SSA-WD Writer’s Workshop

Arizona Writing Workshop

Books for saleI attended a Writing Workshop sponsored by the Society of Southwestern Authors (, and presented by Writer’s Digest. It was a one-day presentation of information for authors about publishing, marketing, and selling books.

SambuchinoThis substantial info-dump was conducted by Chuck Sambuchino (, book editor for Writer’s Digest and editor of Guide to Literary Agents. He had good handouts and a pleasant presentation style. Some of his own books were for sale. Apparently this is a road show that WD puts on in various cities around the country. About 100 people attended the Tucson meeting. The day before, they gave the same dog-and-pony in Phoenix. Sambuchino said he’d given his act five times in the last seven days. That’s a heck of a way to sell a handful of books.

RantaA big draw to the conference was the presence of three pitchable agents. One specialized in children’s and YA, another in Christian topics, and the third, general commercial and literary fiction. I signed up for that one and gave a 10-minute pitch, which was pretty bad, but did result in a request for a query and 50 pages, so I guess it wasn’t totally horrible. I’m assuming I’ll get better at pitching the more I do it.

A comparison of traditional and self-publishing was useful for confirming what I already knew. Traditional publishing is virtually impossible to break into these days, the economics of it are horrible, it’s an extremely slow process; it’s biased against the author, and commercial success is extremely rare. However, it has two powerful virtues that self-publishing cannot match: 1. It confers legitimacy, and 2. The publisher does all the production work (though not the marketing).

please_review_my_novelSelf-publishing, which means, overwhelmingly, e-publishing, has lost much of its stigma. Plenty of good quality literature is self- published, along with a lot of junk, but there are no gatekeepers. You have a much better shot at finding an audience with self-publishing.

The costs are low-to-zero for e-publishing, although you can purchase, for reasonable fees, independent editing, cover design, publicity, and so on. You retain all your rights and earn higher royalties. On the downside, discoverability is a huge problem. Thousands of new books are e-published every day. You have to do your own marketing, because you will not be “discovered” like Cinderella.

The section on creating a writer’s platform was the most informative for me. A platform is basically a marketing strategy, centered on internet media. A typical platform consists of an author’s web site and blog, supplemented with a social media presence, such as Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, among many others. Marketing is not sales, of course. You can’t actually sell books on social media, but you can build a brand. This conference was apparently a “plank” in Sambuchino’s marketing platform.

Create Writer PlatformI’m temperamentally allergic to social media, but I recognize the value. I need to bite the bullet and try to revive my derelict Facebook page. I can also blog more directly on matters related to my writing.

Another idea is to go in with a few friends on a collective platform. We could take turns writing blog articles, and we could cross-promote and review each other’s books. That sounds like more fun than building up a personal marketing platform.  Probably both formats would be useful.

For a cost of $99 and eight hours of my life, this was a moderately productive conference.

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