Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Are Writers Workshops Necessary?

Absolutely. Last Saturday, March 8th, the best venue in the business for setting up workshops and author's event, Book Passage in Corte Madera, California, offered their first Publishing Workshop What restrained the crowd was the number of chairs, for many it was standing room in the back. I don't know the final count but there had to have at least sixty writers, published authors, editors and book designers all trying to figure what's going on in the publishing world. As Bill Petrocelli, the store's owner said, "I'm not even sure what it will be like next year, let alone what we are looking at now." He was referring to the publishing industry and the turmoil it's in.

Will traditional publishing with its centralized New York view still be the dominant player? Will it be the growing voice of the independent, author driver, publisher? Will it be a co-operative setup started by agents who are losing their gatekeeper status and hope to find new money making markets? Will it be the Smashword model, or the Amazon juggernaut? Yes to all and maybe to the rest. As I noted last week in the Hugh Howey article, the ebook is starting to demand respect as well as changing attitudes. Just look on an airplane, it seems that every other seat has a Kindle, Galaxy, or iPad open. All that translates into ebooks sold.

This workshop focused on the broader aspects of the publishing world: the growth of the mentor, the changing bookstore, the demands of editing a great product, book design basics, alternative publishing and major changes in distribution channels, and lastly the critical issue of book promotion. A great program that could have taken two days; talk about a crash course.

Many in the audience were first timers with a manuscript in hand, everyone trying to understand the road ahead. And for many it was eye opening. The traditional publishing route with one of the big four (was six then five) is the toughest, mainly due to the limited number of books published. But you do get experience and support (kind of). According to Sam Barry, Book Passage's leader of this event, over 700,000 books were published last year, and there were hundreds of thousands more that didn't use an ISBN. The number is staggering, to be heard above the tumult and roaring is extremely difficult, for most it’s a matter of luck, perseverance and quality. And not necessarily in that order.

Bill Petrocelli's also called this workshop, The Alternative Publishing Workshop. In his introductory remarks he listed seven important questions every writer needs to ask as they ready their manuscript for publishing. During the next few weeks I'll be addressing and adding my own thoughts to these critical questions.
1. Is the manuscript ready?
2. What's the book going to look like?
3. Who are the readers for the book?
4. Do you want to try for a traditional publisher?
5. How can you control the costs of publication?
6. How and where will your book be sold?
7. How will the book reach the attention of readers?

Remember, if you take away one critical piece of information from a workshop that can make your book a success, it is worth the price.

I will also explore and report back on one of the most exciting new aspects of the industry that may help independent authors more than all the Amazons, Kobos, Smashwords, rolled into one: Ingram-Spark. 

More later  . . . . . . . . .

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