At The Atlanta Writers Conference, strife, confusion and downright frustration were recurring themes that apply not only to writers, but also to human beings, even the seemingly normal ones.
“When do I get off this merry-go-round?” said one attendee at the weekend event, at the Airport Westin Hotel “I devote years and blood sweat and tears just writing the book. Then years finding, hiring and firing agents, then waiting, getting close, then going nowhere near publishing.”
“I may not live long enough to get anywhere with this,” said another. “Some days I don’t even remember why I wanted to write in the first place.”
Over the past decade, the publishing merry-go-round has added more pretty horses to ride – self-publishing, small presses, e-books, Amazon, et al. Yet the golden ring – landing a lucrative book contract with a big publishing house, unless you’re James Patterson, J.K. Rowling or Dan Brown, is more elusive than ever.
The Atlanta Writers Conference, sponsored by the Atlanta Writers Club, a century old organization, with over 700 members, breaks a few barriers – by bringing the New York publishing mountain to Mohamed.
Friday: Aspiring writers meet one-on-one with agents, who critique “query letters,” an elevator speech proposal that must be as polished, if not more so, than the book itself. Afterward, a writer may stay up all night agonizing over the pitch, based on the agent’s suggestions, or ditch it altogether. A few lucky souls are encouraged, by a “show me more,” response.
Day Two: Editors, the big-time gatekeepers, critique partial manuscripts, sent in advance by bullet-sweating writers, in 15-minute one-on-one sessions. Awards are bestowed on the best of each. Actual publication is never a guarantee.
And if this isn’t mind-blowing enough – all writers, artists, and business owners must become masters of social media.
“Writers Digest Books” freelance editor Chuck Sambuchino, @chucksambuchino, www.chucksambuchino.com and www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog an obvious expert on the topic, held a Friday workshop. The audience, aware of the online imperative, was also dazed and confused by its baffling complexity. And who among us isn’t?
But it’s simple, really. Sambuchino defines the obligatory platform as “Visibility, influence, reach, authority, network, amplification, discoverability, ability to self market, avenues to speak to a community of your choosing, channels that exist for you to immediately reach others.
A successful platform requires these building blocks:
- Website and/or blog of impressive size
- An e-newsletter/mailing list of impressive size
- Article/column writing (or correspondent involvement) for the media
- Guest contributions to successful websites, blogs and periodicals
- A track record of strong past book sales
- Individuals of influence you know who’ll help you market at no cost
- Public speaking appearances – the bigger the better
- An impressive social media presence (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
- Membership in organizations that support the successes of their own
- Recurring media appearances and interviews – in print, radio, TV or online.
Now go write the Great American Novel. Find the perfect agent who’ll sell it to the perfect editor, who’ll sell the idea to the best publishing houses and get your million-dollar advance. Immediately begin your next project, while constantly updating your Website, Twitter, Facebook (author and book pages) Blog(s) and checking analytics for performance on all of the above.
It’s that easy.