Notes from PNWA Conference 2011: Part 2

From Jen:

  • These are the notes I originally jotted down by hand during this particular session of the 2011 PNWA conference. I haven’t edited or added comment to them; if you need clarification on any portion, leave me a comment and I will find the answer for you.
  • In these notes, when I write “publishers” as opposed to “indie” or “self-publishing,” I’m usually referring to the “big six.”  The “big six” is a term commonly used on blogs and within publishing circles to talk about the six largest publishers in the industry. The “big six” are primarily located in New York and include Hachette Book Group (formerly Warner Books of Time Warner), HarperCollins, MacMillan Publishers Ltd, Penguin Group, Random House, and Simon & Schuster.
  • “Brand author” refers to authors who have instant name and brand recognition (for example, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, James Rollins, Tom Clancy, etc.).

E-Pub, POD, and the Future of Publishing for the Writer

Presented by Bob Mayer, author of Write it Forward: From Writer to Successful Author

“Everything I say is my opinion. I’m using my twenty years of publishing experience. The world is moving too fast for trial and error.”

Publishing is changing exponentially.

Agents and editors are not writers. They’re corporations.

Kindle will rule the world. If Apple buys Barnes & Noble, then they’ll have some money behind the Nook and be competitive.

Random House pushes three or four (out of 600) new titles a year. The rest, they just throw out there and see what happens.

What you do for self-publishing (marketing, promotion, publicity) you are going to do for traditional publishing, anyway.

“I don’t want to burst any bubbles, but agents tell just about everyone during the conference one-on-ones to send them something because 90% of attendees won’t actually send anything. They’ll reject themselves first.”

Know where you want to be as a writer five years from now.

Don’t be more concerned with promoting over publishing.

You’re in charge of your career; not your agent, not your editor.

Nobody knows what’s going on in publishing right now.

Publishers used to hold the lock on distribution. Not so anymore.

Writers produce the product. Readers consume the product. They’re the most important two factors in the chain, but have traditionally been considered the two least important by the publishing houses.

Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.

Bob Mayer sold over 70,000 of his own e-books in July and grossed over $100,000.

The publishing business model is badly outmoded.

Don’t price your e-book over $9.98 on Amazon e-books or you’ll receive a 40% royalty instead of 70%. Otherwise you need to jump up to $19.98 per e-book. Find the sweet spot in pricing. $2.99, $3.99, $4.99.

You can promote your books from home, rather than in person, via social media. You will have to do the marketing yourself anyway in traditional publishing unless you’re a brand author.

Barnes & Noble isn’t renewing long term leases on property they don’t already own. They see the writing on the wall and are ready to start dumping stores.

90% of first novels don’t earn out.

Best promoter of a book is the author.

Unless you have a $500,000 advance, publishers will just throw your book out there and see what happens.

Print on Demand is the future of printed books.

Trade paperback is the fastest growing segment while the mass market paperback is a shrinking market.

Traditional publishing is techno phobic and static. The future is fluid and fast.

Kindle is like “cable on demand” for books. Instantly read what you want, when you want.

The Indie and small publishers are more adaptable to change.

Nonfiction readers tend to want print books because they like them as a reference tool.

The role of the agent is changing. They are becoming packagers.

Why would you need an agent?

  • If you want to be published in New York.
  • To help editorially
  • To handle the business of dealing with publishers
  • To help negotiate

Walmart is the #1 retailer of print books.

The espresso book making machine will save the indie bookstore. But indie bookstores let emotion get in the way. They must change, too, instead of ignoring reality.

Indie bookstores consider Kindle and Amazon their enemies, but they should only consider them competitors. All of them sell books.

Three books are key for new authors to break out.

Mid-list authors are jumping ship from traditional publishers. Their e-book royalty rate is awful.

Nobody truly self-publishes. It requires a lot of outsourcing and expenditure for editing and design.

You have more control over self-publishing but you also have more work. It’s as hard to succeed in self-publishing as it is in traditional publishing.

New York doesn’t understand the art of author promotion.

Readers don’t care where a book comes from. They don’t look on the spine of the book for the publisher.

You need to have your fingers in all pieces of the pie: traditional, self, POD, e-book. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Keep options open. Use all venues.

Don’t release your book in parts, like a serial. Readers want the whole thing at once.

Key to success is persistence.


  • Kindle and Nook are most popular. People don’t seem to like reading on the iPad.
  • People buy books on impulse
  • The lower pricing is a big advantage


  • Be cost-effective in money and time.
  • Don’t waste your social media time
  • Market yourself AND your book.
  • No one else will do it for you.
  • Thinking your publisher will market your book is like thinking your ObGyn will raise your child.

In 2004 there were 1.2 total new book titles. 950,000 of those titles sold less than 99 copies each.

Have confidence that what you’re promoting is worth it.


  • Write good content
  • Write more books
  • Link to something

Balance promotion with supporting and networking for others.

Who’s your target audience? Your niche?

What desires/needs are you tapping into?

What’s your message for those desires and needs?

Be consistent with your message and brand.

Repeat your message over and over again.

Content, content, content.

There are many markets and niches. There’s one for everybody.

Know your goal. Be professional. Get out of your comfort zone.


  • No upside to discussing the reviews of your book.
  • No contests and giveaways on your site.
  • No e-mail list sign up. Nobody likes that anymore.
  • Site must look professional.
  • List your website in every book you write.


  • Inform and entertain.
  • Pull from blog for your book.
  • Comment on other people’s blogs.
  • Have a purpose.

Generate good will.

Do everything you can.

Write the best possible book.

Who cares what’s hot in the market. Write the book you’re meant to write.

The best book you’ll write is the book you’re most afraid to write.

Be your own boss.

90% of people aren’t willing to learn anything.

Nothing just “happens.”

Platform, Product, Promotion. They’re all different for each person.

Act instead of react.

Don’t market to fellow writers. Market to readers.


Bob Mayer is a N.Y. Times, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly and USA Today Best-selling author. He graduated West Point, served in the Special Forces (Green Berets), including commanding an A-Team, taught at the J.F.K Special Warfare Center & School, has conducted thousands of presentations, workshops and keynotes both in the United States and internationally.

Find out more about Bob Mayer and his books, classes, conferences, and insights by viewing his website, reading his blog or visiting Who Dares Wins Publishing.


  1. Hey Jen!

    Thanks for sharing. Actually, thanks for doing the research then posting it. I didn’t have to do a thing but go to your blog! Not too many writer’s conferences here in Cordova, so I appreciate it.
    Keep up the good work and good writing. And thanks again. Ok, I gotta get back to your blog and see what else ya got.
    I’m out.

    • Well, thank you very much! My pleasure. It was all such interesting information (and there’s more to come!) that I felt selfish just sitting on it by myself. Much better to share, I think! (And who could leave quotes like “Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way” buried in a notebook? lol.)

  2. Thanks for your last two posts. They’ve been very interesting and thought provoking.

    First, let me say that I am impressed and proud of you for making the decision to attend the conference without the added pressure and distractions of pitches. I thought that took a lot of guts, and it seems to have turned out to be the best decision for you this year. I am glad you had an opportunity to really listen and learn this year, without having half your mind on an upcoming pitch.

    Second, I am wondering if you have started using a Kindle or Nook. I myself have not, yet, but fear the writing is on the wall. I suppose it is inevitable, I guess I should find out if one is more safe for the bathtub than another…. 😉

    Also, I’ve been meaning to tell you how much I loved your guest blog on Homefront. It was fabulous, and spot on!

    Jen, you are a wonderful writer!

    • Thank you so much! I’m so glad that the posts have been useful and interesting. There was so much information that putting it into a blog series just seemed like the perfect way to share it with others.

      I haven’t started using an official Kindle or Nook yet, but I did download the Kindle app onto my iPhone last year and have downloaded a few reference books. I like that it eliminates clutter in the house and that I can quickly scan through for the info I’m looking for and then save for future reference.

      Recently I asked on Facebook what people prefer in an e-reader and the response was overwhelmingly Kindle. People seem to absolutely love it. I got one for G for his b’day but he hasn’t activated or used it yet. I see one in my future but not just yet. :)

      I also appreciate the feedback on the Happy Homefront guest post. I wasn’t sure how it went over as there wasn’t a lot of response, but I’m glad you liked it. It just seems so silly that everyone tries to be a seasonally single superhero parent most of the time, and when you aren’t honest about how that’s really working out for you (and especially for your children), nobody wins.

      I’ve learned that when I start to feel overwhelmed and frustrated with even the littlest of tasks, it’s time to call in reinforcement and take a minute to regroup. :)

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