Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"Stuff" I Have Picked Up at Writing Conferences

In working on my novel, I came to a dilemma regarding my protagonist’s inner journey. I remembered hearing something at a writing conference about a similar situation so I started sorting through my conference notes. During the search, I came to realize I have collected a lot of “stuff” at conferences. I am not just talking about free pens and an assortment of writer’s guidelines.

Jotted in the margins of my notes are numerous references to comments made by fellow writers on the path to being published. Since many of you are reading this because you aspire to one day write a book, I thought I would pass on to you ten tidbits of info I have gathered to date. These are in no particular order. Do with them what you will.

1)   If you want your book to be available as an e-book only, feel free to write as many words as you like. But if you intend for it to be made available as a “print on demand” (POD) book as well, you must limit your word count to no more than 70,000 words. Some publishers even suggest 40,000-60,000 words for POD. Hmmm…who would have known that? I didn’t. Now my first novel, Breathing on Her Own, needs to skinny down by 12,000 words and my second book I thought to be “light” turns out now to be a slim, trim, and desirable 68,000 words. Why no more than 70,000? It has to do with printing costs.

2)   Every author should have a headshot. That is, every author should have a professional photographer take a decent picture that can be used on blogs, book jackets, Facebook, Twitter, etc. it is all part of “branding” and has to do with marketing yourself. Confession: I’m not there yet. When I needed a “headshot” for a blog where I was interviewed as a debut writer (see ) I wound up dressing up, holding my itouch out away from me and took my own picture. Yep, it’s still out there. I currently have it as my pic on my Twitter (@WatersAuthor). What can I say? I am a work in progress.

3)   Your first fifty pages are the most important. Okay, maybe I did know that, but talking about it in the halls during a conference brings home the “why.” Acquisition editors have stacks of books submitted on a regular basis. You have to grab their attention right away. And what is most startling is that they probably won’t read your entire book. Very few people at the publishing house will actually read your book. You cannot save the best for last. You have to come out swinging as the saying goes.

4)   Don’t count on writing a series. Every book should be treated as a story in and of itself with your best writing in each. Don’t hold back any portion of making the story you are crafting for the second book. You may never get a chance to write the second one if your first one doesn’t get anywhere. So far this isn’t a problem for me in that I haven’t thought in terms of a series. I just want my book out!

5)   Amish sells. Simple life over a complex reality. Enough said. Though I have as yet to take the Amish plunge.

6)   Identify your platform. Your platform is the message you have to share, your experience, and your reach. I talked a little about this in an earlier blog (see April 17, 2013 ). This has been extremely helpful. I was recently was asked to write a Christian romance novella. I tried. But my stories tend to be about forgiveness and restoration, not romance. Don’t get me wrong. I mix a little lovey-dovey stuff in my books, but that is not my central theme. Experience? I am writing in venues outside of novels to gain writing and editing experience. Reach? Or how many people will hear of my book and want it? Good question. I suppose a percentage of my Blog followers, Facebook friends and Twitter followers will want to read it. Then of course there is my family (If only to see if they are in it!). I have my high school friends, friends from college, my church family, friends from square dancing, colleagues from schools where I taught, former students, the gal who does my hair and there is that woman I met when my husband and I went camping…

7)   There are a lot of RE’s in a successful writing career: RE-flect, RE-write, RE-ject, RE-write RE-submit.
I want to be above average= more than 4000 books sold!

8)   More people read magazines than read books.  95% of books written never get published. Of the 5% that get published, the average print order is 4000 copies. So if I want to be above average, I want at least 4001 books sold. Until then, I can write for other publications and thus extend my reach (see item 6)

9)   When you submit anything on-line, be sure to put your name in the subject line and on the file name as well as on the document itself. This really helps an editor locate your submission quickly. I now do this as a regular practice so my submission doesn’t land in a computer landfill.

10)   Embrace technology. Write a blog (check), increase your Facebook presence (check), Tweet (check, although I am a newbie at this), develop a website (You have got to be kidding. I’m not ready for that yet!)

Well, there you have it. Ten bits of writing advice gathered in the hallways and over lunch at a couple of writing conferences.

What advice could you add? What have you learned along the way? Leave a comment or email me at  I will happily share your advice on a future blog and give you full credit! Then you can say you are published!

1 comment:

  1. I was interested that while talking about word count you focused on self-publishing only. The writer's conference I went to a month ago was very anti-self-publishing and didn't even discuss it as an option. While this was no skin off my nose, there was a few snide scoffs at some of the questions the writer's posed that had to do with self-publishing; they didn't feel it was an option.

    Why did you decide to focus primarily on discussing self-publishing and print-on-demand?


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