A writers conference can help take the edge off how writing is often a lonely endeavor. The act of getting words down is such a tiny part of the process. Whether your goal is to take a traditional path to publication, self-publish, or try a combo-approach (like me), then the biggest favor a writer or editor can do for themselves is to connect with a like-minded community.
My recent move back to Idaho from North Carolina prompted the decision to attend the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference in Seattle, Washington. My blogger friend Laura Zera, who was attending a second time, highly recommended it. The three and a half day conference was well worth it! In no particular order, here’s a list of ten a-ha moments from the writers conference.
1. One fourth of the top 100 books on Amazon last year were independently published. There is no “right” or “best” path to publication. An author’s genre, speed of writing, and marketing skills come into play. No way is easy!
2. Crafting a pitch for a book may take hours, but the effort really does help the writer communicate the essence of the story to agents and readers alike.
3. Every word of a book becomes metadata that Amazon uses in determining how and where to display a book, even though only ten percent of the text is displayed for the “Look Inside” feature.
4. All authors need to have a clear idea of where their book should be placed on a real or virtual bookshelf. Genre matters! Knowing which authors are comparable to you is essential in marketing your book.
5. Volunteering to speak publicly on your book, related-topics, or on writing is a great way to grow your author platform. Start locally, and expand in geographically savvy ways. Utilize connections to librarians, booksellers, writing groups, and media connections.
6. Do the social media you love! We all share the things we love, so you have the right to search for someone who loves your work. Market your book to people who will get it.
7. Statistics show people are buying 4.6 times more books (print and electronic combined) than in the past.
8. Don’t automatically submit your book’s first chapters to an agent when a sample is called for. Consider including the most compelling part, and include a brief set-up that situates the reader.
9. It might take numerous rejections, multiple drafts, and possibly even multiple books before a writer can find the right agent. Patience is key when seeking a more traditional route to publication. However, the long turnaround time often means a writer has had more time to practice their craft.
10. Consider the so-called hidden hidden aspects of do-it-yourself publishing. Self-publishing in an art form that requires the writer to have a head for business. With a traditional book deal and a good advance, the writer can hire an outside publicist and have an agent in their corner.
What are your thoughts on the state of the publishing and writing industry?
It sounds like you had a great learning experience as well as a fun time! Thanks for sharing this. Some of your AHA moments will come in handy.
Lucy, I definitely feel like I learned a lot at the PNWA conference. Now I’m counting down the days until next year’s conference.
Jeri, does the PNWA happen every year?
Allessando, yes PNWA takes place every year in Seattle. I think it’s usually the last week of July. Many writing organizations hold similar conferences though.
I like that bit about doing the social media you love. Using a platform you hate is counter productive.
The session I attended on marketing was one of the best ones from the entire conference (and they were all great except one). What doesn’t work for one person is the next person’s favorite social site. It’s all about finding the right fit–and the right readers.
Such conferences when properly focused are great places to get a huge amount of distilled knowledge!! And so up to date too. Awesome to see you gained so much from it – I should perhaps consider more of the same kind of thing.
Ashley, I do hope you decide to attend a conference as well. You’re spot-on in noting how much information can be distilled in just a few days. By the end of the conference, I was absolutely exhausted, but elated due to all I had learned.
Jeri — these are all great tips, and I’m surprised to learn that 25% of books on Amazon were self-published. Did you learn if sales are comparable to traditionally published books? It does my heart good to learn that people are reading more, not less. Who cares if they are holding the book in their hands or reading it on Kindle!
Jeannette, that statistics on 25% of Amazon’s top sellers being indie books didn’t go into how the sales compare to traditionally published book. My guess is the traditionally published books are still outselling indie books, but the numbers are constantly changing. At one point, attendees were asked if they owned a Kindle. The majority of the room raised their hands. When asked how many actually preferred eTexts to print, far fewer raised their hands. I guess I am one of the exceptions. I would much rather read a novel on a Kindle, though I still prefer travel guides and other format-specific texts in print.
Good insights – as usual, a great post, Jeri!
I was too surprised to hear 25% of the books on Amazon are self-published. Can’t wait to hear what you reply to Jeannette’s question bfore me 😀
and sorry if this is a lame question, but – how does self-publishing and having a publicist and/or an agent mesh up? I thought the whole idea of self-publishing through Amazon is not going with the pros but doing it all on your own for small number of copies or something. I would love to learn more if you have the time (and of course, if it can be explained in a comment :-D)
I went to this conference last year and also gained a lot of insights. Maybe we’ll meet at a future writer’s conference. I too am encouraged by the increase in readership. Let’s keep writing.
Jagoda, that would be great if we would meet at a future PNWA conference!
That was a very fruitful conference!
It sounds like you were both informed and inspired. I’ve been to a number of mystery and two romance conferences. I always come away with great ideas. You’ve reminded me to get one on my calendar for 2014.
Candy, it I was still on the East coast I could aim for a NYC conference. It’s safe to say the PNWA conference is going to be a regular occurrence for me now. You would be happy to know the mystery panel I sat in on was the funniest and friendly of all the sessions I attended.
I am so happy you enjoyed the conference and was able to get so much out of it. These are great tips for any writer. 🙂
Susan, the best part (and the most terrifying part) of the conference were the pitch sessions to literary agents. I’ll be detailing how that went in a post next week 😉
Clear idea of where you fall in genre and knowing the authors that you work most closely compares…
I so rarely ever know. One day I might figure that part out.
Jon, I’ve had fits about genre as well as my blogging niche in the past. Now that I’ve settled on psychological suspense, it’s given me a better vision of where I want to take my writing in the future. I may have a memoir in me as well.
I am so happy you had a great time and learned so much! One thing I have learned recently is that I write non-fiction very well. Fiction not so much. Big sigh…
Cheryl, I’m with you on that feeling. Most of us have written much more non-fiction than fiction, so the transition can be trying at times that’s so sure. It just takes lots of practice AND patience.
I’m so glad you enjoyed your conference Jeri and got so much value from it. Seattle is also a pretty amazing place to visit and after your moving terrors, that must have made for a nice break.
The information you bring back paints a very optimistic future for writers. I heard one publishing industry analyst suggest that we are not far from the point where agents will chase writers for the chance to promote their books. We are certainly seeing the beginnings of that with authors turning down established publishers to opt for self publishing deals directly with Amazon. It makes the future a very exciting place for writers.
From a readers perspective its also great because it means the scope of books we will have access to will continue to grow. There was a fear for a while that with the disappearance of the small independent book stores, we were going to have reduced choices, with more obscure authors being lost altogether. With trends indicating that we will see 50% of book sales being e-books as early as 2015, then that concern diminishes.
Debra, the future is indeed optimistic for writers. I’m still on the fence as to what path will be best for me. The business side of self-publishing is quite daunting. Though I am learning the ropes, I still think I would flourish more with the support of a traditional framework. Time will tell.
Sounds like the conference was well worth attending Jeri. As a reader since I bought a Kindle a couple of years ago I am reading a lot more and many of the books are from independent publishers. Looking forward to adding your book to my Kindle in the future.
Susan, that would indeed be a good thing if my future book ever finds its way to your Kindle 😉 I too have read more since getting one, though I recently purged the device of a backlog of titles I downloaded for free and knew I was never going to read.
Good to know that readers are still reading books and that the demand is still high. No wonder there are so many writers out there!
Lorraine, I recently heard that all people at at least one book in them, but only 10 percent will actually write one. Of that 10 percent, only a select few actually make a go of it. Writing is such a small part of the process. All the marketing and networking that follows can be daunting, but worth it to be able to connect with as many readers as possible.
Glad you got so much out of the conference, Jeri!
Maybe it’s a good time for writers, but it seems hard for publishers. Two newspapers got sold today. A friend in publishing says, how can we continue to charge when so many people are writing for free? Well, at least J.K. Rowling is doing great.
I bought a friend’s book in advance, Kindle version. I’ve never done that before, but I know she’s a great writer. She’s been busy scheduling talks about her book … I hope all goes well. I was told her book will come out in paperback if it does well in Kindle format.
Leora, good luck to your friend and her upcoming book. She’s lucky to have your support.
I find it fascinating that there are so many self published books. My son has Asperger Syndrome and has a knack for writing fantasy books. So far he has written two. Maybe my next step should be to help him self publish them.
Elizabth, if your soon is really that into writing, the prospect of self-publishing would probably hold great appeal to what I can imagine is his great ability to focus on things he loves.
It is great to be able to learn more about something you love doing
Krystle, I only wish I had the funds to attend a conference quarterly rather than just annually. The sheer amount of information that can be squeezed into just a few days is amazing.
Great tips, Jeri! I’m surprised that 1/4 of books are self-published. Wow. Valuable share here, thanks.
Thanks for sharing some great take aways from the conference Jeri. I love Seattle because my son and his family live there. Did you see the underground while there? Back to the conference top ideas – my favorite in the list is # Do the social media you love! – That’s because I’m a big proponent that “gurus” cannot tell you where to spend your time unless they say, find out where your audience is and go there. So this little gem supports that.
You’ve just been in the city I’ve just left. 🙂 Point number one is so important. There are many ways to succeed, but not all of them work for everyone.
Jeri- It is great that you enjoyed the conference and was able to get something out of it. It must have felt good after the fiscal you went through moving back. It is so important to do the social media you love. I don’t like Facebook, and I can’t wrap my head around it.
I have to say I was surprised that 25%of books are self-published. But like everything else things keep changing. Who knows if it for the best, but we have to make the best of all change and embrace them
PNWA is a wonderful organization for writers and authors, and the Writers Conference is superb. I can’t remember if we met, but that’s part of the excitement — so many writers in one place! Which workshops did you make it to?
Sarah, I’m pretty certain we didn’t meet, but there’s always next year.
Great post, you’ve inspired me to get there next year!
Jim, yay! If you do make it to the conference next year, it would be great to meet you 🙂
It would seem it takes more dedication and knowledge once the book is complete than to write it!
What great insights you received. I am glad you took so much away with you 🙂
Becc, at times I really wonder how writers get it all done. The writing part is indeed such a small part of the process. In this day and age, writers really have to have a head for business. I’m slowly getting there 😉