Happy Thursday to you all. I’m going to make this short and then turn things over to my guest today, Iris Draak. In fact, I’m just going to turn it over now. Oh, by the way, this is my 200th blog post on this site. Thank you, all of you, for your support. And now, here’s Iris!
Opportunities Abound at Local Writer & Publisher Conferences
I’m rewriting this for the third time. There is more pressure when one writes for writers. I am
grateful for Bill’s generosity in allowing me to share the stage with him and for the opportunity
to speak to you, his audience. I am anxious to be worthy of the honor and opportunity and
excited to share.
I have been bursting to share my experience at the 5th annual Idaho Book Extravaganza with
other writers ever since I went two weeks ago.
I am new to the writing community here in Boise, Idaho. I have almost no connections other
than my brother who is a publisher, one of the sponsors, and the one who invited me. But he is
not the connection you may imagine, which is a story for another day. Having said that, I would
not have heard about the even had it not been for his invitation.
My point there is simply that it only takes one tenuous connection to open a door to a great
So, there I found myself, a somewhat recognizable face (thanks to genetics) in an unfamiliar sea.
Thankfully I know how to swim.
Know Why You’re There & Meet the People
I arrived early and strategically chose a chair at an empty table. In short order two women
approached. I introduced myself, asked their names and asked them what kind of writing they
My primary objective for attending the event was to determine if the Idaho Writers Guild was
worth joining. I’d done some research but I’d been on the fence for months. Dollars are
precious and the notion that one must “spend money to make money” is only partially true. It is
all about the return on investment. I needed some convincing.
My secondary objective was to try to find a fit for getting my work published locally. I just
haven’t been able to find the right niche for it. I am more of an essayist, and I don’t care for
straight factual reporterstyle
writing. I was in a bit of a crunch because I had committed to Bill
that I would submit some of my work in November. I am also anxious to step out of my 9:00 to
5:00 office for the last time and never look back. Publishing regularly will be just the financial
supplement to my other writing streams of income needed to make that happen.
The clock was ticking loudly.
My tertiary objective was to pitch a book idea to a publisher. My brother would not have
accepted it. And I would have rejected his services had he offered. It’s simply not the right fit.
As luck would have it, the first woman I spoke to is a freelance writer who writes for multiple
local publications. She was kind enough to ask about my goals and style. I was honest. She
brightened and told me about a statewide publication that only wants essays in the style I
described. She gave me the name of the editor, who knows her well. We chatted a bit more and
then she invited me to the January meeting of the Idaho Writers Guild. She told me she would
be presenting. I was thrilled. She is exactly the kind of person from whom I could learn. And
she’s just a genuinely nice person.
This opened the door for me to share my hesitancy about joining the guild. I had barely finished
my explanation when her friend perked up and interjected that she is on the board. I asked her
several questions and she offered explanations that put me at ease. I told her I’d be joining and
was looking forward to the presentation by her friend.
The microphone squealed, and we took our seats. There were several sponsors who introduced
themselves and gave short elevator pitches for their publishing companies. There are a
surprising number of local publishers. I fact that still perplexes me.
After that we heard from a local writer and founder of the Idaho Writers Guild and an actor and
of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. He’s a man who has written multiple screenplays
and novels and yet has never been published. It was encouraging to know that he has made his
living for many years as a writer even without critical acclaim and a book deal. I settled in.
Breakout Sessions: A Place for Targeted Learning
Next we attended our choice of breakout sessions. Three sessions were offered backtoback
with eleven topics from which to choose.
Freelancing as a Professional Career Choice
The Realities and Revenue of Traditional Publishing vs. Independent Publishing
Ask Any Question about Copyright and Author Legal Issues
How the Introvert Revolution Impacts Every Business
Creating Short Feature Podcasts for Authors
Getting Your Fiction Book Published
Writing Your Book to Sell to Schools, Military, and Corporations
The Steps to Hiring an Editor
Working with a Graphic Designer for Covers and Interiors
Steps to Hiring an Illustrator
Getting Your Books in Bookstores
For the first breakout session I chose the Introvert Revolution because this introvert has a theory.
I wanted to test it. I believe the time of the introvert has arrived and that technology has finally
collided with a distrust for showmanship. As it turns out the session went in a different
direction, but my active participation in it, in the form of comments and questions, opened the
door for a great conversation later in the day with my two new friend who also attended the
I chose the Professional Freelancer session for the second round. That was an excellent choice.
My current strategy was exactly what she was recommending, which gave me a boost of
confidence. She also mentioned something about websites that made sense to me. She said we
should all have a “Services” tab in addition to a standard “Hire Me” tab. This seems obvious
now, but it hadn’t occurred to me to so clearly articulate each of my services and background in
each. I took note and made the change to my site the following day.
How to Get Your Book Into Bookstores
I had planned to listen to the attorney discuss copyright law and author liability; however, at the
last minute I decided to attend my brother’s discussion. He is a publisher as I mentioned, but
more importantly at this juncture, he has almost twenty years of experience in book retail. My
background in insurance and liability issues gives me an advantage when it comes to managing
risk in my business. But it occurred to me that my friends and readers may be very interested in
my brother, Robert’s, advice about getting their books into bookstores. It was so good in fact
that I plan to do an entire post on my own blog and a Youtube interview with him on the subject
after the holidays. However, I will share the short of it because it will be of primary concern to
many of you reading this today.
The top three things, according to Robert, that will make or break your ability to get your book
into a local store are:
- Printing cost
When someone brings him their book he takes it to the bookshelf where it would be marketed. It
must fit in. It must have an excellent cover, the printing quality and feel must match
commercially marketed books and the price point must also match. If those requirements are
satisfied the only question remaining is one of distribution. If the book is not available through
one of the distributors used by that particular bookstore, it is a serious impediment to
successfully making the transition from marketing to selling.
The lunch break was announced and I took the opportunity to introduce myself to several other
attendees who seemed not to have found companions.
Marketing. Marketing. Marketing.
One of the things that was repeatedly talked about by the sponsors and speakers was the
necessity for marketing.
It was for some, unwelcome advice. But the depth of anxiety about marketing became apparent
in my discussions with several of these lonely writers.
I spoke to two people who had written and self published books. I asked one young lady what
genre she writes in. She asked me what I meant; I explained. Fiction. I asked her about the
target audience for her book. She stared, blinked and stared some more. I prompted her by
saying, “Teen fiction? Young adult? Adult?” She said, “Everyone”. I moved on.
The other person would barely look at me, although he did ask me for some tips on how to talk
to people. I told him about Bill and that Bill offers coaching to writers. He indicated that this
was what he needed. I asked if he would like for me to send him the information. He said yes. I
emailed him a “nice to meet you” email with a link to Bill’s blog immediately after the event. I
never heard back from him. Moving on.
Marketing. You gotta market! That means you have to talk to people. It means you have to talk
to the right people. It means you are wasting your money if you go to an event like that and
don’t take full advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. That means you must be
able to tell people exactly what you need them to know and what you want. I would have been
happy to introduce those writers to my brother had I felt that it would have been worth his time
and theirs; they weren’t ready. This is business. Keep moving.
My new friends invited me to sit with them to eat. We talked for almost an hour. After
establishing a solid rapport, I was invited to join the Idaho Editor’s Association, a closed group
by invitation only. I mention this only to demonstrate that there are lots of opportunities at these
events and it pays to find people that you hit it off with, relax and just let things come to you. I
had no idea who these women were but none of us were trying to force an agenda.
Meet the Publishers
We finally worked our way to the publishers tables. I had eliminated several based on their
elevator pitches. Fine publishers I am sure, but like my brother’s company, not a good fit for me
or for my book idea.
I was able to ask all of my questions at one publisher’s table and peruse their selection.
Although I did not feel that one of these local publishers fit with my objectives, I did pitch my
idea. As it turns out it wasn’t within the scope of the topics they cover either. Although I wasn’t
that nervous about it, it did offer a sense of relief. I got my first rejection from a publisher!
Applying What I’ve Learned
As I helped my brother pack up his display, said goodbye to my new friends and went home to
send follow up emails and organize my notes and calendar, the clock’s ticking seemed less
urgent. It was now simply a means by which to measure progresswith
its steady, reassuring
hands and a face that looks kindly upon me and my work.
Iris Draak 2014
My thanks to Iris for doing such a wonderful job on this post. Great information, Iris.
I hope you all have a fabulous weekend. Remember to always be open for inspiration. You never know when your muse will come knocking.
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”