Tuesday, September 09, 2014

For the Writers: A Self-Pubber Goes to a Writer's Conference

The last time I went to a writer's conference, I traveled the traditional publication track, pitching my story in hopes of  finding an agent or editor.  I probably smelled of Twilight Woods body soap and desperation.

Then I self-published, experienced some nastiness and/or insensitivity from non-self-published writers, and decided I was going to gain some distance from the traditional publishing world. This included not going to writer's conferences, because a lot of the focus is on pitch appointments, so why bother, right?

Time passed, and I toughened up in regards to other's perceptions of self-publishing (and, I suppose, other's perceptions of how successful -or not- Finding Meara is.) The time for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer's Gold Conference came around, and it had some wonderful workshops listed, plus I could meet some of my online writer friends. I decided to go, and I'm really glad I did.
Two of the nicest people at the conference:
Jamie Raintree and Alyson Walker
I have never met so many nice writers in one place. In fact, getting to meet online writer-friends in person, and having them (especially Jamie Raintree) be so kind and welcoming was absolutely the best part of the conference. Everyone I sat next to or talked to were open and friendly. The atmosphere was relaxed and generally happy. There were other self-published authors there, but considering how many writers attended the conference, we were few in number.

There were workshops dedicated to self-publishing issues, but they were rudimentary and I chose instead to attend intermediate crafting workshops. I made good choices, because I learned something in all the workshops except one. I finally understand metaphor and theme, and how to use both thoughtfully to augment character arc. Now I get what subtext is, and wonder why it seemed like such a mystery. The exciting thing about understanding the concepts is that I can make planned decisions on how to use subtext, metaphor and theme to benefit what I'm writing, instead of writing and hoping it all comes out okay.

I learned how to develop a short story plot line, and how to incorporate a character arc. I really want to write a short story now, to see if I'll write them better. I need to finish the first draft, but I'm thinking while I'm letting draft one percolate, I'll try out a short story using Tavi or Quinn as the main character. Or maybe the Fairy King and Pixie Queen as a prequel to Book 2.

I finally got to meet Piper Bayard,
after following her on twitter!
One of the workshops taught us how to share better content online, supposedly in 30 minutes a day. Hopefully I'll get that organized soon, so I can start sharing some good stuff with you all!

Mark Coker from Smashwords was there, and it was truly a joy to hear him speak for self-publishing again. I went to several of his talks at the Pike's Peak Writer's Conference (the last one I went to), and got to sit by him at lunch one day. He's probably one of the reason's I decided to self-publish.

For the most part, people were non-judgmental. People's prejudices regarding their publishing preferences would show, but it wasn't bad enough that I felt like the black sheep of the writer family. One writer didn't know I'd self-published, and made a comment about "legitimately published" authors. There were awards given to people who had "successfully self-published a book" within the year. The presenter actually said something to the effect of "since anyone can publish a book, the requirement to receive this award is to be successful, and have written a good book that sells." Like there aren't so many other things that go into a self-published book selling. Maybe it sounds like I'm making excuses, but if you don't have visibility, not even the absolutely best self-published book will sell. I got the feeling they were kind of new to self-publishing. I used to have the same thoughts, after all.

What is it that makes us writers so judgmental? Even self-publishers have to create a hierarchy within self-published books. Instead of having agents and editors as gatekeepers, we erect our own gates. "My book sold XX and yours isn't selling, so that means my book is better than yours." Which may or may not be true.

That's why I liked hearing Mark Coker. He addressed in his speech the presenter's comment about
And I got to meet Heather Webb, too!
"successful self-published books." He noted how people say Smashwords lets anyone publish "crap" and how there's so much "crap" out there. (And he did it in a way that acknowledged the presenter's comment.) Then he said "I didn't want Smashwords to become a gatekeeper. I wanted to let people get their stories out to readers, and let readers decide for themselves what they want to read."

I left the conference both inspired and determined, and with new or closer friendships. I'm excited to write and I can't wait to use what I've learned in my stories. Each book I release will be better than the last, and because of that, I will be successful, without being measured by books sold or money made.


  1. Great attitude! I don't know how people have to try and get one up on each other, it's not something I've come across much luckily, but sounds like you still had a great time and learnt tons. You look very happy to have met your friends in person!

    1. Thanks, Nick. It was a lot of fun to meet people I've been talking to online for a while. I have more writer people I want to meet, too. All in good time, I guess. :)

  2. Replies
    1. It was! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  3. I thought you'd enjoy Mark Coker's talk. And I'll never understand all the infighting between writers who self-pub vs traditional. I don't know what sniping at each other accomplishes. Just do what you want to do and let it be.

    1. I agree. Why anyone's choice on how they publish their book should be threatening to anyone else is beyond me. And yes, Mark Coker was great. I wish I'd had the chance to talk with him a bit. I waited one night like a crazy stalker, but the people he was with would not stop talking! After quite a while (I swear it was at least a half-hour) I gave up, and went up to my room. I looked for him the next day, but with 400 people, it wasn't meant to be. Maybe I'll get another chance sometime.

  4. If there's anything wrong with self-publishing, you've got a lot of company these days. I just clicked the buttons to put my ninth self-published book out there, and I don't feel the least bit embarrassed about it.

    1. Congratulations on number nine, David! Is that the non-fiction one?

  5. fun, fun!! I love conferences. I'll be at the FWA Lake Mary, FL conference this year.


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