subject to change. We will be announcing the moderators and panelists soon!!!!
Pantsers VS. Plotters Battle Royale
#TeamPantser VS. #TeamPlotter
The struggle is real.
Plotters…well, they plot. They outline and plan the story or the series before they ever write a word of the novel. They know exactly where they want the story to go and how they’d like to get it there.
Pantsers, so named because they write “by the seat of their pants,” go with the flow, and do what the characters and stories demand of them in the moment.
Others may do a little bit of both. And, while it may be just a case of what fits your personality or the particular work in progress, there are ways to learn from both sides of the writing fence to make yourself and your story better. In this sure to be heated debate, we pit the Pantsers against the Plotters in a Battle Royale.
Fighting the Good Fight: How to Create a Positive Online Book Culture
From cyberbullying to piracy, becoming an author in today’s world can be a scary prospect. With internet trolls becoming more prevalent, and censorship disguised as political correctness, how do you keep your head high, keep yourself safe, and find a community that supports you – whether it be with positive affirmations or constructive criticism and challenges – through the good and the bad?
This panel is committed to addressing the issues, BUT rather than dwelling on all that “could” happen or things they’ve seen happen, this panel’s focus is to offer solutions and positive ways to persevere and prosper.
** Both fans and industry are encouraged to attend this important panel.
Agents of the Revolution
What is the role of an author agent in the new modern world of publishing? What are agents looking for, and how do they work with authors to help them to define and achieve their goals? Attend our agent panel where you’ll discover the realistic expectations authors should have of agents, and what agents expect of authors, in return.
The Middle Grade Revival
With all the attention getting thrown at young adult books and their subsequent franchises, and then the evolution of the raging new adult category, middle grade mania waned a bit in the past decade. Lately, however, we are seeing a resurgence of the genre. Self- and indie-published middle grade is on the rise, and new TV series’ and films are in the works in the near future.
Those precious and fleeting pre-teen to early teen age years where big adventures, big mistakes and first victories over fears and insecurities connects with the kid in all of us, but especially with readers 8-12, who are testing their independence and beginning to discover who they are or want to be.
This panel will discuss what’s happening right now, what the future of MG looks like, and how it often sets the stage for all the genres that come after.
**Appropriate for fans and pub industry.
Negotiating Peace: The Struggle for Work-Life Balance
Balance Schmalance. Everyone knows that working toward anything worth having throws that whole work-life balance thing way off kilter. From adding stress to relationships, to weight fluctuations, to depression, to guilt, self-sabotage and more, if you’re not tending to all the pieces of you, how can you possibly expect to expand into who you’re supposed to be?
This panel will give you advice on how to create a guilt-free lifestyle that makes everyone in your world happier and healthier. You’ll discover the best ways to nurture mind, body and spirit while leading your dreams.
**The themes of this panel are universal and make the panel perfect for writers, service providers, or readers who are struggling with finding harmony in their own lives.
How to Write an EPIC Book Boyfriend
What is it about Book Boyfriends? Getting to the heart of what we love about book boyfriends, from the bad boys to the protectors, to the mysterious to the boy next door, this panel will look at what it takes from the creative process stand point to develop the ultimate book boyfriend.
** While this panel focuses on the “book boyfriend,” the creative process involved is applicable to developing any and all well-rounded characters in your story.
Impact of the Modern Library
From breaking authors to educating the next generation of readers and writers, what is the role that today’s libraries play in nurturing the present and future of literature?
The librarians and experts on this panel will share with you their passion for Dewey decimal, as well as the best tips for getting your books in libraries, booking readings, and working with the community in promoting literacy, reading for fun and your own career.
How to Survive the Sophomore Slump
There’s a saying in music: “You get your whole life to make your first record, and six months to make your second.”
In today’s fast-paced publishing world, six months for a sophomore book is a generous time frame.
What is the “sophomore slump syndrome”? It’s when you have a book that gets the recognition and praise it deserves, and the pressure to follow it up quickly with one as good or better, and to sell as good or better wreaks havoc on your mental state and creativity.
While there are many writers out there who would kill to have one successful book, that does not diminish the fact that once you do, the demand to keep doing it is HIGH. This stress and pressure could be coming from fans, from a publisher or marketing team, or it could just be you being your own worst enemy.
This panel will address ways you can beat the slump, amp up your creativity and confidence, while still attending signing events, meeting deadlines, marketing yourself AND writing the next book.
Tackling Taboo Topics in Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction
Sex. Abortion. Suicide. Rape. Alcoholism. Mental Illness. Gender Issues. Racism.
Some of the topics listed above are easily found in middle grade and young adult books. Others are never discussed. Why? What makes one topic okay to address in literature, and others a “no go zone”? Who decides that and why? Do authors have a responsibility to be a part of the larger conversation or only to the story?
The goal of this panel is not to give some magical solution. The goal of the panel is to open the conversation, and find ways to keep it open online and off, without it getting distorted to fulfill political agendas or get lost down a rabbit hole. These topics are important and real, and are faced daily by today’s youth. Keeping them cloaked in fiction could be our best chance at reaching the next generation.
**This is a panel that is suited for both fans/readers and authors, but will have mature content matter.
Victory is Yours: Formatting E-books for Print and Digital Sale
For those starting out, one of the most intimidating parts isn’t even writing the book – it’s how the heck you format that sucker and get it up on the digital stores without a big #formattingfail.
These panelists will share best practices, how to prepare, and what to watch out for so that your book looks top shelf fabulous online or in print.
The Exploding World of Fan-Created Entertainment
This session will take a look at the evolution of fan fiction from rabid fan playroom to career catapult. From the godfather of fan fiction protagonists, Sherlock Holmes, to fan fiction forums, to the Kindle Worlds platform, and fan-made films like “Severus Snape and the Marauders,” this panel will look at the changing landscape of fan-created content. What does it mean for the author of the original work, the fan-turned-center of attention, and the future of entertainment properties? Find out at #UTOPiA2016.
** Fans and publishing industry folk will enjoy this panel .
The Rise of Re-imagined Classic Stories
The increase in books that are taking on new ways to re-tell classic stories is not slowing down. From books that take on Disney fairy tales, to Alice in Wonderland, to Grimm Tales, there is no end to the imagination nor to the fan demand for more, more, more.
This panel will talk about why fans love these retellings, how to keep your ideas fresh and your own, as well as honor the original.
** Fans and writers will both enjoy this panel .
How to Find the Perfect Critique Platoon
How do you find that perfect critique partner or group that brings out the best in you and your writing? The right group challenges you, they help your book become the best it can possibly be, they support you, they cheer you on, and promote you once the book is released.
Get tips on why you need one, as well as how to find and keep a writing group that will keep you sane and become a second family throughout your writer journey.
This panel will be led by the teens who are becoming the newest indie-preneurs. Meet the teen illustrators, bloggers, book tubers, book cover designers, and activists both inside the industry and out, who are getting a head start on their future, and have priceless insight into what your readers are clamoring for.
Mission Possible: The Apps, Tools and Websites for Book Discovery and Writer Help
New websites, tools and apps for book discovery, fan and author connection and social interaction, as well as author assistance, are popping up all over the place.
This panel will highlight some of the best, and tell you why you should check them out, what their niche is and how they can help your life and/or career.
** Fans and publishing industry peeps will enjoy this panel .
Judging a Book by Its Cover
- Almost 400,000 books are published each year.
- You have approximately 6 seconds to catch a passing eye.
A book cover is your book’s first chance to make a lasting impression. What are the crucial elements you need to stand out on the “shelves”?
Also, in the digital world, it is easy and fairly common to give old book covers a makeover. But is putting new covers on your books confusing to your audience or a way to attract new readers and increase sales?
And finally, what role do book cover models now play in the making of a character or series? This ain’t the Fabio generation, but the book cover model as character “brand” is on the rise. Find out how to be one or get one for your books.
** Stats above sourced from Book Statistics and other sites.
Book Convention Boot Camp
Writers are inherently isolated creatures — even the most extroverted can struggle with networking effectively at conferences. This panel is dedicated to welcoming you to UTOPiA, as well as sharing the best tips on how to make the most of your convention experience.
You will learn how to prepare for conventions, what to take and have at the ready, as well as the best ways to break the ice, kick your fears to the curb, and have the most productive and positive experience you can. Whether you’re looking to expand your business or expand your network of peers, fans and friends, you won’t want to miss this interactive panel.
He Said/She Said
The game-slash-panel that was a big hit in 2015 returns to #UTOPiA2016. Discover just how well spouses know the writer in their life.
They see their spouse in their writing uniforms of sweatpants or pajamas. They lovingly navigate the “I’ve written the best chapter ever in the history of the known literary universe” and the “This book is crap – I should burn it and never write again” with booze and favorite snacks. They hold down the fort, feed the kids, kiss the unwashed hair, challenge, tolerate, and enCOURAGE whilst blissfully listening to the click clicking of the keyboard.
In this game show-style panel you’ll hear from the spouses who boldly go where they are told 😉 They will reveal the secrets and lessons on how to balance the writing cave with “real life” while supporting the writer in the home. Their time has come.
**A game that fans and friends will get a kick out of!
Winning the Mental War Against Doubt
Writers are sensitive creatures. Your characters are loud and demanding in your head. Your fans are loud and demanding online. What do you do when you get writer’s block? What do you do when one book flops? What do you do when the doubt demons creep in and tell you you’re a fraud, a one-hit wonder, or that you’ll never make it out there in the crazy world of professional writers. Or other fear favorites — You’re too young, you’re too old, you’re an introvert and will get eaten alive, you can’t afford to quit your day job, you will never figure out this self-publishing thing and no one will ever sign you to a deal…
First, you breathe deep. What you don’t do is go it alone. This panel will keep you out of the downward spiral, and give you practical magic on how to keep the faith and keep your eyes on the prize.
**While this panel takes special aim at author-related issues, doubt demons affect everyone in some way shape or form along the road through life. I encourage anyone who needs these tips and truths to attend this panel.
The New World Order — Contemporary + Supernatural World Building
World building isn’t just for fantasy books. It is central to not only things like the topography of the places held within its pages, but also to the cultural standards and rules governing the interpersonal relationships and politics of the book’s plot and story.
Is there such a thing as too much description? How do you temper or pepper it throughout the book to best effect? The creative process intertwines with research to create rich, believable characters, settings, and mythology that keep the reader coming back for more. Learn how to do this well from authors at the top of their game.
Guerilla Marketing & PR Panel
What is still working when it comes to marketing and publicizing your book? What is NOT working like it was a few years ago?
And what about when it comes to marketing you, the author? How do you do that? What should you do, and when should you do it??
On this panel you’ll hear the experts share the new, the old, the good, and the do-not-do-that-ever of marketing and PR of you and your books.
The role of Bloggers and Book Tubers has changed in recent years. They aren’t just reviewers anymore. They have taken their “tastemaking” status and created a whole new world of authority AND entertainment for readers.
They get invited to big movie premiers. They get boatloads of swag and books. But the demand to create high standards and deliver high-quality and trusted content not just regularly, but obsessively, means that becoming one of the top bloggers and book tubers out there does come with big expectations from fans, authors, publishers and other media outlets.
If you’re a blogger or want to be — Discover new ways to reinvent your own content, and attract a bigger audience.
If you’re a writer — learn what you need to do to get your stuff at the top of the pile of your favorite bloggers.
In the Editing Trenches
From Content Editing, to Copy Editing, to Proofreading and more, this panel will demystify all the editing processes. You will discover the different types of editing, when you need them and why you want them.
And in an ever-growing crowd of book releases, good editing can mean the difference between a book become a hit or a big ol’ miss.
Bean Counting for Authors
For those who want to make a living as an author, it’s imperative to know the accounting side of the career path you’ve chosen. You gotta keep track of it all – the cost of swag, the travel, the conferences, the paperbacks, the promotions and advertising, and on and on.
This session will help keep you sane and your budget balanced (hopefully). Get tips from accountants and authors on how to keep track and manage your money, reveal the goods on what you can write off come tax time, and how to report it to Uncle Sam without losing an arm and a leg.
The Front Line of Amazon Marketing
It’s the world’s largest bookstore. But once you list your book on Amazon…then what do you do? Did you know they give you free marketing if you know how to work their simple system? In this panel, you’ll discover:
- How to pick the right categories for you to make the best seller lists.
- How to use tags properly.
- How to hit the Top Rated List.
- What reviews on Amazon mean for your exposure and sales
- The pricing game.
- Does advertising on Amazon increase sales?
- How to make your book forever free.
- How to create a pre-order option.
- Can putting your books in Kindle Unlimited actually help your career?
Serials Success Stories
Serials, full-length stories delivered to the readers in short-form chunks (or episodes) more frequently than traditional novels or novellas, have turned “hobbyists” into full-time authors living the dream.
In this panel we talk about the pros and cons of the serial series, how long should they be, should they have cliffhangers, how to market them creatively, and more.
Convention registration is now open.