One week ago, I head the pleasure of attending the Writer’s Digest Conference East (WDCE) in NYC. This is one of my favorite writing conferences of the year and it’s a great event writers in all stages of their careers.
Novice writers can enjoy the inspirational keynote speakers and great lectures on writing craft and technique. The sessions on platform-building and self-publishing are great for writers at more advanced levels who are considering the many options available to them for publication. Finally, for writers who are ready to get their work in front of agents, the Pitch Slam is an exciting and high-energy way to get immediate feedback from industry professionals. I myself have attended this conference for three years running and always learn so much from it, no matter where I am in my writing journey.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing articles based on things I learned at this conference. There was so much great material that I want to share with you, and I also connected with many of the speakers and industry professionals and will be bringing you interviews or guest articles from them as well. Stay tuned because while the writing conference itself is over, the DIY MFA coverage of it is just beginning.
During the conference, several themes came up again and again and these themes reflect a lot of what’s been happening in the publishing world at large. Today I’ll share an overview of some of these themes, but stay tuned for longer articles where we’ll delve into them in more detail.
Publishing or Platform? Which Comes First?
One of the messages that kept coming up throughout the conference is this idea of publishing as a process as opposed to a static goal. Many writers, particularly early in their careers, tend to think that once they publish a book they will have “arrived.” In today’s publishing climate this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Which brings us to that chicken-and-egg conundrum if publishing vs. platform-building. One of the most surprising (but also most delightful) take-away messages I got from WDCE was this idea that you can build your platform by publishing. Now, I’m not just talking about publishing in the current, traditional sense, I’m talking about that old-school definition of publishing (i.e. to make your words and ideas public and generally known). Several speakers emphasized this idea that the best way to build connections with readers and stay in front of your audience is to publish.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to publish a new book every week. Maybe it means self-publishing some short stories or a novella between novels. Maybe it means writing a newsletter and staying in front of your audience that way. Maybe it means writing a regular blog. The idea is to keep putting your words out there and to stay salient in the minds of your readers. In this way, publishing can become a very effective platform.
“Discoverability” Means Discipline
“Discoverability” is one of those trendy new terms that everyone seems to be throwing around these days. The truth though is that “discoverability” is a myth. It implies this notion that there’s a magic bullet, a cure-all pill, a secret solution that will suddenly make your book rise to the top of all Google searches and make it appear on the front page of Amazon.
There is a magic bullet–sort of–but it’s called discipline not “discoverability.” Discipline means staying connected with your readers. It means making sure that your book’s metadata is complete. It means crafting excellent marketing copy. And it means writing the best dang book you can possibly write, then editing the heck out of it until it’s even better.
Sounds a lot like “work” doesn’t it? That’s the beauty of discipline. If you craft a smart plan and work hard at it, your book can rise to the top. Maybe not to the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestseller list, but you can get it in front of your ideal readers, and isn’t that the point anyway?
Write the Best Book You Can
One of the main messages at Writer’s Digest Conference East was that quality of writing still trumps all. You can try all the marketing tricks and tips you want, but they won’t make much difference if your book isn’t good. Writing the best book you can means learning to be your own best reader. It also means getting feedback on your writing at all stages but also knowing how to interpret that information. It means forging connections with your readers, with other writers and with professionals in the industry.
Gone are the days when writers worked in isolation. Nowadays, we all need a network of supporters. Conferences are a place where you can initiate and develop these relationships and Writer’s Digest is one of the best.Image courtesy of Writers Digest Conference East