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From the President
Welcome to all the new members and subscribers who have discovered SPAWN this month!
For me, it’s timely that this month’s issue of SPAWNews is all about conferences. By the time you read this I will have just returned from speaking at the No More Homeless Pets Conference that’s put on by Best Friends Animal Society. I’ve written four books related to pet adoption, so for me the event is a great way to meet people who are interested in the same things I am.
Whether you’re an attendee, organizer, or speaker, conferences can be a great opportunity to learn and get more recognition for your writing. We writers and artists tend to be introverts, but there’s no substitute for getting out and sharing new ideas with other people. So get out there
Writers conferences? Go, or stay home? Go! The panels are fun, even when the presenters wander off point (or maybe more fun then). Whether or not you ever figure out who’s an agent and who’s an author or editor, you get to meet a lot of people who are like you—the ones with odd ideas, who work at home in their pjs til noon (or later if the words flow,) and who, like you, are glad to be out of the house and with their own kind.
You get free stuff, good meals, and a change of scenery. You get inspired. Take a look at the available conferences coming up next year, start saving now, and plan to go. You won’t regret it, even if you’re not discovered and turned into the next overnight success.
Travel, dress up, listen, learn, trade ideas, meet new people, see new things, and come home with a suitcase full of potential—or stay home and do laundry. It’s a simple decision. Now start dropping hints that for birthday and holiday gifts, cash is welcome and can be fed into the travel fund.
— Sandy, Editor, SPAWNews, firstname.lastname@example.org
SPAWN Market Update
by Patricia Fry
This month’s issue of the SPAWN Market Update is fat with resources and opportunities for the freelance writer and for hopeful as well as published authors. Herein, you’ll find job boards for writers, conference directories, tips for launching your own magazine, dozens of markets for fiction and nonfiction writers, publishers seeking submissions, plus a directory listing hundreds and hundreds of poetry markets. As a bonus, we’ve included seven book-promotion ideas for our published authors.
You have yet to join SPAWN and receive all of the benefits. Join this month by going to www.spawn.org and click on Join/Renew.
Ask the Book Doctor:
About Writers Conferences, Finding Agents, and Getting Published
By Bobbie Christmas
Q: Do you think it’s worth $375 to attend the [name deleted] conference?
A: Almost every conference is worth the fee. I attended my first conference in the early 1980s and walked away informed, educated, and inspired. Today I mostly attend conferences where I am booked to speak, but I still slip into other classrooms and hear other presenters during my free time, and I learn something new or am reminded of something I had forgotten, every time.
Many conferences also offer the opportunity to meet with agents, and that face-to-face meeting and manuscript evaluation could jumpstart your career. Quite a few agent-writer connections are made at conferences.
If you hope to make money at writing, you must invest in yourself. Your computer is not the only investment you have to make. If a conference offers speakers and subjects that speak to your areas of interest or weakness, invest in your education. Go to conferences, mingle, enjoy, learn, and be inspired.
Q: Hi. Im [sic] fifteen and i [sic] just finished writing a short story. I really have no experience whatsoever in the publishing business, and i’m [sic] wondering what the best way is to get myself out there, [sic] and find a publisher, [sic] and all that.
A: This question is broad, but I will do my best to answer in it. The first thing good writers learn, though, is to edit their work consistently, whether it’s a book-length manuscript, a short story, or an e-mail. I saw many errors in the e-mail I received, and I can only hope the short story has been more carefully edited.
Next, to learn how to sell a short story, please go to a library or bookstore and find a book on how to sell short stories. Some books and websites even list markets for short stories.
A few publishers may think fifteen-year-olds do not yet have enough experience to be publishable writers, because most writers practice and polish their craft for many years before they are able to sell their work. Do not let such statistics stop you, though. First of all, once you have polished your work and follow the advice in a book on getting published, you can focus on finding publishers that specialize in the writings of young adults. Second, if your writing is excellent, your age won’t matter. If you do want to sell to an adult market, therefore, do not reveal your age to potential publishers.
Here are other valuable things you can do to increase your knowledge about writing and publishing:
Join a writers association and attend regular meetings. Network with fellow writers and learn how they found publishers for their writing (there are many ways).
Join a critique circle, where you will get feedback on your work and give feedback to others. You will not only learn much more about writing and possibly get help editing your work, but you will also help other writers.
Go to writers conferences and seminars. Again, talk to the people there and learn their methods for successful publishing.
Subscribe to magazines about writing, such as Writer’s Digest. Sign up for my free newsletter, The Writers Network News, by going to my website. Read books on writing, such as The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, Stein on Writing by Sol Stein, On Writing by Stephen King, and my book, Write In Style.
Never stop honing your writing skills. Keep writing and reading about writing and reading writing that you like.
Q: Do you have any leads you could share, any agents that would be interested in looking at a piece of young-adult historical fiction?
A: Entire books have been written on how to find an agent, but don’t count on an editor to supply leads or become your agent, because it could result in a sticky situation. Instead, attend a conference where an agent who handles YA historical fiction is meeting with attendees and evaluating manuscripts and sign up for an appointment with that agent. If you can’t get to a conference, to find agents to query, search the usual databases for appropriate agents or go to a bookstore, check the acknowledgments in books in your category, and see who agented the book.
Q: Which form is correct, writer’s conference, writers’ conference, or writers conference? My spell checker accepts the first two, but not the last, but the last seems correct to me.
A: You touched on a point that disturbs me whenever I see it. I spot the term “writer’s conference” all the time, and that form means that writers own the conference. The same applies to writers’ conference, which means that more than one writer owns the conference. The correct form, regardless of what a spell-check program may say, should be “writers conference,” which means it is a conference for writers; it is not owned by writers. My monthly e-zine is called The Writers Network News for exactly that reason. It is for writers. It is not owned by writers, although you could say it is owned by one writer—me.
Bobbie Christmas, book editor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more "Ask the Book Doctor" questions and answers at www.zebraeditor.com.
by Patricia Fry
Annual Tax Mess Organizer for Writers, Artists, Self-Publishers and Craftspeople
by Kiki Canniff, Tax Consultant One More Press (2006, 2011) 99 pages, $16.95,
size 8” x 10” ISBN: 978-0-941361408
Kiki Canniff is a tax consultant with a talent for making taxes easy to understand. She is also the author of over thirty books on tax issues. She says that this book explains to authors, artists, and other creative workers how to get on top of the paperwork quickly, allowing you to satisfy the IRS and get back to work in four hours or less. She says, “All you need to make this organizer work is one spiral notebook with lined paper, twenty-five large envelopes, an adding machine and an empty table or desk top.”
Within this book, you will learn how to sort your receipts, understand what the IRS expects, and organize information for you or your tax preparer.
Probably one of the most misunderstood aspects of taxes for the author or craftsperson is knowing what is deductible. Among those she lists are advertising and promotional expenses; bank, Visa, and other business interest paid; cleaning materials and business supplies; travel expenses; donations to nonprofit organizations; educational seminars and classes; repair expenses and home office expenses. In fact, she lists 26 categories from A to Z.
Are you confused about forms, which ones to fill out and how to fill them out? Canniff to the rescue. She gives complete instructions with regard to Schedules C and SE as well as forms 4562, 8829, 2040.And she shows them all in the back of the book.
She also includes your plan for the future—ideas for helping you stay out of a tax mess at the end of the following year. She suggests reading her book 30 Minutes to a Better Business: A Monthly Financial Organizer for the Self-Employed.
Engaging Speakers for a Conference
by Barbara Florio Graham
I’ve been a professional speaker and presenter for a very long time. I’ve presented three-day workshops to Canadian federal government departments who paid me $1000/day, international conferences where the payment was in prestige and a lovely gift, national conferences that paid a speaker’s fee plus comped registration and meals, and local groups whose compensation was a small honorarium and the opportunity to sell my books.
Know what? The best experiences have not been at those high-priced workshops, nor were the smoothest arrangements at international or national conferences.
Well-paid event planners don’t always do better than volunteers. They all need a checklist, written from the speakers’ point of view.
1. Engage speakers early, keep in touch with them regularly, and have a deadline after which they can’t cancel unless exceptional circumstances arise.
2. Make sure you obtain full contact information, with back-up e-mail addresses and phone numbers. Request a bio and a description of the presentation.
3. Ask the speaker if he/she has any special requirements, such as a projector and screen, flip charts, or a white board. Is a special configuration of the room (theatre style? participants at tables? a circle?) etc. required? Find out if you will need to photocopy handouts, and note how early you need to receive those.
4. Two weeks in advance of the conference: check in with the speakers. Confirm time of arrival, arrange for transportation if needed, note where they’ve arranged to stay or the accommodation you’ll be providing, obtain/confirm cell phone numbers, confirm room arrangements and requested equipment, and ensure you have originals of photocopies you’ve agreed to make.
5. The week before: are handouts ready, and does the person you’ve assigned to this presenter have them? Does that person have the speaker’s bio/introduction? Make sure the presenter has a badge and that his/her name and title/company are spelled correctly!
6. Assign someone to thank the speaker, handle questions if necessary (watching the time so the session doesn’t run over), and to give the presenter an envelope containing a check and/or a small gift.
7. Day before: check that room configuration is as the speaker requested. Test equipment, if necessary. Make sure there are markers and paper for flip charts, markers and an eraser for a whiteboard. Assign someone to greet the speaker when he/she arrives, provide a badge, a conference program, and the location of the room where the presentation will take place, along with the closest washrooms.
8. Day of: ensure that the podium or table the presenter has requested is ready with water, a glass, and a few paper towels on hand. Place an extra chair at the front for a coat, bag, or briefcase. Check the microphone if one will be used. Be sure the mic and any other equipment is plugged in and switched on.
9. Write a thank-you note!
All these suggestions apply, whether your conference is a small, one-day event with little or no budget and volunteers making all the arrangements, or a week-long event with celebrity speakers and extensive press coverage.
Barbara Florio Graham is an author and publishing consultant. Her website, www.SimonTeakettle.com, contains a great deal of free information as well as Simon Teakettle’s popular blog
Making Workshops Work
by Joanna Celeste
Over a period of thirteen years, I’ve had 31 publications, yet I’ve also quit writing several times. A large part of this has come from involvement in writers workshops and groups. A good experience empowers me. A bad one convinces me to tear up all my ongoing projects and pursue another profession.
These things encountered at workshops and groups wasted my time or left me unfulfilled/ despondent:
- Poorly-defined goals—mine. I expected praise; I went for the credits; I knew I ought to attend but I wasn’t ready yet so I wasted resources.
- Unprepared/distracted—me. I didn’t research people because I thought I’d wow them with my work alone; I clung to the few people/groups I knew and shunned others; I failed to bring my own supplies and scrambled to make do.
- Spread too thin. I was so psyched to help everybody I never helped myself; I came across vampire-like people who sucked me dry and stole my day.
- Shoddy attitude. My confidence fell apart at the first massacre of my work; I rejected any/all negative opinions.
So how can I make a workshop work for me? Here are changes I’ve made:
- Have a plan—know exactly what I want to achieve and who I need to meet.
- Come prepared—research key players, work out my pitches, bring business cards, and have a portfolio created for specific people.
- Be distraction-free—I pack my briefcase/lunchbox using a checklist, set out my outfit, and have everything ready the night before so nothing breaks the rhythm of my studies or deters me from my purpose.
- Help others—it takes a village to raise a writer/artist, and if I can help other writers/artists, I usually learn something, too.
- Adopt a different point of view—as a writer, I have something akin to unrequited love, holding this big awesome world in my head and hoping against hope that I can put it forth and it will be accepted. When it is rejected, I feel rejected, but I discovered there are three points of view at work in this relationship: mine as a writer, others as readers, and the agent/publisher/editor POV. I need to be fluid in which point of view I adopt; it is not personal.
For readers, a book is an invisible friend or a magic carpet that transports them to a new world; it welcomes them into its fold. When I receive feedback from readers, I want to know if I have inadvertently betrayed them. I either fix it or find a different market.
For the agent/publisher/editor, a book is an investment. They put themselves on the line, and they need assurance that it’ll be worth their time, resources, blood, sweat, and tears. It isn’t enough to be a fantastic read; it needs to sell. This feedback offers a new means of presenting/selling my work.
Using these guidelines, I can make the most of these workshops and succeed.
Joanna Celeste is seeking representation or publication of her collection of poems, and is currently working on an illustrated collection of magical realism short stories. http://www.notionsofagirl.wordpress.com/
Turning a Bad Experience into a Learning Experience
by Rex Owens
I’ve attended the University of Wisconsin’s Writers’ Institute for the past 12 years. I’ve relied on the annual spring rite of the Writers’ Institute to learn the craft, learn the business of publishing, and have a chance to pitch agents directly.
To pitch to an agent costs $25 for 15 minutes. I’ve never really understood why there is a fee or who gets the money. It’s like paying for a job interview. However, the Writers’ Institute does provide an opportunity to get the feedback from a real agent, which is valuable, and with luck be offered a contract.
Several years ago I pitched two agents. One was new to the field but with a recognized firm. I was thrilled when she expressed interest in my book and asked me to e-mail her the first 50 pages. I dashed off my e-mail and had a response within two weeks: “I don’t understand your timeline. This isn’t for me.” That feedback didn’t help at all; I felt like she just wasn’t interested and had to give me some rationale for rejection. The second agent was a big name in a big New York firm. I was elated when she asked me to send 50 pages to her. Again, I dashed off an e-mail with 50 pages attached, then waited 12 weeks with no response. I sent a follow-up e-mail reminding her when and where we met and the date I sent the first e-mail. A week later I received a response; she said she lost my 50 pages and asked me to re-send.
I waited another 12 weeks. I waited a total of 24 weeks, nearly half a year, just to find out if the big New York agent wanted my full manuscript. I sent out another follow-up e-mail. Several days later I received an e-mail from the big agent’s assistant who was instructed to tell me: “I can’t make any money on this.” I was crushed. In the end it was all about the agent and making money, not about the writing.
The next year I told my critique coach about my experience with the big New York agent. “Oh, don’t you know, she asked everyone she talked to for 50 pages. Her strategy is to get pages from everybody on the slim chance one might interest her. Don’t feel bad.” I felt like a pawn on the chessboard of the publishing world.
This experience led me to take another path, to find my own publisher, which is about as easy as flying a kite in a hurricane. It took two years, but I did sign with a micro-publisher in California. My historical thriller Murphy’s Troubles is slotted for publication this year.
Without the Writers’ Institute I would never have had the opportunity to meet a literary agent and choose another path.
www.rexowens.us / twitter: @RexAOwens1
Should You Attend a Writers Conference this Year?
by Patricia Fry
Have you thought about attending a writers conference but you’re not sure it’s the right move for you? Some of them can be a bit pricey. Not all of them seem to respond to your writing or publishing interests. Some are held in a remote destination. But if you are a writer working to improve; a freelancer seeking work; or an author in search of inspiration, an agent, a publisher, or book-promotion advice; there’s bound to be a writers conference for you. What can a writers conference do for you, anyway?
Depending on the agenda of the particular conference,
- You can meet agents and editors and discuss your project with them.
- You can learn techniques that will enhance your writing.
- You can gain insight into the world of freelance article/story writing.
- You can learn volumes about the publishing industry and how to navigate it on behalf of your book project.
- You can come to understand more about book promotion and how to apply the principles to your fiction or nonfiction book.
- You can have the opportunity to network with other writers and writing/publishing professionals
- You can most likely walk away feeling more knowledgeable and inspired.
I’ve met writers who just blossomed after a writers conference experience. They found the information, support, direction, and inspiration they were seeking. Some discovered the help they required in the form of an editor, mentor, or coach. But some go home harboring the same lack of confidence and direction they had when they arrived at the conference. How can you prevent that?
If you plan to attend a writers conference this year—and I recommend that you do—please consider the following:
- Choose an appropriate conference. Study the line-up of workshop leaders, topics, and special offerings (such as agent meetings or manuscript evaluations) to make sure it is a good fit for you.
- Participate fully with an open mind. This means attend every relevant session. Listen and learn. Ask questions.
- Network at every opportunity. In other words, communicate with other attendees as well as session leaders. Ask, listen, and learn. Share with others, but you’ll benefit more by listening than you will by talking.
- Exchange business cards with everyone you connect with.
- Take good notes and pick up all of the handouts.
- Follow through and follow up after the event.
- Consider purchasing products by the presenters whose messages or material resonated most with you.
A writers conference is as good as each attendee makes it. Do your part by participating fully with an open mind.
Locate conferences locally by doing an Internet search, or use these directories:
Patricia Fry is the author of 36 books, including Publish Your Book, Proven Strategies and Resources for the Enterprising Author and Promote Your Book, Proven Low-Cost Tips and Techniques for the Enterprising Author (Allworth Press, 2011 and 2012). Her latest book, Talk Up Your Book, How to Sell Your Book Through Public Speaking, Interviews, Signings, Festivals, Conferences and More is out. You’ll find it at amazon.com and other online and downtown bookstores. www.matilijapress.com Visit her daily blog often: www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog Check out her author services at www.patriciafry.com
What You Need to Do to Produce a Successful Conference
by Kate Sexton Kaiser
For almost 30 years now, I have been producing conferences, seminars, and tradeshows. Until three years ago, I was never the conference content creator, the person coming up with session topics and speakers. When SPAWN founder Mary Embree approached me to do the Ventura Book Festival, I jumped at the opportunity to create a program filled with the type of information I, a budding author, wanted to hear. Though I am still heavily involved in the logistics and marketing of events, I find the planning the content to be the most interesting.
From the event producer’s point of view, the most important ingredients to a successful conference are:
1. The quality of the information delivered.
You might have a wonderful speaker but if the speaker can’t stay focused on the subject matter, it’s a problem. I require advance outlines and handouts from my speakers (to post on the website), but also so I can review what they plan to say. It’s always easier to correct in advance. Unprepared speakers or braggers ruin sessions. I learned from my first event to filter speakers through several references when I don’t know the speaker.
2. Present a variety of topics that appeal to the audience.
It’s the conference producer’s responsibility to deliver timely, useful information. The best things you can have are attendees who walk away with information they can implement immediately. So, you can have those talks about “the future of…” but you need to have content that delivers results. The key to having attendees who will return next year is that this year they could walk out and start using what they learned the next day.
3. Allow for Q & A after each panel or presentation.
Most people in the seminar are attending because they want to learn more about the topic. Your experts can deliver lots of content, much of which may leave attendees with questions. I now schedule 90-minute sessions: 60 minutes for discussions and presentations and 30 minutes for questions. However, you must have a moderator to control this process. I find that at all literary-agent panels at writer events, one or two people stand up and try to pitch their books to the agents. That’s not the time or place. The moderator must announce in advance that there will be no pitches, just questions—and cut off the offenders. Make sure the panelists move from the presentation room to a nearby location to continue the conversation, if they are interested.
4. Price your event fairly.
If you are having 50-plus people in a room, the price should be lower than when you are limiting the size to fewer than 10 people. How long are the sessions? What are the qualifications of the speakers? All of these relate to pricing. If this is a new event, price lower, hope to break even, but deliver killer content. Have excited attendees talking about the event on Facebook and offer advance discounts for them to sign up while the event is hot in their memory.
5. Promote, promote, promote.
Energy makes an event. Crowded aisles and filled conference sessions lend a successful feeling to an event. It’s perception, not reality, that matters to attendees and speakers. To achieve the perception you want, you must promote the event through all avenues—print, Facebook, Twitter, radio, a great website—and you will succeed. Gather the support of similar organizations and have them promote to their members. Do e-mail and Facebook campaigns. It’s so much easier today than it was even 10 years ago. Direct mail is gone, telephone calls are gone. Everything flows through a well-constructed website. And that crazy “If you build it, they will come,” is garbage. It’s the event’s producer’s responsibility to promote, promote, promote.
6. Survey all participants after the event.
Produce a different survey for each sector—attendees, speakers, and sponsors/exhibitors. It’s amazing what you can learn, including great testimonials to use to promote next year. Have these ready before the event so they can go out the night the event closes.
My final thought: think about the subject matter for your event, then craft the best session topics and deliver the best speakers. Quality over quantity works best.
Kathleen Sexton Kaiser’s career spans 40 years. From rock and roll in the 60s and 70s, where she became known for her unusual locations for after-concert parties, to the digital/Internet revolution of the late 80s and 90s, Kate has produced conferences and tradeshows throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Australia, including taking over the Sydney Opera House for five days of conferences and special events. She has been a marketing professional for Fortune 100 companies, small startups, and nonprofits. She opened Kathleen Kaiser & Associates in 1993 and in 2002 Kate began work with the nonprofit sector. She currently serves as President of the Ventura County Writers Club and as Executive Director of the Pacific Institute for Professional Writing.
Member Barbara Florio-Graham’s letter to the Ottawa Citizen,
published Tuesday, Oct. 9:
Re: Self-publish a book (Sept. 24) and Thank self-publishing… (Oct. 1):
Self-publishing isn’t what it used to be. My website contains a list of more than three dozen famous authors who self-published, but few faced the minefield of so-called “self-publishing” companies, who currently lure unsuspecting authors into a maze of high payments to produce books that are often poorly edited, badly designed, and lack distribution.
Those of us who work as publishing consultants warn authors about these “pay-to-publish” companies, and direct those we mentor to low-cost and free resources. I won’t take on a book unless I feel it has sales potential, and my guidance often begins with helping a promising author find a reputable editor and designer, as well as to create a website and a platform to promote the book.
I have a great many free resources on my website: www.SimonTeakettle.com, including explanations of the various options and a checklist for those who want to do it completely on their own.
Peter Oltchick’s debut children’s picture book, Clean Clara, will hit the online shelves in early November. Released by Big Tent Books, the book will be available in hard cover on Amazon and B&N.com and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and iPad. For lots of fun and to schedule a school visit with Peter, please visit www.cleanclara.com.
For anyone in the New York City area, please stop by Peter’s Clean Clara launch party on November 11 at the Gotham Coffee House (1298 2nd Avenue at 68th St) at 3:30 p.m. for a book signing and special story-time performance.
Patricia Fry will speak on self-publishing at the Cat Writers Association in Los Angeles the first weekend in November. She will then head back to Ventura County and sit on a panel discussion focused on book marketing at Kate Sexton’s Ventura County Writers Weekend in Camarillo, CA.
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