I can’t adequately emphasize the benefits you’ll gain by attending a writer’s conference, especially if you’ve never done so in the past.
This past weekend, I attended my first writer’s conference, the Orange County Christian Writer’s Conference (OCCWC). That’s why I’m late in publishing my “W” post.
I’m a big believer in writers supporting other writers, rather than competing against each other. So, I’m sharing some of the highlights of what I took away from the OCCWC.
I hope it will bless and benefit you.
WORKSHOPS FOR WRITERS
I attended several workshops and will be sharing my four favorites with you!
These notes are in my words. They are not precise quotations from the speakers. Please be aware of that, as you read.
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Workshop #1 – How to Analyze a Children’s Story
Facilitated by Nancy I Sanders
Nancy is a successful and charming author of over 80 children’s books and, if I heard correctly, she’s nearing a hundred books published altogether! She gave some awesome tips on how to write a children’s story in a manner which will appeal to specific publishers.
She was very open about the steps she takes to win a contract. In the interest of time, I won’t share everything with you here, but if you have specific questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll answer them to the best of my ability.
She has a website where she offers free Writer’s Notebook Worksheets, http://writingaccordingtohumphrey.wordpress.com/, to help children’s book authors analyze other successful books and know what readers and publishers are seeking.
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Workshop #2 – Finding and Working with an Agent
Facilitated by Erin Buterbaugh
Erin is a delightful and talented literary agent who works at McGregor Literary. She shared some of the key points to consider when an author begins their search for an agent.
Erin compares seeking and working with an agent to the dating world. When we look for a spouse, we must keep certain things to keep in mind to ensure we’re prepared for such an endeavor. Once we find “the one,” we must then take steps to keep the keep the relationship healthy.
Erin explained that finding and keeping an agent is similar. She broke “agent dating” into three stages:
- Looking for an agent
- Talking to an agent
- Working with an agent
Erin emphasized that, when agents consider signing an author, they are looking for a long-term relationship. As authors, we should be seeking the same. But before we take the first step, we must be ready!
In the dating world, the chances of lasting relationships are slim if we don’t first meet three major stipulations.
We must be:
- Well groomed
- Well adjusted
- Have clear and reasonable expectations
Once we meet these three criteria, we’re ready to begin dating, or in this case, seeking an agent. We can safely put ourselves out there with realistic hopes of meeting the right one.
To give one example, I’ll focus on point #1, “Well groomed”.
Good hygiene – your proposal needs to be as perfect as you can make it.
In dating, if you’re leaving for a first date and you ask your roommate how you look, he or she will kindly say, “Don’t wear those shoes with that dress,” or “Your hair looks sloppy.”
As you might ask a roommate to sum up your appearance, do the same for the appearance of your manuscript! Have a trusted friend or colleague analyze the appearance (hygiene) of your work. Make sure it’s the face you want to put out there to represent you!
If you’d like more details about how to prepare to “date” and “keep” a literary agent, email me at email@example.com. I’ll answer as well as I can!
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Workshop #3 – How to Make a Lot of Money as a Writer
Facilitated by Cecil Murphey
This guy is worth listening to! He received a Lifetime Literary Award during the conference and for good reason! He has written or co-written over 135 books and has been writing successfully for decades!
It will be hard for me to narrow his message down to a few sentences because his workshop was so informative, but here are a few key points:
- Writing is art, but it’s also a profession. Cecil believes we must write full-time to make a living at it. If you write freelance, magazine articles, etc., it’s rare to make a decent living from it.
- If you’re going to make a living as a writer, only about 2% do it. It’s not easy. The competition is severe.
- It takes an average of 9 months to write a book, and that’s if you’re somebody who understands how to write!
- The average person takes 3 years to write their first book.
- If you’ve written a book, article, or anything, invest in your business and HIRE an editor to edit your work.
- Sometimes you’ll get edited 2 to 3 times, depending on the publishing house.
- Remember, if you’re a full-time writer, by the time you finish your first book, you need to be starting on your second book.
- Before your book is available, you have to work up a marketing plan. You have to convince a publisher that you don’t need them, in order to get them. You have to convince them, if they by your book and get the book into book sales, you will get people to buy it. Once they believe it’s going to sell, then they’ll put money behind it. They have to believe it’s going to “grow feet.”
- Handle Money carefully. The book advance is royalties paid in advance. Essentially, they’re loaning your money. You don’t get another penny until you make over and above the advance amount.
- Only 20% of books even make back the advance (then you start getting royalty checks)
Downsides to being a full-time writer:
- The pay is uncertain
- You have no medical benefits and sick leave
- No paid vacations
- It’s a lonely profession
- You have to like yourself enough to be alone with yourself for 8 to 10 hours a day. He worked 5.5 days a week, 8 to 12 hours/day.
- You have to be a self-starter. You have to be a very driven person to write 8 hours a day.
- You have to be able to “refill the well.”
- You must do things to rebuild yourself. If you’re going to be a writer, you’ve got to be a reader to keep your ideas flowing.
- If you succeed, do you have enough creative, original ideas to keep putting them out every year?
- Average book stays in print for 60 days. If they don’t see some significant sales in a short time, the book goes out of print.
- Christian books tend to stay a little longer in print.
- To make a lot of money, you need to be a first class marketer! You’re responsible!
- Give lavishly and joyfully
Give joyfully, without expectation. The more you do, the more God gives back to you.
What makes a best-selling book?
- Luck (the sovereignty of God, if “luck” isn’t Christian enough for you)
- The book hits at the right time and gets in the right hands
- Word of mouth (very, very important)
- The timing
- The Left Behind Series sold 70 million copies because of Y2K. He tried to sell it in 1990 but nobody bought it.
- It fills a need
- No book appeals to everybody but once in a while a book just grabs people. The Little Prince.
- Emotion packed
- Must appeal to people’s emotions.
- Good reviews
- Book must sell through personal appearances, websites, public speaking.
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Workshop #4 – Platform! Platform! Platform!
Facilitated by Kim Bangs
Kim Bangs is a captivating speaker and holds the title of Publishing Director at Regal books. Listening to her speak is a joy, as she emanates the Lord’s love through her words.
Unfortunately, I missed part of this workshop because I was at a previously scheduled consultation with literary agent, Steven Hutson (http://www.wordwisemedia.com/) but here’s the long and short of it.
Basically, utilize social media to let people get to know you. Don’t be shy. Be willing to be transparent. Be prepared for criticism and love people no matter what.
Remember, you are representing the Lord in every blog story you publish, every tweet you share, all of your Facebook posts, and any other social outlet you utilize.
What you write should touch others in a positive manner and honor God.
NETWORKING WITH OTHER WRITERS
I was blessed to meet many interesting and talented writers. Since they gave me their business cards, I’m taking it for granted that they don’t mind me sharing their information with my blog readers.
- Jolene Engle, The Alabaster Jar Ministries, www.joleneengle.com (Blogger / Author / Speaker)
- Mikie Mayhall, Freelance Writer, www.mikiepensit.com
- Erica DiCarlo, Freelance Writer / Social Media / Online Radio, http://brightstar2911.wordpress.com
- Pamela Williams, photography / articles / blogging, http://365wordjourney.blogspot.com, www.pavonne.com
- Sarah Earlene Shere, Heralds, Stories and Writings for God’s Glory, www.hosannaheralds.wordpress.com
- Becky Harwood, Licensed Pastor at First Christian Church in Junction City OR, www.fcc-jc.com
- Jacqueline G. Wallace, Author, Artist, http://jacquesjourney.blogspot.com
I keep all of you, my fellow writers, in prayer.
If you have a specific prayer request, please let me know. I am here to be part of your prayer army!
May you all be surrounded by a team of supportive friends.
May you all reach the success that you seek and honor the Lord through it!
If you would like additional information on any of the workshops I referenced in this post, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I may not be able to reply for a few days, as I will be busy on a project until next week, but I will respond!
Blessings and joy to you all!