The Writer's Digest Conference: The Business of Getting Published
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The Writer's Digest Conference: The Business of Getting Published is designed to guide any author through the new dynamics of today's publishing world. This three-day event takes place Friday, September 18, through Sunday, September 20, 2009, at the New York Marriott Marquis, on Times Square in New York.
With emphasis on platform, networking and social media, The Writer's Digest Conference is an innovative and ground-breaking conference, featuring the industry's top forward-thinking speakers, leading sessions on topics relevant to the current and future state of the publishing world. Chris Brogan, social media genius, is the keynote speaker.
Other speakers include Kassia Krozser, editor/publisher of BookSquare.com; David Mathison, whose online sales success is the new business model; Mike Shatzkin, the industry's top publishing consultant, Seth Harwood and Scott Sigler, whose own podcasts and videocasts have made them superstars in the business; and many more, plus the editors of Writer's Digest!
Complete program information, including speaker bios, special events related to the conference and registration, is now available here.
There are many ways publishers can work with their authors for mutual success. I always encourage first-time authors to partner with their publishers as much as possible. But really the advice works both ways.
I see the role of publishers shifting from publicist for a select few high-profile authors to platform educators for first time authors, context builders among the authors on their current and backlists, and content facilitators for readers.
Publishers can do more to help empower their authors using methods that have become quite inexpensive thanks to improved technology and the ease of networking online.
If agents and publishers aren’t viewing authors as partners, it’s just not good for the business of selling books in an increasingly transparent marketplace.
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez recently said--and I felt his comment was apt--Publishers need writers to stay in business, but the reverse isn’t necessarily true.
Maybe we aren't totally there yet, but this sure seems to be the direction we are heading in. Food for thought.
Just because someone is blogging or social networking, doesn’t mean that they are focused or creating community. They might just be killing time. I think anyone who has ever participated in athletics understands the concept of getting into “game shape.”
Do the guys playing in the Superbowl start working out a week before the playoffs? And yet, writers sometimes make the mistake of thinking that they are going to get discovered eventually rather than simply working slowly and steadily over time. I think a writer’s expectations, attitude, and willingness have everything to do with his or her success.
Fantasies are nice, but they are not business strategies. Unfortunately the media (and now the Internet) perpetuate myths about overnight success that cloud the truth, which is basically the old adage: no pain, no gain.
Once writers recover from hoping to be discovered, there is really only one thing to do: get to work on a viable platform that you can commit to for a period of years. That’s the kind of platform that’s going to support a book. That’s why I wrote Get Known as a progression of steps that any writer at any level can use as a guidebook.
Show me a writer who is willing to do a little bit of work steadily over time and I’ll show you a writer who is going to get known and eventually get a book deal.
Everyone keeps saying that the future of publishing is all about content. But without context, content is just a bunch of words. And an excess of words just creates static. After clarifying a platform, creating a context becomes the next step.
Creating context is key to platform development because writers need to attract a base of readers…and naturally this takes time and patience…and eventually content. But without a context for your content that resonates with readers, a writer is really missing a wonderful opportunity to create community. Content and context really go hand in hand and feed each other.
What forms will your content take to address readers’ wants and needs?
Once you are creating appropriate content for your specific audience,
you’ve very likely created a context where something exciting can happen between you and your audience.
A common mistake I see that pertains to context is writers teaming up with other writers to create a group presence but then neglecting to establish their personal online presence. Guys, it's just not helpful to ask people who are interested in you to go on a wild link chase to find out more about you. You need to name and claim and build your own site about you too.
When this happens to me, I'll click a couple of times, but once I realize the person has no central home-base of info about who they are, what they offer, and why I should care, I'm done.
Use the five-second rule. If I can't find out all the WWWWWH about you in five seconds, you've lost my attention. Start with Google. That takes about five seconds. Plug in your name and hit return.
Okay, now at a quick glance can I see exactly where to go to find just the right amount of details about who you are and what you offer? (Hint: The place I'll find this info is probably your website or blog.)
If not, then back to the basics. You'll find them in section three of Get Known. The very first thing your context should do is make my life easier when I want to find out everything about you and I have no time to do it.
That's just one example of context in action. I'll say more on the topic later because it's obviously a big and complex topic. And the Internet is a big and complex place. So keep some of your most crucial contexts simple.
Some writers feel frustrated once they learn that platform development is an additional job to add to an already pretty hefty to-do list. And I can certainly understand this frustration because platform development is a specific skill set that every writer must learn.
But this doesn’t mean that building your platform can’t be integrated into your daily work rhythms with practice over time. Isn't that how we learn pretty much everything?
Yes, writers have to wear more hats today than in the past, so focusing on all the noise out there will only take a writer further away from what’s truly important—choosing the platform that comes naturally and building the most authentic platform possible for you.
Platform is not an act or a show you put on for the benefit of others. It’s a natural extension of your own curiosity, exploration and discoveries that you share with the world. It’s taking things writers traditionally love—stories, process and creativity—and making them public. Platform is aligning your niche topic and unique expertise with the appropriate audience to create a unique context and forge relationships and community.
Becoming visible won't be an overnight occurrence. Trying to rush platform development is a surefire path to frustration, not to mention publishing failure. When you allow yourself the time you need to build momentum, things tend to go faster than you expected. And then your platform momentum is positive and contagious.
But anyone can make good things happen in their writing career and the careers of others, no matter where they are in the platform-development process. Just begin today and take it one day at a time.
First, I would like to thank the King County Library System, and especially Deb Schneider, for inviting me up to speak at three branches. The audiences were great. I learned so much from interacting with them. And I'm already hearing from folks who are mid-read in Get Known and are already off and brainstorming ideas for their platform development. Thanks, Deb, Mary Jane, and everyone who attended!
Agent Robin Mizell mentioned not only that I will be at the Writer's Digest/BEA conference in NYC on Wednesday, May 27th, but that I am "charming." I believe what she is referring to is my lack of tolerance for baloney and my commitment to keeping the platform conversation based in reality for the sake of writers.
Platform development shouldn’t break the bank. My advice is don’t shell out money at the get-go. Instead educate yourself and then take small steps. Try to avoid the impulse to slap together a platform quickly to impress others. I suggest a more long-term approach and working slowly and steadily in order to spend less and save more in the long run.
Most importantly: if you don't know the three keys I covered this week on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, then wait. Don't start building your platform until you have clarity and focus. Otherwise you will likely just waste your precious time spinning your wheels. Or worse, fritter away your time with online distractions (and trust me, there are plenty!).
But once you know what your expertise is and what you are doing with it and for whom, then consider these four steps:
Start an e-mail list: Who are the people who like to hear about your writing success? Why not start a list in your address book with them and keep adding to it as time goes by. You can start by sending out simple regular announcements of good things that happen—just be sure to get permission. One way to get permission is to send an announcement about your work out to everyone you know and tell them that they can unsubscribe if they don’t want to be receive future messages from you on the topic. I strongly recommend that all writers read Permission Marketing by Seth Godin.
Create a simple website: Although social networking is fun, a proper writer’s website is not a Facebook or a Myspace page; it’s not even a blog. So save the detailed descriptions of your quirks and faves for the social networking you will do after you’ve built yourself a solid website to publicize your genuine writing credentials (creds) across the ethers while you are sleeping. And if you don’t have any genuine writing creds yet, getting some is an important first step. The step-by-step instructions are in Get Known.
Blog when it makes sense: Blogging can be great for writers assuming three things: 1) You have ample material to draw on and time to blog regularly. 2) You take the time to determine your appropriate audience, topic and your specific slant (or take) on your topic for your specific audience. 3) You don’t plan on starting a blog, blogging like mad for six weeks, and then disappearing from the face of the blogosphere without a trace. Preparation can prevent this common pitfall from happening to you.
Volunteer some time: Staying home and curling up with your pen and journal is great, but isolation is not a long-term strategy for writing success. Private time for personal reflection is vital for any writer, but equally important is taking the risk of expanding your interests to include interaction with like-minded others. Why not expand your reference points by volunteering so you can become rich with inspiration, confidence and opportunities?
I would guesstimate that the majority of writers consider themselves shy or introverts. So, first, the best news: you are not alone.
The second best news: platform development is a process. Remember, nothing happens overnight. Therefore if you are shy or an introvert, this will not likely disappear all at once.
What's more likely is that you will slowly become more brave and outgoing.
I was painfully shy as a child. My mother started doing daycare in our home when I was a toddler because I was too shy to leave her side. So I’m not likely to see shyness at the end of the road. I view it as a starting point, not an ending point.
Like any speaker, when I got started, I had zero experience with public speaking at one time. Nobody is born ready for public speaking. Speaking skills are always learned—sometimes through training, sometimes through experience, most often from both.
I outline all the steps that writes can follow to become comfortable speaking in Get Known Before the Book Deal. The gist of it is start with what’s small and manageable enough for you that you won’t chicken out. Then grow the size of your audience gradually over time. This is what I did. I started with groups of three to twelve. Then grew to groups of twenty to fifty. Now I can manage two or three hundred people as long as I have ample time for preparation.
It’s human to resist what’s uncomfortable, so don't be too hard on yourself for not wanting to come out of your shell. However, speaking is something authors do. So I’m not likely to let you wriggle out of it.
If I could overcome my painful shyness, then anyone can.