Writer's Resources and Seminars

Every once in a while I like taking a break from writing what I know and write about what people tell me. In today's post about writer's resources and paid seminars, I'll be repeating some thoughts people have given me in correspondence and phone conversations, so forgive me for the non-specificity. I'll start by giving my own opinion that the only resources writers really need to succeed in today's market are books and the Internet. There are tons (literally) of books about writing and publishing on sale at Amazon, and they aren't all written by people who couldn't make it as writers and decided to write about it instead. I can't go a lot further than that on recommendations because I've read very few of them myself, but I would suggest that every writer aspiring to make a living at it read at least one book about publishing law. Kirsch's book, which I read, is currently between editions, there's one by by Kozack "Every Writer's Guide to Copyright and Publishing Law" with some honest looking reviews that I haven't read. I only recommend the publishing book I wrote to writers who are interested in self-publishing as a business. It's not a get rich quick scheme or a formula for fame and fortune.

What really triggered this post was a phone conversation with a publisher this week who had attended a $400 seminar which he said cost him ten thousand dollars in mistakes. I've never attended a self-publishing seminar, whether paid or promotional, but it's not the first time I've heard from a publisher who thought that it was the single biggest mistake they made when starting out. My own take on seminars is that any time you are spending a couple hours or days listening to somebody speak, the product they are selling is themselves. If you want to learn about their approach to writing, publishing, or whatever the seminar is about, just buy their book. If you find the information worth a few hundred dollars, you can always attend the seminar later as a "Thank You." Aside from the cost of the seminar, plus any travel and lodging considerations, my main objection to seminars comes if they do a good job getting you fired up! If they bore you and you come away out the cost of the thing and a little wiser for the wear, that's fine, but if they get you pumped up to rush out and start throwing money around, that's bad. Any book or consultant that encourages you to spend a lot of money is a liability, not a resource.

Seminars and conferences that are aimed at improving or fine-tuning your writing and helping you network with industry professionals are a bird of another feather. My only experience with writers’ events was during a brief stint as an Author's Guild member, and I did enjoy the two meetings I attended in Boston. Unfortunately for new writers, you need to have had some success before they let you join. On the other hand, I've heard from writers who have attended all sorts of retreats, summer programs and even local writers’ circles. While very few of these programs seem to encourage, or even respect, self-publishing, a lot of writers have a good time. I suppose if I enjoyed traveling I'd go to one just for the tax write-off.

The resource that gets overlooked because it's become so much a part of the landscape is the Internet. Google is the information seeker’s best friend. The more specific you are in your searches, the better the information you're likely to find. You can easily investigate who's publishing what on Amazon with their Search capabilities. If the titles feature Search Inside, you may even find out who the acquisitions editor is. A quick stop at Google will find you the publisher's website, and perhaps the editor's bio and contact information. Otherwise, another Google search with the editor's name and the publisher may turn up posts from their participation in publishing lists, where they talk about what type of writing they are looking for, what they like seeing in a proposal, and how they hate getting e-mails on their private address from aspiring writers. Now that's a real resource!

No comments: