Archive for PNWA Conference

Notes from PNWA Conference 2011: Part 5, Conclusion

Write it Forward: From Writer to Successful Author

Closing seminar of the PNWA 2011 conference, presented by Bob Mayer in the Grand Ballroom. Mayer is a N.Y. Times, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly and USA Today Best-selling author.

From Jen: The following are several pages of notes I originally jotted down by hand during the final two-hour 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.

*****

What is holding you back? You. Not your agent, editors, or anybody else.

Agents pretty much tell everyone in the one-on-ones to send them material. 90% of people won’t actually do it.

Agents need us more than we need them.

Emotions and background can be your platform.

Less than 5% of people are willing to change.

Don’t focus on what you are; focus on what you aren’t. Go to your weaknesses and make them better.

Self-help books need to be under 50,000 words.

Focus on anything that makes you upset or angry or inspired. Apathy is not caring. That means you don’t care anymore. It’s better to have feelings one way or another.

No one is going to take charge of your writing career but you. No one is going to care more about your book than you.

Is talent or perseverance more important? Perseverance.

The only person that can stop you is you.

Don’t confuse goal with motivation.

Keep it positive. A negative goal is automatic defeat.

Study successful authors.

What do you fear doing? Often, this is what you must do.

Writers usually aren’t writing the books they should be writing.

Who cares what’s hot? Write the book you want to write.

Trends last three years.

Will anyone else care? Make them care.

Writing about something don’t care about will show up in the result.

You have to look at a minimum of three books. Each book has to stand alone but have continuity.

Where is the Passion?

  • What excited you?
  • What excites the people you tell it to?
  • What does the consumer relate to?

Where is the Fear?

  • What do you fear doing?
  • Risk-taking involves facing fear
  • Often what we must do flies in the face of our fear.

You need a unique protagonist.

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

Network and ask for help.

Study other books like yours.

Read a lot.

Study the publishing business.

You can’t ignore fear; you must plan for it.

Change brings discomfort and then fear.

Character is more important than plot.

Emotion is more important than logic.

Open Mindedness

  • Grown mindset.
  • Willingness to surrender.
  • Close doors. You have the power to say no.

99% of what we do is habit.

Platform

  • Name recognition (brand).
  • Are you an expert in your field?
  • Special background that makes you unique?

Product

  • Your book.
  • Your articles.
  • Your classes.

Promotion

  • Ability to do it.
  • Access to media outlets.
  • Social media.  Your name is your screen name. Your photo is your screen photo.
  • Interaction with the public.
  • Hook, niche, uniqueness.

Change

  • If you aren’t where you want to be, you must change.

This is the best time ever to be a writer.

The successful become.

The #1 character arc people like is redemption.

  • Moment of enlightenment
  • Make a decision
  • Sustained action

Emotional stages of change.

Bookstores are retail outlets that must change with the environment.

You hear about indie bookstores going out of business but not indie authors going out of business.

The hardest thing about being a writer is writing.

It’s statistically born out; perseverance is more important than talent.

You need a writing community. Only writers understand other writers.

Denial defends blind spots and justifies needs.

Fear of….

  • Success
  • Failure
  • Rejection
  • Starting
  • Finishing
  • Revealing too much about ourselves
  • Criticism
  • Making wrong decision
  • Mistake
  • Peaking
  • Regrets

People who write reviews on Amazon do not represent your average reader.

Rip away denial.

Most fear is subconscious.

We bend our lives around fear.

Fear can become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

We feel like we’re fooling everybody.

Many writers and artists feel like frauds.

Whatever you’re afraid of, you must attack into it. Attack the ambush.

Write what you’re afraid to know instead of what you know.

Take action. Thinking about it isn’t going to help you.

You need a catastrophe plan

  • Plan to avoid catastrophe.
  • Deal with it when it happens.
  • Plan to free your mind from worry to focus on success.

Have a backup plan. Scared writing isn’t good writing.

Plan three years ahead in publishing.

Communicate, Command, Complete.

Big publishers promote ten authors. The rest they just throw out there.

You are in charge of your writing career.

90% of first time traditionally published novels fail because publishers don’t do what the author expects them to do.

Know why you’re on social media.

There’s no such thing as self-publishing. You will be outsourcing editing, layout, cover.

An e-book cover is very different from a traditional book cover.

In order to succeed you’re going to have to break rules.

 *****

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.

Notes from PNWA 2011 Conference: Part 4

Finding Your Thread in Memoir

(Notes from the seminar presented by Janna Cawrse Esarey, author of The Motion of the Ocean: One Small Boat, Two Average Lovers, and a Woman’s Search for the Meaning of Wife. )

What particular time or aspect of your life would you write about?

Why do you want to write about it?

What makes it an interesting or valuable topic for you as a writer?

What’s your personal goal in writing about it?

Why will someone want to read about this aspect/time of your life?

What will the gain? Inspiration, knowledge, a good laugh?

Include:

  1. Topic
  2. Theme
  3. Plot events
  4. Story arc
  5. Dialogue and scene
  6. Perspective

A memoir is not your life. It’s art. An impression.

Don’t confuse topic with theme. Your theme gives you an angle, a focus that will drive your story forward and help it hang together.

Choose one dominant thread.

Everything in your book should relate directly or indirectly to the thread.

“Life is messy. Your story line is not.”

Hook a reader by writing the things they think but would never say out loud. Memoir is not for the faint of heart. Candid and honest is the way other people can relate.

“You have something to tell. Just tell the damn story.”

Clean up the loose ends and fix it up later.

Memoir should be between 70,000 and 90,000 words.

*****

How to Set Up an Author Blog Tour

(Notes from Kathryn Trueblood, author of The Sperm Donor’s Daughter and Other Tales of Modern Family and The Baby Lottery.)

Blog tours extend the life of your book by quite a bit.

Create a web release and go through the blog rolls of similar blogs to help create a list of where to send the release.

Send the web release a month before the book is released.

Create a “Media” page for your blog and include a downloadable press kit. The press kit should include your press release, high resolution images of the cover of your book, your author bio (long and short versions), and your author photo.

Memorable quote about Kathryn’s decision to not use Facebook and the way writers may waste their time on some social media:

“I may be losing out on sales, but I’m not losing out on writing time.”

*****

The New Emerging Indie Publishers

(Notes from the PNWA 2011 roundtable discussion featuring April Eberhardt, Nathan Everett, Bob Mayer, and Katherine Sears about independent publishers, self-publishing, and traditional publishers.)

 

You have to have something to say and be a good writer; the bar is higher in self-publishing than in traditional publishing.

You’ll need an editor if you self-publish.

The front cover matters; yes, people do still judge a book by its cover.

Build and research your readership.

Blog tours and Facebook ads are ways to market your book.

There’s a very moderate distinction between indie (independent) publishing and self-publishing.

If you enjoy marketing, you may not need an independent publisher. They may not be able to do any more for you than you can.

In traditional publishing, you’ll get more help with promotion once you cross a particular threshold of sales.

One of the best things you can do for promotion is go to other people’s blogs and leave comments. However, people can tell when you’re only self-promoting or trying to create links back by leaving your comment.

New York (the “big six”) is in their own world and they’re still wedded to the old publishing world.

Light a lot of little fires because you never know which one will ignite and take off.

Promote for other people and pay it forward.

Publishers are leery more now than ever of taking on authors or books they don’t know for sure will sell.

You really have to decide where you want to be in five years as a writer.

The first sentence of your back cover description is the most critical sentence you’ll ever write. You have one shot to make that first impression. Make that entire description as great as you can.

Notes from PNWA Conference 2011: Part 3

Lunch with NY Times Bestselling Authors Steve Berry and James Rollins

(A 45-minute lunchtime Q&A session with the authors)

From Jen:

  • This was a fun, informal session with the two authors, open to all conference attendees.
  • The following list of Steve Berry’s rules for writing was recited so quickly and authoritatively by Berry that I can’t believe I got them all down!

Steve Berry’s Eleven Rules of Writing:

  1. There are no rules. You can do anything you want as long as it works.
  2. Don’t bore the reader.
  3. Don’t confuse the reader.
  4. Don’t get caught “writing.” Keep the illusion going at all times.
  5. Don’t lie to the reader. Misleading and redirecting is fine.
  6. Don’t annoy the reader.
  7. Writing is rewriting. (Steve Berry goes through his manuscripts fifty pages at a time, up to seventy times each).
  8. Writing is rhythm. Must flow.
  9. Shorter is ALWAYS better.
  10. Story does not take a vacation. Don’t stop the story.
  11. You have to tell a good story. Good writing will not forgive a bad story.

James Rollins:

  1. Don’t forget the five senses. There are more senses than just the visual. Rollins said sometimes he’ll write several chapters using just the visual sense and then reminds himself to go back and add in the other senses. (The five senses are sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing.)
  2. Give yourself permission to write crap. You don’t have to write brilliant prose each day. Let loose of your inner editor.

Steve Berry:

“I edit every fifty pages and I do the edits over and over. I look for verbs on one reading, and then repeat words the next reading. I go through the book fifty to seventy times. I make it shorter and tighter each time through.”

James Rollins:

“Write every day, read every night. Keep honing and sharpening your skills by reading the professionals.”

  • The new writer should use an outline. Outlining books all the way through forces you to think about plot and saves you a lot of rewriting.
  • We spend 90% of our time thinking about what to write and 10% of our time writing.

Steve Berry:

“The publishing industry isn’t changing by the day but by the hour. It’s a brutal industry and I feel sorry for everyone trying to break in now.”

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.

E-readers:

  • 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

Marketing:

  • 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.

Keys:

  • 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.

Website

  • 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.

Blog

  • 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.

Introduction to Blog Series on the 2011 PNWA Conference

I made a strategic decision to not pitch anything to agents and editors at the PNWA conference this year. I did have three appointments lined up, including one that I thought would have been an especially good fit, but in the end I decided against it. Everyone thought I was crazy for making that decision. The volunteer to whom I returned all of my appointment cards was incredulous.

“Are you sure? Why?” he asked as he reluctantly held out his hand to take the cards back.

I replied that it was not an easy decision, but I was happy about it. I explained that I just didn’t feel well, for starters, was a bit worn out, and just didn’t want to put more pressure on myself. I didn’t want to feel overly excited, or nervous, teeming with anxiety and adrenalin. Sometimes, those are fun feelings and wonderful to experience, but not for me this time.

I wanted to take in the conference this year in a calm and focused manner instead of leaving seminars early to make my pitching appointments or go over and over my thirty-second pitch in my mind instead of truly listening to the things I came to learn. I don’t have a lot of energy right now, and I had to choose the best way to channel that energy.

So in the end, I felt good about watching my three appointment cards join several others in the glass jar that was collecting them all. I also felt good knowing that I was going to make three other writers extraordinarily happy and excited when they learned three coveted agent and editor appointments had just opened and they could slide into them. That made me smile the most.

One of the things I did instead was make an appointment for new professional head shots.  My last series of official photographs were taken three years ago and while I still liked them, it was time to update. I was impressed that Mark Bennington, a freelance photographer based in Los Angeles who’s working on a documentary about the acting community in Mumbai, had a booth at the conference and was available to take writer photographs.

I’ve known about Mark for a few years now because he’s taken the official photographs of many writing and publishing insiders, including one of my writing mentors, Christina Katz. I didn’t bring anything fancy to wear for the photo shoot because I don’t have much that isn’t maternity, and I didn’t want to look pregnant in my pictures.

“Can you make me thin again?” I asked Mark, only half-joking.

“You’re beautiful!” he replied.

I was nervous and stiff for the most part, so Mark had to work overtime to get me to lighten up.

“What do you like to do?” he called out.

“Drink!” I replied (again, only half-joking).

“Name something that makes you happy!” he called next.

“Jazzercise!” I answered.

In the end, I got about 20 shots to use. I’ve put two up on the blog already and plan to change them out every once in a while.

I’m going to write a short series of blog posts from the notes I took at the conference. Even though I brought a mini laptop to use for conference note taking, I didn’t use it. I opted instead to take notes by hand, using the pen and tablet provided in our conference packet. As a result, I’m now organizing and typing them up to use here.

I thought it would be fun to begin this short blog series with a few quotes that stood out from the various speakers whose seminars I attended.

My favorite quotes from the conference:

  • “Follow your dreams, or your dreams will follow you.”—-Deb Caletti
  • “Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.”—-Bob Mayer, NY Times bestselling author.
  • “You have a story to tell. So tell the damn story.” —-Janna Cawrse Esarey, author of The Motion of the Ocean: One Small Boat, Two Average Lovers, and a Woman’s Search for the Meaning of Wife.
  • “The publishing industry isn’t changing by the day but by the hour. It’s a brutal industry. I feel sorry for everyone trying to break in now.”—-Steve Berry, NY Times bestselling author.
  • “Write every day, read every night.”—-James Rollins, NY Times bestselling author.

And here are several additional quotes from from Bob Mayer that I picked up from three of his presentations I attended. Mayer 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, and has conducted thousands of presentations, workshops and keynotes both in the United States and internationally. He’s a N.Y. Times, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly and USA Today Best-selling author.

Mayer was one of the most popular speakers at the conference, due in part to the open, honest, humorous, and intelligent manner in which he shared his twenty years’ experience with traditional and self publishing.  His military background and leadership training was also a unique draw for the crowd. (“He could kill a man with nothing but a spoon,” someone tweeted from the conference.)

From Bob Mayer:

  • “I don’t want to burst any bubbles, but agents and editors tell everyone to send them something after the conference one-on-ones, because 90% of attendees won’t actually do it, rejecting themselves first.”
  • “Expecting your publisher to promote your book is like expecting your ObGyn to raise your child.”
  • “Will anyone else care? Make them care.”
  • “90% of people aren’t willing to learn anything.”
  • “Probably the best book you’ll write is the one you’re most afraid to write.”
  • “The only thing keeping print book sales up is Costco and Walmart, and that’s maybe twenty authors.”
  • “The hardest thing about being a writer is writing.”
  • “Courage is acting in the face of fear.”
  • “The big publishers promote ten authors. The rest, they just throw out there.”
  • “Attack the ambush. Whatever you’re most afraid of, you must attack into it.”

More from many of these authors in the next couple of blog posts. I’ll be starting with Bob Mayer and his first conference presentation, “E-pub, POD, and the Future of Publishing for the Writer.”