Writers' Forum - February 2018
The second year of the Writers' Forum continues! Each month there is no shortage of important publishing news and helpful writing information to share with other authors, particularly those independently publishing their books. This is a compilation of the news you need to know along with a preview of the upcoming book events in southern Wisconsin. I am incredibly thankful for the assistance and advice given to me from writing and publishing professionals and am happy pay that forward. On a professional level, I also use my publicity and editorial skills to aid other authors through my company Lost Lake Press. I'd love to use my skills to guide you through the steps of independent publishing.
March Book Events
NEW FREE EVENT IN MADISON – The first Friday of the month a new free series of author focused events will take place in Madison at Neighborhood House, 29 S. Mills Street. Author Bridget Birdsall kicks off the new event this Friday, March 2, 6:30 to 8:00 pm, with a talk about her creative process and writing exercises for the audience. Birdsall is the award-winning author of Double Exposure and Ordinary Angels.
Mystery to Me Bookstore, 1863 Monroe Street, Madison
Sunday, March 4 at 3pm - S. J. Gazan discusses her books Dinosaur Feather and The Arc of the Swallow
Tuesday, March 6 at 7 pm - Karen Karbo discusses her new book In Praise of Difficult Women
Saturday, March 10 at 3 pm - T.E. Woods discusses her new book The Wrong Sister
Sunday, March 11 at 2 pm – Victoria Price discusses Way of Being Lost
A Room of One’s Own, 315 W. Gorham Street, Madison
Thursday, March 22 at 6 pm – Forrest Gander, author of Core Samples from the World
Friday, March 23 at 6 pm – Book Launch for Michael Edmonds, author of Taking Flight
Monday, March 26 at 6 pm – Sonya Renee Taylor, author of The Body is Not an Apology
Boswell Books, 2559 N. Downer, Milwaukee
The following events sponsored by Boswell Books are in April but are likely to be popular. Reserve your tickets early.
Wednesday, April 18 at 7 pm – An evening with Anita Shreve, author of The Stars Are Fire at the Elm Grove Women’s Club, 13885 Watertown Plank Road.
Monday, April 23 at 7 pm – An evening with Meg Wolitzer, author of The Female Persuasion, in conversation with Jane Hamilton at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, 1111 E. Brown Deer Road.
Books & Company, 1039 Summit Avenue, Oconomowoc
Wednesday, March 7 at 7 pm – A Talk and Book Signing with David Bohl, author of Parallel Universes
Book Festivals and Writing Conferences & Courses – Spring
In addition to the wonderful author events above, I wanted to spend a little time featuring the details of upcoming conferences and classes. . . these are for writers except for UntitledTown, which is for both readers and writers.
Focus on Fiction Workshops – Saturdays, March 3, May 5, June 2 from 1 to 3:30 pm at Neighborhood House, 29 S. Mills Street Madison (Programs are part of the UW-Madison Continuing Studies Department.)
UW-Madison Writers’ Institute – April 12 – 15 at the Concourse Hotel, Madison, WI
The Writers' Institute is in its 29th year and provides an excellent experience for all levels of writer. This is four days of education, entertainment, and writing inspiration. This was the first conference I ever attended, and since 2009 I have gone nearly every year as an attendee or, now, as a speaker. Their schedule is truly packed full of amazing sessions, including the chance to pitch your work directly to agents. Here’s a fun article with some highlights of the upcoming Writers’ Institute.
UntitledTown Book and Author Festival – April 19 – 22 at various locations in Green Bay, WI
UntitledTown blasted onto the scene in 2017 with a first-rate slate of authors that included Margaret Atwood and Sherman Alexie. This year’s featured authors include Roxanne Gay, R.L. Stine, Mary Roach, Danez Smith, Christopher Moore, Dan Chaon, Kristen Radtke, Jose Orduna, Lynda Barry, Michael Perry and at least 100 other authors. The conference offers the chance to hear these famous writers speak and also attend sessions on the craft of writing. The majority of the events are free and open to the public, although there may be a ticketing/reservation system for the more well-known authors. This year I will be on three panels discussing everything from fantasy fiction to series writing to how to promote your work.
Lakefly Writers’ Conference – May 11 & 12 – Oshkosh Convention Center
The Lakefly Writers' Conference is an affordable but very professionally run conference, sponsored by the Oshkosh Public Library in partnership with the Oshkosh Area Writers Club. Registration is now open. This truly is a supportive community of writers. The conference offers more than a dozen workshops on the craft and business of writing, designed to inspire and guide your creative journey.
Fiction Writing Workshop – Wednesdays, May 16 to June 6 – Neighborhood House, 29 S. Mills Street Madison
This four-week class is taught by Christopher Chambers and is part of the writing course offerings from UW-Madison Continuing Studies Department. I’ve taken classes taught by Chris before and highly recommend him as an instructor. This will be a small workshop that will combine brief traditional lectures on writing craft with supportive critiques of your work. If you are already writing original creative work, this workshop will help sharpen your skills while working toward completion of publishable work. We’ll discuss and refine manuscripts with instructor and peer feedback. Prerequisite: A novel opening or story project up to ten pages. To register click here.
Write by the Lake – June 11 – 15 on the UW-Madison Campus
Like the Writers’ Institute, Write by the Lake is a program of UW Madison’s Continuing Studies Department. I have never attended this workshop/retreat, but I know others who have. They say that it is the most amazingly, creative week and are always glad that they attended. The program was recently featured in The Writer magazine, which says “It’s like two semesters of an MFA program. You work so hard and get so much to take home with you.” For more information, click here.
Last month, I explained how CreateSpace was getting out of the design service business. After March 15, you’ll no longer have a team available to edit, format interiors, or create your book covers. When I published my first book in 2014, I used their interior designers. (Since then, I’ve learned how to do this on my own.) So I was curious about getting the native file released to me, so I can continue to update it on my own. Here’s what I learned when I called.
- The interior design was done in InDesign.
- They won’t release that file to me, but just in case they decide to do that in the future, they’ve flagged my file with that request.
- They directed me to my project toolbox (which you find in the upper right area of your title project page). There is both a word doc and a pdf doc that was downloaded to me for proofing the last time I made updates. The word file is at least usable to me as that’s how I format the interior of my books now—using the CreateSpace word template. So at least that’s something.
- I’ll let you all know if they give the InDesign file in the future.
Did the CEO of Hachette Really Say that E-Books Are a Stupid Product?
Yes, he did, but the headline is somewhat sensationalistic. (Go figure!) Here’s the Q&A from that section of the interview:
It’s been a little over ten years since ebooks came to the market in the form of Kindle. You mentioned a small decline – do you think the market has plateaued? Are there formats other than ebooks that publishers should be looking at?
There are two different geographies to look at for this. In the US and UK, the ebook market is about 20% of the total book market, everywhere else it is 5%-7% because in these places the prices never went down to such a level that the ebook market would get significant traction. I think the plateau, or rather slight decline, that we’re seeing in the US and UK is not going to reverse. It’s the limit of the ebook format. The ebook is a stupid product. It is exactly the same as print, except it’s electronic. There is no creativity, no enhancement, no real digital experience. We, as publishers, have not done a great job going digital. We’ve tried. We’ve tried enhanced or enriched ebooks – didn’t work. We’ve tried apps, websites with our content – we have one or two successes among a hundred failures. I’m talking about the entire industry. We’ve not done very well.
I take this to mean that he’s discussing the technology as dumb—in that there’s no added value from the physical book. What I find so funny in this discussion is that he’s completely ignoring the convenience and portability of e-readers. This entire article is a good read and continues to affirm for me why so many of the practices of the traditional publishing world continue to be out of sync with the reading consumer. (What’s new??)
Indie Bookstores Believe They Are Better Positioned Than Chains to Weather Amazon’s Growth
Do you have a great indie bookstore in your town or neighborhood? If you do, you probably consider yourself very lucky. I’m guessing that your local bookstore has done a lot of work to stay relevant and keep their sales up. This is an interesting article about the economics surrounding indie bookstore success. This continues the conversation from the December Writers' Forum about what happens if Barnes and Noble closes.
And if you’re looking to start a bookstore, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin wants you!
Check out the full notice from the Midwest Booksellers website. The city is willing to put some investment in to bring a bookstore back to town! Although, any interested parties might want to look at the market closely as Book World closed in 2014.
It’s All About Reviews
I gravitate to how-to articles on gaining reviews. WHY? Because I know I could have done a better job of getting advance reviews for my series, so I welcome any and all advice on the best practices to do this.
I listened to a podcast with some great tips on “How to Build a Review Team” recently and found some indispensable advice. This podcast is one of many from Smarty Pants Book Marketing which is part of the Smart Marketing for Authors website. (Great info in both of those places.) In this podcast, author Krystal Shannan talks about the methods she’s employed to put a review team in place so that she gets a nice review bump in the first week her book releases. This is smart book launch planning!!
And my go-to info source, Jane Friedman has a step-by-step approach for your review strategy in her article “The Essential First Step for New Authors: Book Reviews, Not Sales.” For any author who will publish in 2018, please read this! She addresses unpaid and paid reviews and how to reach out to your different audiences.
Writing to Market
Okay, I have to admit that I almost bypassed this article on writing to the market. WHY? Because I hate the idea of twisting your creativity to fit a niche or a trend. I don’t think it works well for a writer's success or for their general creative happiness. HOWEVER, I was wrong about this article. The Writer Mom does a good job of analyzing the genre that she writes in as well as the components of the most successful books in that genre. She overlays what she’s learned with her own stories to make them more successful. I guess this is technically ‘writing to market’, but to me it feels more like market research. See if this sort of exercise could help you increase your success!
8 Ways for Authors to Waste Their Money
The minute I read that headline, I had to click and read the whole thing. Was I guilty of wasting money on one of these fateful eight tactics? Unfortunately, the answer was YES! I definitely promoted my first book. I don’t necessarily consider it a mistake, but I did hold off on future promotions until the rest of the series was complete. Please check out the complete list from Nate Hoffelder at Digital Reader and steer clear of some of these money-wasting activities . . . like buying Twitter/Facebook followers and enrolling in “how to make millions” courses.
Common Book Marketing Traps to Avoid
Along with the advice from the previous article, Penny Sansevieri gives us a smart look at eight book marketing traps that authors sometimes get caught in. This is the ultimate ‘bad advice’ list. I often hear questions about at least one or two of these at every book marketing session I teach, so obviously these premises are still circulating. (My favorite bad advice from this list: You don’t need a marketing budget.)
Facebook Changes and What They Mean for Your Author Page
Yes, again, we’re facing a change in the way our posts from our author pages will be distributed to those who have liked our page(s). (If this doesn’t tell you that you need to be in control of your own email list, then nothing will. But I digress . . . ) Thomas Umstattd walks us through the details and explains a few ways to stay visible to your page followers. Hint: It’s all about Live Video. And Fauzia Burke offers some good tips to navigate these changes as well . . . she is also encouraging video use.
I guess we can see a trend here.
How to Give Away an E-book from an Author Website
I think this article pairs well with the previous one. If you’re concerned about your lack of control over reaching your hard-won Facebook audience, you’re likely to turn to building an email list. One of the ways writers are successful in building a solid email list is to offer a free download of a book or extra material that will entice a fan to give up their email address for this extra content. The technical side of offering such a download may be daunting to those of us who are less tech savvy. Nate Hoffelder writes a solid article on how to offer a free download from your website. He offers to answer questions, too. Take a look here.
And While We’re Hating on Facebook . . .
Here’s a little humor on “How to Get Kicked Out of a Facebook Group” by Sandra Beckwith at Build Book Buzz. This is a laugh-out-loud article, but seriously people, don’t be the horrible Facebook person who does this stuff. Just don’t!
Are You Dissatisfied with Your Book Sales? The answer?? WRITE MORE BOOKS.
Melissa Bowersock at Indies Unlimited sums it up this way: Write quality books. Write lots of them. Write a series. She also talks about how continuing to write and publish can revive your backlist of books published years prior. Look at the long (very long) game, she advises.
Joanna Penn of the fabulous Creative Penn website, echoes this advice. She talks about the binge culture that has people watching an entire TV series in a weekend. (Yes, I'm guilty of this.) Readers are no different. Once someone discovers that they like your writing, they will seek out your other books. There’s more excellent advice in this post, read the whole article here.
I hope that these articles help you on your writing and publishing journey!
Happy Reading & Writing, Valerie
PS If I'm missing any great events or conferences coming up this spring, please post them in the comments below!