Monday, September 28, 2009

The Indie Author & Temple of DIY

April Hamilton has generously shared her slide presentation from her talk on indie authors and self-publishing.

Download the presentation here as a PDF file.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

O'Hanlon closing address (continued)

O'Hanlon wraps up with his own story of how he went from "Pissed to Blissed."

The short version: He never enjoyed writing, but wanted to "have written." The way he started writing was the he got "pissed off" after leaving home, dropping out and feeling suicidal. He became interested in the field of psychotherapy where he discovered people in the field didn't care or take it seriously. He was angered by this and felt that to be taken seriously he should have a book. So he was spurred to become an author.

He closes with a quote from Churchill: "Never ever give up."

"What are you doing sitting here listening to me for," he adds, "Get up, go home and write."

Thanks to everyone for a wonderful conference! Best of luck to you all! Thanks so much on behalf of the entire staff at Writer's Digest.


O'Hanlon closing address (continued)

O'Hanlon's "Not to Do List"

The discussion has turned to important things to avoid in your writing life.
  • money leakage
  • energy leakage
  • shifting attention to the wrong areas
  • wasting your time
He makes the point that you need to think about all the things in your life that contribute to all of these wasteful habits and create a NOT TO DO LIST.


O'Hanlon closing address (continued)

Other, examples of the energy writers can draw from that O'Hanlon presented came from Stephen King, Laura Lippman, Laura Hillenbrand, Sue Grafton and others.

O'Hanlon's presentation reminds me of a point that Chris Brogan made in yesterday's keynote address, which was don't just talk about yourself... give your audience things that they can go out and use. These examples are ones that help the audience really understand the concept of drawing from different areas of life.

O'Hanlon goes on to ask the audience to consider what kind of energies speak most to them at the moment and challenges them to consider how they can transform those energies to fuel their writing or help them build their platform.


O'Hanlon closing address (continued)

Everyone seems to be engaged in O'Hanlon's message. He's using examples of soundbytes as examples of the kinds of energy writers can draw on to get inspired.

Right now his example of "dissed energy"--where a writer is spurred on by some kind of rejection-- is from Patsy Rodenburg's Right to Speak.

Closing Address: Bill O'Hanlon presents "Show Me The Energy"

It's been a great conference and now we're wrapping up with a great speaker Bill O'Halon, prolific public speaker and author of numerous books including Write is a Verb.

O'Hanlon is discussing the energy that writers need to fuel their careers. He starts out by saying that by saying that the energy comes from a few places:

  • blissed
  • blessed
  • pissed
  • dissed
His point is that writers draw energy their experiences, whether that energy comes from a positive event in their life that encourages them or a negative one that spurs them to action.


Twitter, Facebook, and I Really Should Update My Website

Q: Why do people have blogs?

Kassia: "I've never had an opinion I didn't want to share." It's the kind of writing she's been doing her whole life. It's a platform that works really well for her. Blogging has helped her establish herself in her career.

Christina: Blogging is living out loud. She prefers to keep certain things "inside" until they are ready to come out. Daily bloggers have a mindset that when they have an idea, they post it.

Kassia: "No one in the publishing industry new my name when I started by blog."

Jane: This is a topic that comes up a lot. (She's got a post on why to blog on her blog. She the blogroll at the right for the link to There Are No Rules.)

Q: If you're just starting a blog how to people get to you?

Jane: One of the most effective things you can do is comment on other people's blogs. If you are on Facebook and Twitter definitely link to relevant blog posts.

Kassia: Link to other blogs and sites.

Christina: There's also traditional connecting. Link, meet people, go to conferences, engage in professional development. It all creates a synergy. Do a little bit of a lot of things when it comes to connecting with others.

Jane: Look at things you can do online that will help other people, and they'll come back to you.


Twitter, Facebook, and I Really Should Update My Website

Q: (for Christina) How much time to do you spend writing vs. platform?

Christina: They was she uses her time depends on where she is in the process of a book project. You need to learn to steer your own ship and prioritize and don't drop your craft time.

Q: Do any of you pre-post your tweets?

Kassia: She times out her posts depending on what audience she's getting to. The average lifespan of a tweet is 5 minutes. When you tweet you're only getting an audience if they're online and they're reading you. If you think something is important, you may want to post is several times over a day or several days to have more reach.

Q: What determines how ou respond to Facebook posts?

Jane: When I'm prompted, I respond. She uses Twitter in a really intergrated way because she feels like her personal and professional lives are meshed.

Kassia: I feel like a lot people do Facebook wrong. She only accepts a friend request on her personal Facebook page if they are not her actual friends. She does not want people to know personal information about her.

Christina: She uses Facebook for professional purposes only. She doesn't want to hang out with people in her personal life online. She enjoyed connecting with other writer mamas. She finds it interesting to see how people respond to her posts. Nobody really used these tools in the exact same way.


Twitter, Facebook, and I Really Should Update My Website

Christina: Set up Google alerts on yourself so you know what other people are saying about you. These can be viewed in Google reader as well.

Kassia: She has allerts set up for her full name, her last name, and common misspellings of her name.

Christina: Has approximately 10 Google alerts set up.

Jane: What's something that you find essential on a daily basis?

Kassia: Twitter. She rarely reads email newsletters anymore. She can accomplish on Twitter and 15 minutes what used to take her an hour and a half.

Christina: Facebook. She's visual. If she had to choose between Twitter and Facebook, she'd probably choose Facebook. But she uses Twitter to expand her reach. She uses Tweetdeck to organize her Twittering.

Jane: She interacts on Facebook and used Twitter as a listening post.


Twitter, Facebook, and I Really Should Update My Website

Jane Friedman, Christina Katz and Kassia Krozer are offering a session on managing time when it comes to social networking.

Kassia: "I live my life online. I check my email before I pour my coffee."

Christina: She has 3 e-newsletters, 3 blogs, 3 websites, a -year-old daughter. She suggests weaving into your day the things that you feel will advance you as a writer.

Jane: Do you use an RSS readers?

Kassia: She uses Google reader on her iPhone at the gym. She has a process by which she reads blogs and info online. RSS, she says, is the best invention. She subscribes to the information that she needs and is interested in. (RSS stands for "really simply syndication.")

Christina: You asked what could be a big time suck--that would be Google reader. She's now a convert, but she had to recognize that she only needs to read on her focused topics.


Amy Cook: What should be in Periodical Contract?

When writing an article for a newspaper, magazine or anything else along those lines, your contract should cover these key issues:
  • Detailed description of work
  • Length
  • Due date
  • Fee
  • Payment on acceptance, not publication
  • Acceptance based on objective criteria
  • Time for publication
  • Kill fee

Blog Hogs, Social Twitter and Online Tools for Authors: Writer Websites (Continued)

As Kassia Krozser mentioned earlier that the writer website is THE most important tool for writers. Here's her take on why: The writer website allows writers to own their fans.

Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms may change or fade in popularity (think MySpace), but the writer website should be considered the constant that survives all these changes and is always ready to receive visitors from the new platforms.

One last quote from Kassia: "Nobody cares about your website until they need it."


Blog Hogs, Social Twitter and Online Tools for Authors: Blogs and blogging (continued)

Kassia Krozser endorses topical blogging. This means, pick a topic and focus your blog around that topic to establish yourself as an authority.

An audience member asked, " How do I get people to my blog?" Kassia answered that she believes in generous linking (to the blogs and websites of others).


Amy Cook: Defamation (Libel)

What constitutes defamation?
  • Injury to a person's reputation
  • Only living people may sue for defamation
  • Must prove that he/she is identifiable to reader by setting, physical description, etc.
  • Changing names is not enough (Amy has lots of exclamation points behind this note)
  • Truth is a defense to a defamation claim

An Aside: A Writer's Epiphany

So, earlier today, in the hallway, I overheard one writer speaking to another. She said, "I don't have the time to handle all this."

I was not surprised to hear this kind of statement at a conference on publishing and marketing and communicating and podcasting and basically everything we've been going over since Friday. But, of course, I started thinking about how successful writers should be, at least, trying.

Well, after a long pause, she continued speaking to the other (very good listener) writer, "But I have to make the time if I'm serious about making this work."



Amy Cook: Who Holds Copyrights?

Here are sites that will help you find out who holds the copyright to any particular book:

Blog Hogs, Social Twitter and Online Tools for Authors: Writer Websites

Here are a few (of several) things Kassia Krozser advises making sure is on your website:

  • Author bio
  • Decent author photo (make sure it represents you as a writer)
  • Complete book list (not just most current release)

And Kassia advises (strongly): Keep your website as up to date as possible. If the information gets old or out of date, then readers, editors, etc., will find wrong info when they visit your site.

Kassia: "Keep the private stuff private."


eBooks, Kindles, and the Digitization of the Industry (continued)

What were the challenges and lessons for ebooks?

Biglione: There are no industry standards and best practices. There are so many platforms. It's also difficult to define whether you're an author or content provider. The changes are moving so quickly.

Curtis: Ebook publishing is actually fiendishly complicated. It seems simple to users. But questions of rights, pricing, and technology are complex. This is why a decade ago ebooks were beginning to be talked about the so-called trend fell off quickly. The industry have been quietly regrouping.

Chapman: It's like if Barnes and Noble, Borders, and an independent publisher all wanted a book on different colors and thicknesses of paper. What's the publisher supposed to do.

Biglione: It's an evolutionary process.

Recommended Resources:


Blog Hogs, Social Twitter and Online Tools for Authors: Most Important Online Tool

Kassia advises that the most important, absolute, #1 tool for writers is the writer website.

This is your permanent address and the guaranteed way for readers, publishers, etc., to find you.

First thing every writer should do (whether they have a website ready to go or not): Buy your domain name. For instance, Kassia Krozser would purchase

Eventually, you want your website to be the #1 search result when anyone does a search on your name. Treat it as a regularly updated press kit.


Amy Cook: Stopping Others from Posting Your Material Without Permission

If you see your material somewhere you don't want and haven't granted permission, first send a cease and desist letter and be very specific about the material involved—"Please remove my article on whales from your website immediately."

If you are unsatisfied with the results or feel that the sharing without your permission hurt your future earnings on the work, you can bring about copyright infringement litigation.


eBooks, Kindles, and the Digitization of the Industry (continued)

Biglione: If you give ebooks away for free as a promotional copies, there is a boost in sales of print books.
Curtis: Even through piracy. There's usually a delay in how quickly it shows up on piracy networks, and even still it boosts sales.

Chapman: Piracy is a threat to the bestselling authors (the Dan Browns). The midlist, it neither helps nor hurts. For the least known authors, piracy actually tend to help because their being read and talked about where they may not have been before.


Amy Cook: On Copyrights

Packed house for Amy (pictured right), a copyright lawyer based out of Chicago. Here are a few introductory nuggets of info:

Work in a tangible format is copyrighted.

Things that cannot be copyrighted: Titles, names, short phrases, slogans, lists of ingredients, facts, ideas, procedures, methods, work that consists entirely of common knowledge (such as calendars, height/weight charts, info from public documents.


Blog Hogs, Social Twitter and Online Tools for Authors: Blogs and blogging

Kassia Krozser on blogs: "Not just for navel gazing."

Three types of blogs:
  1. Personal blog. Good for developing voice.
  2. Group blog. Pros: multiple writers producing more content (like this blog). Cons: these blogs can be a little scattered (not like this blog hopefully).
  3. Blog tour. This is where you can post on other bloggers' blogs. Make sure you have original content and that it's relevant to the blogger's audience.

Q: How long should a blog be?

Kassia: As long as it needs to be--and in your writing style. There are no rules.


Blog Hogs, Social Twitter and Online Tools for Authors: Social networks

Robert Lee Brewer (me) introduced Kassia Krozser for her session on social networking, and she's already rolling into her presentation.

For Kassia, social networking is about bringing people together.

Here's her take on a few social networks:

Facebook: A gated community. It's about developing a system of relationships.

Twitter: Free-for-all. A never-ending cocktail party. "Conversations flow in several different directions."


eBooks, Kindles, and the Digitization of the Industry

Jane Friedman, Publisher and Editorial Director of WD, Ryan Chapman, Internet Marketing Coordinator at MacMillan, Kirk Biglione, digital media consultant and publisher at Quartet Press, and Richard Curtis, a leading New York literary agent and founder of E-Reads discuss new digital opportunities.

If you sell your book to a traditional publisher, should you reserve your ebook rights?
Curtis: It's all but impossible to keep your ebook rights if you sign a traditional book deal. Not even nonexclusive rights. This isn't likely to change.
Issues with Amazon:
  • Amazon has a huge backlog of titles to go on Kindle.
  • Amazon isn't giving up sales numbers (so comparisons with print editions are difficult).
  • The ranking system can be a subjective.
What kind of royalty can you expect with an ebook?
Curtis: The industry standard is about 25%. This isn't set in stone.
Chapman: Some genre publishers, like romance, may be higher—up to about 35%.


Breakfast With the Stars, Sunday: Jane Friedman Is Really a Fountain of Knowledge

A few more helpful links shared by Jane:

Jane: "It's not possible to get noticed TOO much." (Very true.)


Breakfast With the Stars, Sunday: Jane Friedman Keeps on Keeping On

Other DIY Publishing sites, include:

Note: Jane recommends Blurb for writers who want color images.


Breakfast With the Stars, Sunday: Jane Friedman (Continued)

Jane's moved on to Scribd (another free service available for writers).

Nice feature on Scribd is that you can view statistics, including comments, ratings, views, etc.


Breakfast With the Stars, Sunday: Jane Friedman

Melissa Hill has introduced Jane Friedman, Writer's Digest Publisher and Editorial Director. Jane is speaking on writers becoming their own publishers.

Her first link is Smashwords.

With just a simple Word file, a writer can create a book completely free. Check it out. Now!


Breakfast With the Stars, Sunday: William Cane (Still Continued)

William is now opening up the floor to questions. (Note: He's still wandering the floor.)

One Q: Who pays you for the college lecture circuit?

Cane says that colleges pay him, and that he actually makes more money from the lecture circuit than he does for his book.

Another Q: What came first--the publicity or the book?

Cane says to try doing both at the same time and let everything sort itself out. Call local newspapers, local news stations.

(Note: Cane is rolling out joke after joke as he's doling out his information.)


Breakfast With the Stars, Sunday: William Cane (Continued)

William Cane: "Almost all great writers sought publicity." He cites examples such as Herman Melville and even J.D. Salinger.

Cane goes on to say that writers need to develop a platform, because "somewhere there is a publisher pacing back and forth in an office thinking, I really need to find an author with a great platform."

Cane is still wandering among the tables as he speaks and getting the audience to laugh as he delivers his talk. Good stuff.

Also, Cane mentions that writers should really try to get on the college lecture circuit. Cites everyone from Dickens to Chris Rock.


Breakfast With the Stars, Sunday: William Cane

Writer's Digest Books editor Scott Francis has just introduced William Cane, who is already down on the floor in the middle of the ballroom and getting the audience to raise their hands as he asks questions like, "How many of you have published a book?," "How many of you have written a book?," etc.

I believe he's the first speaker to actually wander the floor as he speaks. He's one with the audience.


Breakfast With the Stars, Sunday: Kirk Biglione (Continued)

Good talk on Digital Rights Management (DRM). Not the sexiest topic in the world, but important for writers to understand. The issue is that there's no agreement (standard) in the industry on which one to use (the old VCR vs Beta debate). Once everyone agrees, buying ebooks will likely become even simpler.

Someone asked if, as a writer, you should be concerned about someone pirating your work, which led to Kirk's best takeaway quote from the speech:

"You should be so lucky to have someone who loves your work so much that they want to take it." (That made me laugh)


Breakfast With the Stars, Sunday: Kirk Biglione

Okay, everyone is up and ready for another day.

Digital media consultant and publisher Kirk Biglione has just been introduced by Brian Klems. Kirk is speaking on DRM (or Digital Rights Management). So far, he's explained how digital rights are becoming more important not only for writers and publishers, but also readers.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Agent Panel: From DIY to Traditional (Wrapping Up)

The agents agree: Once you have an agent or publisher interested in your work, don’t get caught up in the initial excitement and immediately say yes. Take a day or a couple of days (up to a week is usually acceptable) to thoroughly consider whether or not this is the best decision for you and your book, especially if you’ve already invested the time, money and energy into self-publishing it. This is one of just a few moments of power you’ll have in the author-agent-publisher relationship. Embrace it.


Agent Panel: From DIY to Traditional (Cont.)

Attendee question: If you move from self-publishing to traditional publishing, does all the momentum you created in marketing your book come to a screeching halt while it goes into production?

Agents: “Yep.”

The crowd laughed. But the agents went on to explain it will take 9-15 months minimum for a major house to publish your book—yes, even though it’s already written. And usually the publishing contract will specify a date when you need to stop selling your self-pubbed version. This is worth considering if you’re thinking about approaching traditional publishers with your self-published book.


Agent Panel: From DIY to Traditional (Cont.)

One attendee just raised his hand and asked why earlier today, some agents on a different panel said they don’t mind e-mail attachments, and this particular group of agents just said they think submitting your work via attachment is a big no-no. He says this may seem like a minor detail, but it’s the kind of contradictory information that frustrates writers.

The response from Miriam Kriss: “That’s why we have submission guidelines.”

Point taken. Agents’ preferences differ, and that’s why they have guidelines specifying how to submit your work—previously self-published or otherwise. Always, always, always check the guidelines before submitting. And be sure to follow them to a T.


Agent Panel: From DIY to Traditional (Cont.)

Candid observations from the agents on most of the self-published books out there:

--They need professional looking designs—including both cover packages and interior layouts.
--They need professional copy editing.
--They need better titles, which make just as much of a first impression on potential buyers/readers/agents as the designs do. Miriam Kriss observes: “People who can pick good titles generally can write.”
--They need to be able to demonstrate better sales figures. At minimum, Jenny Bent says, agents want to see a regional success story—meaning the book has sold strongly in the author’s region.

The key takeaway: If your book is well written, if there’s a market for it, and if it can stand out from the pack in these four areas, you have a better chance of getting agents interested in your submission of previously self-published work.


Agent Panel: A Tangent About Book Cover Design

Kind of a tangent here, but agents on the “Moving From DIY to Traditional Publishing” panel are telling interesting stories about the controversial incidents of publishers changing covers at the last minute because buyers at Barnes and Noble didn’t like the designs that were originally released/featured in the publisher’s catalog. Jenny Dunham has an interesting anecdote about one novel she represented in particular. B&N said they’d order (to place in stores nationwide) only a small number of the book as is (with a cover that both Jenny and the publisher loved), but would order more if the publisher changed the design—so, the publisher did, in order to accommodate the buyer and up that initial buy. Interestingly, now that the book is being released in paperback, it has a new cover that is very similar to the publisher’s initial cover. Even though the hardcover sold respectably (12,000-15,000 copies in trade sales alone), the publisher now thinks it could have done better, and is looking at the paperback as a sort of re-launch.


Agent Panel: Moving From DIY to Traditional Publishers

The room is full of great energy for the agent panel assembled to discuss “Moving From DIY to Traditional Publishers,” featuring these all-star literary reps:

--Jenny Dunham, of Dunham Literary
--Jenny Bent, who just left Trident Media and founded her own agency, which you can learn more about at (and who expressly invites everyone to follow her on Twitter!)
--Miriam Kriss, of the Irene Goodman Agency
--Diane Freed, of Fine Print Literary Management

Jenny Bent kicks off the panel with a great success story: One of her clients started out as an aspiring author who spent seven years collecting agent and editor rejections before deciding to self-publish her chick-lit novel. After self-publishing with some success, she decided to submit to agents again, and landed representation from Jenny, who sold the book to Random House. The previously self-published book debuted at Number 7 on The New York Times bestseller list.

All agents acknowledge this level of success is not typical. What does Jenny say was the author’s key to success?


Seven years after the author wrote her book, it happened to hit shelves at the height of the chick lit boom and became an “overnight success.” Would the response have been the same at any other time? Probably not.


Create your own Free Serialized Audiobook and Build an Audience

Miss seeing Seth Harwood and Scott Sigler talk about podcasting, blogging, and how they built big audiences online and landed major publishing deals by releasing their novels as free serialized audiobooks they recorded themselves?
If you did, or if you'd like to listen to the talk again, give a listen!
Click here to listen to their entire talk.
If you'd like to download the file and listen to it on your computer, MP3 player, iPod, whatever, rightclick the above link and choose "Download Linked File" or "Save Files As..."

Enjoy! We had a great time talking this morning and hope you'll have a great time hearing what we had to say.

Posted by Seth Harwood

I Guess if I Called Out Jane's College Poetry ...

I better "call out" myself too. Last night I took part in the inaugural WD Poetry Slam and, while I've never done one before, it was AWESOME! I didn't completely embarrass myself (no one threw anything), but I'm certainly a novice (what is up with my hand waving so much!?). And while I thought it would only be available to a few dozen people, a person out to get me friend (The Writer Mama herself) posted it for all the world to see.

So, without further ado, here's my embarrassing attempt at being a slam poet. (If you comment, please be kind. :-)


David Mathison: Drive Your Online Book Sales (continued)

You can create an affiliate program where organizations that fit with your tribe use their lists to sell your book. It's essential that your do all the work for these partners. They use their connections to sell your books. You then give them a percentage of the sales.

David Mathison: Drive Your Online Book Sales

David Mathison, author of Be the Media, sells all his books himself, not through retailers—mostly through his website.

The book is the most expensive and the lowest margin in your information empire—so repurpose your content create more opportunities to get your message to people.

How do you drive traffic to the website:
  • on-page: keywords, placement, format
  • off page: quantity/quality inbound links
Use Google Toolbar find higher ranking sites, then make relationships with those sites so they link back to you. You can also use My Yahoo or iGoogle to do this: stream an RSS of your blog onto your homepage. Having these high ranking sites link to your site will raise your rank. Digg also help to attract quality links to your site.


Brogan Keynote (continued): You are the new salesman

Chris Brogan is wrapping up. Here are few final paraphrased thoughts:

You are the best person to sell your book (or idea). Spread the word to friends. Market to humans. Make relationships. Build communities. Be a good person. Be grateful and gracious. Remember to say thank you.


Brogan Keynote (continued): It's not all about you

Blogging and Twitter tips from Chris Brogan:
  • writing about yourself is only really useful to you
  • give people things they can dig deeper into--things they can go out and do something with
  • with Twitter, search things out and find a conversation
  • learn to listen and ask people about themselves--don't just talk about yourself

Brogan Keynote (continued): Giving it away

Chris Brogan keynoted continues as he talks about how his book Trust Agents came about--he wasn't seeking a book deal when he was approached about writing the book. He was focused on blogging.

He advises searching out new ways to get your word out instead of choosing traditional paths.

"Don't go where ever the road may lead. Go where there's no road and leave a trail." he says.

He suggests not being afraid to give things away for free, as it generates interest and can create a market for you.


Chris Brogan keynote: Community vs. an audience

"What's the difference between a community and an audience? Turn the chairs in."

Brogan advises spending the time getting to know your potential readers--create a dialogue with them.

He says the trick of promoting is to not talk about yourself--that learning to talk about other people is the best way to get people to talk about you.


Brogan Keynote: It's About Communicating...

Chris Brogan starts out talking about how new technology is simply a tool. What matters is the audience and who you want to connect with. It's nice to hear some one bring things back to the human level. When people get all wrapped up in talking about social media sometimes they forget that it's really a means to an end and it's all really about communication.

His point: you don't have to get in line; don't line up for the slush pile that editors and agents won't read. The point is finding ways to connect with people and get their attention.


Chris Brogan Keynote About to Start

Lunchtime critiques just now wrapped up--lots of interesting projects; everyone seems to be enjoying the conference and learning a lot of ideas for platform building and pitching their projects.

Right now folks are filing into the ballroom for the keynote address from social media veteran Chris Brogan, President of New Marketing Labs. He's talking about the Book as Platform and elaborating on how to use social media tools like blogging, Twitter and Facebook to promote your work.

It's getting packed in here. Should be a great session.


Ask the Agents Panel hosted by Chuck Sambuchino

Q: Are there hard and fast rules for synopsis format?

Jessica: Three-five pages is typical. The most important thing is that the writing sings. Remember that the synopsis is typical the first sample of your writing an agent sees.

Q: Rejections?

Jessica: Interns do not make decisions on rejections. She does her best to read and evaluate everything.

Q: Series queries?

Michelle: Let agent know there is a series in the works, but query just one book.

Regina: Just simply make a note that there are other books in the series.

Jessica: But be sure to have synopses ready for the other books in the series in case the agent asks for them.

Q: Should you find an agent locally?

Regina: Agents in New York can have different kinds of relationships with editors than agents in ohter cities. Agents in other locations often make frequent visits to New York.


Ask the Agents Panel hosted by Chuck Sambuchino

Q: Is there an advantage to publishing an ebook?

Regina: It depends on how many units you sold. If the record is good, that can be positive. 100 copies is not impressive to a publishers.

Q: Do you have to personalize your query letter for each agent?

Michelle: Yes. It shows you've done your research.

Regina: Think of it as a cover letter for a job search. You'd definitely tailor it to the recipient.

Q: Are there hurdles for a non-US citizen in getting published in the US?

Regina: Part of it is the marketing piece of it. If you can show you'll promote the book in the US, there shouldn't be a problem.

Q: I have a well-developed non-fiction proposal, but I'm just beginning to develop a platform. Should I submit now, or wait a year?

Michelle: Often agents will work with you in developing the proposal as you work on your platform.

Regina: I wouldn't submit the manuscript until the platform is more developed. However, there are categories that don't require as rich a platform for their authors.


David Mathison: Building an Effective Author Website (continued)

Tips for author websites:
  • The key to an author site is to get contact information. To do that you need to offer something of value, like a free download.
  • You need a way to drive people to your site.
  • For search engine optimization put important information and key words at the top.
  • Promiscuously place a button to buy the book.
  • Find services like Paypal of One Shopping Cart to manage sales. Sales Force helps you manage your customer information.
Posted by Melissa Hill

Ask the Agents Panel hosted by Chuck Sambuchino

Q: Should you write a full manuscript for memoir?

Regina: Yes. Publishers will generally want to see the full manuscript for authors who are not famous/in the news.

Jessica: Don't use the word "Oprah in your proposal unless it's in the context that you'll be on Oprah next Thursday.

Michelle: She also wants a full manuscripts for memoir.

Q: How do you know that an agent has good editorial relationships?

Jessica: Check their websites and see what books they've published. She says a writer who has an offer from an agent should let them know you'll consider the offer, then email those who have seen your query, let them know you have an offer from "an agent" and offer them a chance look at your full manuscript.

Q: Is there a maximum number of agents you should query at once?

Michelle: Do maybe 8 at a time. You could get helpful feedback from that first batch before you move onto the next group of agents.


David Mathison: Building an Effective Author Website (continued)

If you have a fan base, don't sign a publishing contract. Control you audience and control you rights. If you can do it yourself, why sign away 95% of your profits to a publish who probably won't do much for you?

If you do sign with a publisher, have an attorney to help you guard your rights as an artist. A strong platform gives you the ability to negotiate with publishers. So focus on audience building.

David Mathison doesn't sell through Barnes and Noble so that he retains all information about each person who buys the book. That allows him to see how they're using the book and what other services and products they need.

Posted by Melissa Hill

Ask the Agents Panel hosted by Chuck Sambuchino

Q: What does an agent do?

Jessica: We're looking for a long-term working relationship. Dealing with contract is also important role for agents.

Regina: Accents help wade through the slush and offer agents the cream of the crop. She also helps authors come up with marketing plans.

Q: What do you need to do before you contact an agent?

Michelle: For nonfiction, you have to establish yourself as an expert and get your proposal together, then research agents and choose perhaps 10 to query.

Jessica: For fiction, you have to finish the manuscript in brilliant condition. Your first ten pages have got to be brilliant. You have to wow agents from the beginning. In a query, show that you'd done research on the agents.

Regina: For picture you don't need illustrations, you shouldn't include illustration notes, and you can generally submit the entire manuscript to an agent with a letter (but check agents' requirements). For YA, MG, tween books, she prefers query and first chapter. She recommends SCBWI.


David Mathison: Building an Effective Author Website

David Mathison, author of Be the Media, talks about developing a web presence.
  • New technology like blogs and podcasts makes writers as powerful as the world's largest news organizations.
  • The most important thing, more than finding a publisher or agent, is building platform. The author website is one of the best ways to building your customers list.
  • Instead of aiming for millions of fans, aim for 1,000 true fans.
  • Everyone should have products that they give away for free to build a fan base.
  • To have the widest fan base you must have an array of products with different values.
Posted by Melissa

Ask the Agents Panel hosted by Chuck Sambuchino

Agents taking part in the Ask the Agents panel:

Jessica Sinsheimer of Sarah Jane Freymann Literary. She got into agenting after getting an internship at an agency. She loved books and agenting became her path.

Regina Brooks of Serendipity Literary. She handles everything but sci-fi/fantasy. She was formerly an editor. She's able to handle a more broad range of titles as an agent than as an editor, which was part of her motivation to get into agenting.

Michelle Humphrey of Sterling Lord Literistic. She handle YA, women's fiction and more. She started at a kindergarten teacher, but decided it wasn't right for her, and ended up interning at an agency, and she's been agenting for three years.


Ask the Agents Panel hosted by Chuck Sambuchino

Guide to Literary Agents Editor Chuck Sambuchino is moderating a Q&A panel of agents next. They've cover query letters, what they look for in sample chapters, what they do and don't like to hear during a live pitch and more. Stay tuned.


Scott Sigler and Seth Harwood:
Their Websites

The crowd loved their talk, as did I (nearly half the crowd stuck around to shake their hands and thank them). So much great info. If you have a chance to see these guys talk, you should. Check out their websites/blogs if you have a chance:


Working with an Independent Editor Panel

How much does it cost to work with an indie editor?

Top editors doing developmental, structural, and line editing are charging in the neighborhood of $100/hour. Some more, some less. Some charge by the page or by the word or a pre-determined flat fee. It depends on what work is needed. Evaluations generally can cost around $2000.

Edits may work on 2-3 pages/hour or 10-12 pages/hour depending on the work needed. Why does it take so long?


Scott Sigler and Seth Harwood:
Recording 101

Seth has a sweet video explaining the process of recording your book to audio:


Scott Sigler and Seth Harwood:
The Short Definition of a Blog

The best way to think of a blog is this: A blog is a way to set up a website without having to know anything about setting up a website. Two keys here:

1. You don't need to know any programming
2. People can subscribe to it, so the content goes to them and they don't have to continually hunt for you.


Choosing a Publishing/POD Service

April is getting down to brass tacks when it comes to choosing a publishing/POD service based on the upfront costs and back-loaded fees -- plus how you want (or they want!) to price your book. Lots of useful charts and graphs in her presentation showing how to do the math.

You can get a taste of this by looking at her blog post that compares Lulu and CreateSpace.


Working with an Independent Editor Panel

The panel is going over several types of editorial involvement you can expect from an independent editors:
  • Manuscript evaluation and critiques
  • Development editing
  • Author revisions
  • Line editing
  • General publishing guidance
They are offering samples of edited manuscripts they've worked on. (It's enlightening to see this glimpse into their editorial processes.)

What they don't do:
  • Write your book for you
  • Guarantee interest from an editor or agent


Scott Sigler and Seth Harwood:
Your Audience's Budget

The Audience only has X amount of time that they can budget to reading, listening, etc. You need to show you are valuable and reliable enough for them to spend part of that time budget on you. Post consistently (Once a week, every Monday morning maybe?)

RECORD IT FIRST: Take as much time as you can to record your entire book before promoting, putting it out there. You need to have it ready for weekly posting and can't afford to accidentally miss a week because someone gets sick or other issue.


How to Create E-Books

April Hamilton is mentioning some easy ways to create e-books:
  • Easy-easy (one-click publishing): Scribd
  • Easy-easy (one-click publishing): Smashwords
  • A little more complicated: Amazon DTP (Kindle)
  • Add-on option with POD services like Lulu


Scott Sigler and Seth Harwood:
The Short Definition of a Blog

The best way to think of a blog is this: A blog is a way to set up a website without having to know anything about setting up a website.

Two keys here: 1. You don't need to know any programming and 2. People can subscribe to it, so the content goes to them (through Google Reader, etc. or iTunes if it's a podcast) and they don't have to continually hunt for you.

Scott: "I don't want people to have to struggle to find my content. If they want it, I want them to have it at all times and make it as effortless for them to get as possible."
(That's a great takeaway piece of advice)


Working with an Independent Editor Panel

Linda Carbone is discussing nonfiction. She stresses that nonfiction authors should work on a proposal rather than a complete manuscript.

The important parts of a proposal she's going over:
  • Introduction
  • Overview
  • Marketing and Promo opportunities
  • About the Author
  • Competing Books
  • Table of Contents
  • Chapter Summaries
  • Complete Sample Chapter
Note: for more on proposals see WD title How to Write a Book Proposal by literary agent Michael Larsen.


Scott Sigler and Seth Harwood:
Free Serialized Audio of Your Book

Once you show you can move (sell) books, publishers will take notice. That's why giving away your first book online for free and building up an audience is essential to getting publishers—who have ignored you for years—to wake up and realize your talent and value.


Print-on-Demand Gotchas

April Hamilton is discussing print-on-demand "gotchas":
  • Full color POD costs typically require author to set a list price most buyers aren't willing to pay.
  • POD printer vs. POD publisher. Who is the "publisher of record"? If they are the publisher of record, they are acting as a publishing service rather than a printer.
  • Are you allowed to publish the same material elsewhere?
  • Must you sign away any rights? (Avoid.)


Scott Sigler and Seth Harwood:
What is Podcasting?

A podcast is basically a subscription to an internet radio show.

(Did I mention that these guys give away their entire books online for free via weekly podcasts? Amazing.)


April Hamilton: Indie Authors & Temple of DIY

April Hamilton (founder of started down the traditional publishing route, had a top agent, editors liked her work, still no sale. (Commercial viability deemed not there.) So she ventured into the self-publishing space and has become a leader and advocate of the indie author movement.

Her definition of an indie author:
An indie author is not someone who is using self-publishing as a desperation move, but as a carefully considered and conscious decision to self-publish. An indie author is a businessperson and an entrepreneur.


Working with an Independent Editor Panel

Alice Rosengard is going over common problems with fiction manuscripts. They include point of view, sequence of events, theme.

Ruth Greenstein identifies a few more: mechanics and craft (writers need to revise and get feedback before they submit their work), character development, pacing and structure (she recommends using outlines), voice and style (which can be elusive and something that can be helped by an indie editor).


Scott Sigler and Seth Harwood:
Benefits of Serialized Audiobooks

--cheap to produce: you can do it yourself
--no cost MP3s
--Zero cost for instant, global distribution
--easily accessible for fans: iTunes store 60,000+ users
--Mobile: Fans can listen in car, commuting, while working out, etc.


Scott Sigler and Seth Harwood:
Podcasting Your Way to Book Sales

Scott and Seth have taken the stage. Packed room. Both have built audiences through podcasting their work--for free.

Both make a point that they've successfully bypassed the Agent and Editor (publisher) to get to their audience, which is the fundamental challenge to self-published authors.

More to come...


Scott Sigler and Seth Harwood:
Their Websites

The crowd definitely enjoyed their talk, as did I. Lots of valuable goodies. If you ever can see these guys in person, I recommend it. Check out both their websites/blogs when you have a chance:


Working with an Independent Editor Panel

Three independent editors are here to discuss what an independent editor is and how to know whether you need one:

Linda Carbone is an indie editor specializing in nonfiction. She's a former development editor for Basic Books and had worked for HarperCollins, Workman and others. She specializes in health, psychology, memoir, self-help, and more. She's also has been an author herself.

Ruth Greenstein was a staff editor at Harcourt and Ecco and has worked with authors such as Alice Walker, Erica Jong and many others.

Alice Rosengard is a book doctor and indie editor with experience in trade publishing, including 19 years at Harper. She edits fiction and nonfiction.

All three editors have their own businesses and are members of an organization for independent editors. They are going over their extensive work history in the publishing industry. They've all got a great deal of experience working on everything from cookbooks to poetry to nonfiction.

The work with authors to identify and solve problems with manuscripts.


An Aside...

A writer introduced herself to me during the most recent break and mentioned that she is now successfully using social networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter after attending a webinar presented by Alice Pope and myself. She said it really made a difference.

Having someone tell me I'm making a difference is always a great way to start the day. Yay!

By the way, if you want to purchase the Recorded Event, hunt it down at the


Breakfast With the Stars, Saturday: Peter Clifton

Peter Clifton is beginning to speak. As the president and CEO of, Peter will explain how authors can take advantage of his new website, which offers custom web pages for 1.8 million published authors with an active ISBN in the US or Canada.

Peter's slide reads: FiledBy is a free website for every author, co-author, illustrator, photographer, artist, editor, etc., involved in publishing.


Breakfast With the Stars, Saturday: Even More Al Katkowsky

Al makes a great point: Most in the publishing industry are siting around and waiting. Waiting and watching. But not acting.

If authors want to break ground, they can't wait and watch. They need to act. Or as Al says, they need to "call that guy."


Breakfast With the Stars, Stars: Still Al Katkowsky

Al mentions how he wasn't originally interested in developing an iPhone app for his book, because he didn't know anything about iPhone or iPhone apps. But had a meeting where it was displayed to him that more people will have cell phone access than computer access within the next five years--so, this is a great, untapped publishing market.

Al mentions that if you're interested in creating an iPhone app, though, you really need to make it part of the iPhone world, where you're competing with apps like Tetris (is it bad that I've got the Tetris theme song cranking out in my head?).

So, while iPhone apps have a lot of potential, authors need to make sure they're doing the right way.


Breakfast With the Stars, Saturday: Al Katkowsky

Guide to Literary Agents editor Chuck Sambuchino just introduced Al Katkowsky, who is going to reveal how he took his idea, Question of the Day, from a simple group activity to a published book, and then turned it into an App for the iPhone.

Al talks about how you need to be able to keep calling "that guy," whether that means pitching your ideas, setting up events, etc.


Breakfast With the Stars, Saturday: Avoiding Scams

Jane spent some time on avoiding bad agents, editors and publishers.

Useful sites:
Jane just finished to much applause. Next speaker up in a minute.


One thing with this group (and this is a good one thing): It does not take long for them to fill the silence with shop talk. About 14 tables, and animated conversations at all of them.


Poetry Slam: Recap

Guy Gonzalez hosted a very successful and fun 1st ever Writer's Digest poetry slam at the Bowery Poetry Club. There were pirate poems, poems about dads with minivans, and more. Oh yeah, and there was a bar, which is probably why I'm having trouble remembering even more details.

It was pretty laid back and filled with encouragement. I'll try to get the winners listed soon.


Breakfast With the Stars, Saturday: Waking Up

Attendees are still wandering into the ballroom. Jane Friedman is starting her talk.

She is currently covering how to use several helpful websites, including, BoSacks, MediaBistro, and more than 20 other sites.



Friday, September 18, 2009

Christina Katz: Meaningful Platforms (Continued)

Christina is wrapping up her session with these words of wisdom: Be who you are. Use your strengths to the best of your ability. "Be a person who makes good things happen, and good things will come back to you."

It seems that good karma can = good platform building.

POSTED BY Jessica Strawser, Editor, WD magazine

Christina Katz: Meaningful Platforms (Continued)

"Blogging: There's a whole chapter on it in my book. I have A LOT to say about it, more than we have time for here. So here's what I'm going to say: Don't start blogging until you're ready to put some energy into it in that cheerful, consistent way I talked about earlier."

In the prioritized platform to-do list, she advises you: Do your website first. Start your blog last.

Another great gem from Christina: "Platform building isn't any one thing you do. It's everything you do."

POSTED BY Jessica Strawser, Editor, WD magazine

Jane Friedman: My Embarrassing College Poetry

Not exactly sure how we got on this subject, but Jane is talking specifically about the ways you can publish your work online. She suggested doing it in a well, polished way. But to prove how easy it is to get it up, she showed how she recently put up all her old "embarrassing" college poetry.

Check it out here (hope she doesn't demote me--or worse, make me post mine--for linking to it):


Jane Friedman: More on "Audience First, Book Second"

Authors who established an audience first before selling the book to a publisher: Scott Sigler, Seth Harwood, Chris Guillebeau, Chris Brogan.


Christina Katz: Meaningful Platforms (Continued)

Christina says that you as an author should have a tag line that defines who you are and what you have to offer your readers.

Here are some examples of Christina's own tag lines:

For Get Known Before the Book Deal: "Make the most of what you have to author."
For Writer Mama: "If I can do it, you can do it, too."

She recommends adding it to your email signature, along with any links to relevant projects (your website, your book, an upcoming conference where readers can meet you, etc.).

POSTED BY Jessica Strawser, Editor, WD magazine

Christina Katz: Meaningful Platforms (Continued)

Christina (despite having literally written the book on being a Writer Mama!) says: Don't treat your writing like your baby. If you do, you won't be able to see it the way other people do.

POSTED BY Jessica Strawser, Editor, WD Magazine

Jane Friedman: What Type of Writer Are You?

1. The "God" Category—You want to be published by the big six publishers, make millions of dollars. In fiction: Story is king. In nonfiction: Platform, platform, platform.

2. "Growing" Category—People who are starting out and are focused more on the writing and have room to grow in the marketing world.

3. "Authority" Category—Do you know your audience better than a mainstream publisher? (This is especially key in nonfiction writing.) Small publishers may also be in tune better to specific, niche audiences. This is key for any author looking to target a key group of readers.

(Jane's in-depth breakdowns on these were great. Good insight on what it'll take on your end to work toward the goals of each category.)

Do you fit into one of these categories? Which one?


Christina Katz: Meaningful Platforms (Continued)

Christina is giving attendees a pop quiz of 10 yes-or-no questions every author needs to ask him or herself in building--and assessing--his/her platform. Here are a few:

Are you able to view yourself objectively? (Can you assess how ripe you are for authorhood, like an agent or editor would?)

Do you write for a very specific audience that is quantifiable and describable? (Do you know things about your audience? Do you know how many there are?)

Are you calmly passionate about your work, and able to work at it consistently and cheerfully?

POSTED BY Jessica Strawser, Editor, WD magazine

Jane Friedman: Publisher is Thinking Only About Money

Think about it like this: Any changes publishers want to make to the book is what they believe will help increase book sales. They want to make money--probably as much, if not more, than you. They basically want what's economically best for your book--and that's ultimately a good thing.


Jane Friedman: Note to Nonfiction Authors: Platform comes first!

Book second. Without a strong platform and topic, creating demand your book will have a difficult time finding it's place in the market.


Christina Katz: Do You Have a Meaningful Marketing Platform?

Platform guru Christina Katz begins her session by saying that slow and steady is the best way to build an author platform. She says that online is a logical place to start, because how well known you are as an author online is indicative of how well known you'll be as an author offline.

POSTED BY Jessica Strawser, Editor, WD magazine

Deciding the Best Publishing Route for You

Jane Friedman, editorial director and publisher of WD is now on stage, giving us the inside scoop on how to decide whether to traditionally publish or self-publish.

(I gave the intro. Went OK. Got a compliment on my sweater. That was nice.)


Opening Address: Building an audience has never been easier

Mike said it, not me. He also the publishing world of the 70s is in the past and not coming back. (And I believe him.)

He just finished his address to applause and is now answering questions from the audience.


Opening Address: Mike is on fire

Mike Shatzkin is not only rolling through a ton of material, but he's also getting the audience to laugh at the same time. Great stuff.

He's now talking about the possible role of agents in future world of publishing. Mike name dropped the upcoming Digital Book World event. (Link to come--or Google it.)


Opening Address: What Publishers Will Want

Mike is giving out a long list of things publishers will want from publishers. Some of the things publishers will want include more marketing out of writers, link possibilities (for XML documents and eBooks), and more--he even mentioned the possibility of iPhone apps.


Opening Address: From IP to eyeballs

Mike talks about how publishing is moving "from IP to eyeballs."

By this he means, that distributed content used to be scarce (and worth money). But now, with the Internet, distributed content is obviously not as scarce (and not worth as much money to consumers).

So, this makes it harder on publishing companies to compete.


Opening Address: Format vs. Content

Mike Shatzkin has jumped straight into his address by looking at what media was, what it is, and where it's headed. For instance, he's mentioned how format used to dictate content; now, format is a little more ambiguous.

Mike used the terms horizontal for the old media, vertical for the new media.

He also mentioned that the sales of books as "books" is shrinking.


Opening Address: Let's get this party started!

Okay, the Opening Address is about to begin. Digital publishing futurist Mike Shatzkin will be addressing the room momentarily.

The room is absolutely buzzing with plenty of attendee networking happening.

O, here's Greg Hatfield quieting the room and introducing Mike.

Let's get rolling!


We Made It

Looks like all the WD staff made it here safely. Great crowd off the get-go. I have a feeling this is the beginnings of a great weekend.