If you’re reading this blog, you’re either interested in publishing or you’re a writer.
Or maybe you just want another look at this steamy picture (that’s the one, isn’t it?).
Whatever the reason, you’re about to read the happiest news you’ll hear all day: Write to Publish is this weekend! You’ll love this conference—if not for our expert panelists or bookish vendors, then at least for the catered lunch. Write to Publish does exactly what it says, teaching writers how to get published.
Case in point: Romance author Joanna Wylde attended our 2012 conference and has since published two popular books. Her latest novel, Reaper’s Legacy, currently ranks #20 on USA Today’s bestseller list and #9 on the New York Times bestseller list for fiction e-books (#10 for its fiction e-book/print sales combined). Ooligan Press was pleased to interview her via email about her experience at Write to Publish.
Ooligan: What did you like most about Write to Publish?
Joanna Wylde: I attended Write to Publish in 2012, when the theme was genre fiction. As a romance writer, most of the conferences I’d been to were all romance oriented, and I really enjoyed how this one crossed genre lines. I loved talking to science fiction, mystery and horror writers about their work. While the conventions of each genre are different, the actual business of writing is very similar. Their perspectives were incredibly helpful. I think the best part of the conference was the small size—I actually got face time with the presenters.
How did Write to Publish influence your career?
JW: I’ve been a professional writer for nearly eighteen years but had only written fiction for a short time in 2002. While I found moderate success, it wasn’t enough to justify turning down other work opportunities. By 2012, I had a successful freelance business doing ghost writing and communications consulting, but I was getting bored. I wanted something more creative. Attending the Ooligan conference got me excited about fiction again. There’s nothing like being surrounded by creative people to spark your own sense of wonder.
Ultimately, Write to Publish was most valuable as a networking opportunity. At that point I didn’t know many working fiction writers, but I met several there. Jason V. Brock was among them, and he’d told me to feel free to stay in touch and ask him questions as needed. Nearly a year later (January 2013), my breakthrough book came out and I started getting offers from New York publishers. As exciting as this was, it was also intimidating. I knew the publishing business was full of sharks and didn’t want to make a stupid mistake. I contacted Jason and he chatted with me one night on Facebook, helping me craft a strategy to move forward. One thing led to another, and suddenly I had an agent who was negotiating a good deal for me with Penguin.
For all the wonderful information I got at the conference, ultimately the reason I feel so thankful to Ooligan has nothing to do with the content of the presentations I attended. It was the passing connection I made to one person, leading to a conversation on Facebook. It sounds so small, but when I needed advice, I had someone to ask.
What is something most unpublished writers don’t know about the publishing process?
JW: Everything? That’s a hard question to answer. There’s so much more to it than writing a book… Probably the most important thing right now is to realize that ebooks have changed how publishing works, and nobody quite knows what will happen in the next few years. That means you need to watch your market and be flexible in your approach. Strange things change the landscape, and they have nothing to do with the quality of writing in any given book.
For example, this past fall Facebook reconfigured how they display posts from author and blogger fan pages. Instantly, one of the most powerful marketing tools we had as writers stopped working effectively (on my own page, posts that once got 10,000 views are now getting 2,000—that impacts sales very directly). No warning, no appeal. A new author in such a volatile environment has to be ready to deal with incredible uncertainty and the knowledge that simply writing a good book is not enough to be successful. The actual production of the book is the least of our concerns.
What advice would you give writers looking to publish their first book?
JW: Well, first you need to write the book, which should be obvious… But it’s not. I’ve met so many writers who spend hours debating query letters and pitch techniques when they don’t actually have a completed manuscript. So what I have to say about publishing is based on the assumption that you’ve already written a decent, somewhat marketable book.
If you’ve written the book, unless you have very good connections to an agent or acquiring editor, I think it’s well worth your time to consider indie publishing. Anyone can throw a manuscript up on Amazon and call it published. Many do, and some even hit the NYT list. It happens to real people. But you’re more likely to get somewhere with an editor, good art and a marketing plan. Don’t skimp on any of these, particularly editing. Even if you’re interested in a traditional publishing deal, it’s still worth your time to look into indie publishing. The very best way I know to get an agent or a contract offer worth considering is to prove your marketability. Nothing says “people will buy my book” like thousands of people actually buying your book.
The other thing I’d warn you about is getting good legal advice. Don’t sign any contract with a publisher without having an experienced lawyer or agent look it over for you. A reputable agent doesn’t require any money up front—they earn all their money on commission. If you’re offered a contract and you don’t have an agent, that shouldn’t be a problem. If the contract has genuine potential, it will attract an agent. If you don’t have people offering you contracts based on your sales performance, or your contract isn’t lucrative enough to attract an agent, I’d rethink whether traditional publishing is the right path at this time.
For better or for worse, publishers are no longer the gatekeepers, and writers who have the potential to really sell books don’t necessarily need them.
Learn the publishing process, make contacts, ask questions, and be the next Write to Publish success story!