Monday, April 23, 2012

Pikes Peak Writers Conference 1. Publishing

What I'm reading: contest entry #4 of 4

I'm writing this shortly after walking in the door from the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. It, like all conferences, was exhausting, but in a good way. I'll be recapping the highlights. And, apologies in advance, but Blogger has had an issue with posts going up when they're scheduled in advance. Much as I love you all, I'm not getting up in the wee hours to keep to my normal posting schedule. If this hasn't posted when I get up, I'll do it manually, but bear with me for any deviations from my normal posting time. Not only that, but they've changed their interface, so there's yet another learning curve for me. I'm thinking I'll be over at WordPress before too long.)

First, for anyone interested, dinner with Robert Crais was FANTASTIC. I have no clue what I ate, but the conversation was a delight (as was the wine). I know I'm a writer, and consider myself a 'regular' person, but even so, there's something "larger than life" that kicks in when meeting a REAL writer. But he's a 'regular' person, too. At his keynote address, he shared emails from readers who took him to task on everything from grammar to accusing him of padding his books by having blank pages between chapters.

Over the course of the conference, I attended 3 workshops on the publishing industry, and it was also a frequent topic of discussion over meals, and from keynote speakers. I'm going to hit the highlights rather than recap each individual workshop.

Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords, spoke not only about his publishing company, but also about publishing in general.

Until recently, you weren't considered a "real" author unless a big-name publisher bought your book. With e-publishing, it's possible to succeed on your own, and perhaps make more money. But don't count on it. If that's why you're writing, you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

The most important part of success in publishing is: WRITE A GOOD BOOK. (And this includes making sure it's well-edited.)

Second: have a good cover. Your cover needs to convey what kind of book it is. A romance cover should look very different from a thriller cover. Readers who are misled will be disappointed, are likely to leave bad reviews, and not buy more of your books.

Coker shared some statistics gleaned primarily from Smashwords books sold at the Apple iStore. As far as making money, the lowest yield are from books priced at 99 cents to $1.99. The sweet spot for profit seems to be in the $2.99 - $5.99 range. (Maybe I should raise some of my prices???)

Although people once thought e-books were a way to publish short stories or novellas, statistically, the best-selling e-books are about 110-120 thousand words.

If you're an indie publisher, odds are you're not going to do well in print.

**(Personal experience substantiates this for me, which is why I haven't rushed to put my backlist back into print after I've published them digitally. I've sold about 1500 digital copies of my two original books, and 8 print copies.)

From other speakers, including Donald Maass, Jeffery Deaver, and Robert Crais: Writers are storytellers, and have been since the days of the cave man. It's all about telling the story, not the medium in which it's delivered. Stone tablet, parchment scroll, typed on a manual typewriter, printed, electronic, audio—it doesn't matter. The platform changes, but publishing will survive.

Writers can change people's lives. We can make them think, laugh, cry, and bring them a way to escape their everyday lives. In addition to the critical e-mails Crais received, he shared another from a soldier who said Crais's books saw him through his deployment.

As writers, we should be looking forward, writing books that the next generation will read and remember.

More posts to come, including some great sessions on forensics, but tomorrow, my guest is Karen McCullough, who's talking about magic and science in fiction.

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Ruth Harris said...

Terry, thanks for an informative post.

Love RCrais's books & much enjoyed the reader feedback!

Andrea Parnell said...

Thanks for the recap. It is helpful to get a glimpse of what other writers and publishers are discovering.


Kelly McClymer said...

Thanks so much for the recap, Terry. I especially love the line about writers being storytellers. Interesting about print being so low for indies.

Terry Odell said...

Ruth - I love "Bob's" (he said I could call him that, but I really can't) books, and now I can love him, too!

Andrea - I'm a firm believer in sharing what I'm learning. It's complex enough, and why not save others some of the headaches.

Kelly - I think part of the reason indie print books don't sell well is 1) distribution and 2) in order to get any distribution, the price point has to be too high.

Cleo Coyle said...

Great highlights, Terry. Thank you! I especially agree with the notion that story in any form is still story. The vehicle may change, but the craft is the same--telling a story that connects with an audience.

BTW - Pikes Peak is a fantastic con. I attended a few years back with my husband, and we had a wonderful time. Thank you so much for bringing us there virtually this year!

~ Cleo

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Interesting post, Terry--thanks for the wrap-up.

And...Blogger has given me fits the last few days. Grr. I'd hate to make the move to WP, though...such a pain!

Cindy Keen Reynders said...

Thanks for the information!

Terry Odell said...

Cleo - thanks. PPWC is now "local" for me. This year was a very good program.

Elizabeth - agreed, but WP is looking better every day Blogger can't fix the scheduling issues. Apparently it doesn't affect everyone, though.

Cindy - as always, my pleasure.

Mark W. Danielson said...

As always, it's the words that matter. Thanks for sharing, Terry.

Jacqueline Seewald said...


Thanks for sharing this info--as usual very helpful.

Maryannwrites said...

Thanks for the great wrap up and I look forward to what else you have to share. So glad you had such a good time with Bob. LOL. Like you, I have a hard time using a first name with writers I admire so much. I remember a talk Dennis Lehane gave a number of years ago when Mystic River was in production. He joked about how hard it was for him to call Clint Eastwood, Clint.

Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Mark & Jacqueline

Maryann - I worked a part time job and one of my son's high school teachers worked with me. Took me 2 years to call him by his first name.

Kathy said...

Hey Terry welcome home and I enjoyed your post. Interesting information. Thanks for sharing.

Stacy Green said...

Welcome home, Terry, and thanks for sharing this with us. Good to know that no matter how the publishing world changes, the experts are still saying content is king.

Phoebe Conn said...

Thank you, Terry.
We always hear the same things at writers' conferences, but a reminder is always valuable.

Karen C said...

Enjoyed the recap, Terry. Glad you had a good time rubbing elbows with the really famous~~

Astrid Bryce said...

I always learn so much from reading your blog. Thanks for sharing.

Terry Odell said...

Thanks, all. There will be more workshops recapped in future posts.