How Writers and Readers Are Changing Publishing

Mike Larsen was awarded the 2018 SFWC/SFWF Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the publishing industry. Both Mike and his wife Elizabeth Pomada have helped thousands of writers over the years through their literary agency and as cofounders of the San Francisco Writers Conference. Mike is flanked by SFWC Marketing Director Barbara Santos and SFWC Director Laurie McLean.

Publishing’s New Power Couple
23 Reasons Readers and Writers are Reinventing Publishing

Technology disrupts publishing by minimizing the barriers between readers and writers. Publishing only needs three elements: writers, readers, and tools for connecting them. Technology provides the tools. Readers and writers are replacing traditional publishers, media, and reviewers, and creating a new literary culture. Here are 23 reasons writers and readers are creating a new publishing paradigm:


  1. Writers are the most important people in the publishing process, because they create content.
  2. Writing is the easiest of the arts to enter and succeed in.
  3. You have more control over your work and career than ever.
  4. You can reach more readers in more ways and places faster and more easily than ever for free.
  5. Technology makes writing, revising, publishing, and promotion faster and easier.
  6. You have more software tools than ever to help you write.
  7. You have more books and authors than ever to use as models for your books and career.
  8. You have more ways than ever to earn income from your work.
  9. You have more publishing options than ever.
  10. Your books will be published, perhaps by you.
  11. You have more ways to prove the value of your books before you sell or publish them.
  12. You can use crowdfunding to finance your books.
  13. You can use Patreon to support your writing.
  14. Technology empowers you to make a difference as well as a living.


  1. Readers are the second most important people in publishing, because they keep books alive.
  2. More readers in more places can find books in more forms faster than ever for free or at a discount.
  3. The response of readers to your content and communications will determine your success.
  4. Social media makes books readers love unstoppable and makes them sell faster than ever, regardless of who publishes them or how.
  5. Readers want to love your work.
  6. Readers love sharing their passion for books.
  7. You can sustain your relationship with your fans by sharing original and curated material.
  8. 2020, five billion smartphones will connect readers, writers and books.
  9. Five million book-club members can help assure a book’s success.

Worms in the Big Apple

Amazon controls more than 40% of print sales and 80% of ebook sales, which is not healthy for writers or publishers. Others threats to writers include short attention spans, the shift to a visual culture, and the competition for people’s time and money.

Publishers will remain a powerful, essential force for discovering writers and exciting readers about books. But for the first time, the future of writing and publishing is in the hands, eyes, hearts, and minds of the people who make it possible: readers and writers. Give your readers what they want and they will reciprocate.


Mike Larsen, author, Author Coach
Cofounder, San Francisco Writers Conference: A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community and San Francisco Writing for Change Conference: Writing to Make a Difference /
415-673-0939 / 1029 Jones St. / San Francisco, 94109

A New Year’s Resolution You’ll Love

Booklovers don’t go to bed alone. They bring a good book.

 Never Go to Bed Alone

“I learned to be a writer by reading.” – Stephen King

Writers, especially storytellers, are usually inspired to write because of books they love. They are so moved and inspired that they want to create something that will have the same effect on their readers.

Author Ernest Gaines believes that you only write as well as you read. So read what you love to read and write what you love to read. Make writing a labor of love for yourself and your readers. What should you read? Anything that helps you become a better writer. Read books:

  • You enjoy
  • By your favorite authors
  • That inspire you
  • That help you decide what to write
  • Like those you want to write
  • Recommended by readers you trust
  • About your field
  • About your favorite authors
  • With information you need or want
  • About writing, including books like yours
  • About publishing and promotion
  • So successful that they help you understand trends and popular taste, and that may help your writing
  • That help you grow as a writer and a person

Downloadable audio is the fastest growing segment of publishing. Like reading your work aloud, listening to books will give you insights into your writing.  (NOTE: If you are interested in learning how to incorporate audio and/or videos into your own publishing platform, Adam Cushman, CEO of Film14 will be teaching a SFWC/SFWF Master Class on Feb. 19th at the 2018 SFWC and there will be a FREE Open to the Public Exhibitor Talk by Cory Verner, founder of Verity Audio Productions, at 4 p.m on Friday, Feb. 16, as well. Go to for details.)

Booklovers never go to bed alone. The British critic Nancy Banks-Smith said: “Agatha Christie has given more pleasure in bed than any other woman.” Reading is one of the joys of being a writer. I wish you lifetime of joy doing both.

Mike Larsen,
Author, Author Coach,
Co-founder, San Francisco Writers Conference: A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community /
San Francisco Writing for Change Conference: Writing to Make a Difference

Authors as Activists

Revolution Books’ manager Reiko Redmonde will speak on the “Authors as Activist: Writing the Resistance” panel at the 2018 San Francisco Writers Conference in February. This panel will be free and open to the public. Details to come on this. But we want to share this article on how this courageous woman and the entire book community came together to stand up for bookstores and our right to read.

Reiko Redmonde, manager of Revolution Books, speaks during a press conference to discuss recent incidents with right-wing protesters who were in town for a series of demonstrations, in Berkeley, on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017. Photo: David Yee ©2017

Revolution Books Weathers Harassment Campaign by Alt Right Activists
First appeared in Publisher’s Weekly By Jason Boog   Oct 20, 2017

At the conclusion of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association annual meeting in San Francisco Thursday, Berkeley’s Revolution Books manager Reiko Redmonde spoke to her fellow booksellers about enduring a month-long campaign by a loose coalition of conservative activists who describe themselves as “right-wing media.”

On September 24, conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos made a brief visit to Berkeley, an event that drew police from around the region. That evening, a band of between 30 and 40 right-wing activists stormed Revolution Books. The attackers recorded the episode on video, rattling windows and confronting patrons.

Since the initial incident, these activists have orchestrated at least five more visits to the store—posting their exploits in online videos. In one clip, an activist shouts at the camera: “Wherever you hang out, wherever you spill Communist literature—we’re coming to a f***ing bookstore near you.” In another clip, a protester elbows a bookstore supporter in the face, smashing his glasses. The most recent incident occurred on October 17, when conservative activists assembled and chanted outside Revolution Books after the store closed.

After she shared her story at NCIBA, Redmonde handed out a broadsheet with support from local authors like Ayelet Waldman (“It horrifies me to hear that our beloved Revolution Books was targeted by vicious white supremacists”) and Joyce Carol Oates (“We in the Berkeley community, and throughout the country, are solidly on your side, and applaud your courage, tenacity, and determination.”)

The harassment extends beyond physical confrontations. Right-wing activists also “dox” their targets, sharing opponents’ personal information online. In digital forums, these activists have released contact information for bookstore employees, patrons, and supporters. Revolution Books has received up to 60 calls a day from people mocking or threatening the store. The insults have spread to online review sites as well. “Revolution Books is a Communist Recruitment center trying to brainwash kids to do their dirty work for them,” wrote one Yelp reviewer.

When asked if the campaign could shutter the bookstore, manager Redmonde responded, “Hell no! We’re not going anywhere. We are needed now more than ever.” On October 14, the bookstore hosted a fundraiser; its headline was “Support Revolution Books Against Fascist Attacks and Threats.” The store now prominently stocks history titles about white supremacy and the rise of fascism in Italy, Germany, and Latin America.

For other booksellers who might face a similar kind of intimidation campaign, Redmonde had this advice: “We are there. We’ve got your back. We’ll go to your bookstore and stand in front of it. And everyone else in your town should do the same.”

Guest Post: Thoughts on the San Francisco Writers Conference

Attendees at a writer’s conference get access to the information they need, but it is up to them to use it to full advantage.

Forging the Circle of Access

By Kimberly A. Edwards
President of the California Writers Club, Sacramento Branch

On a recent morning in my Sacramento living room, I received word that Writer’s Digest had accepted my article following a successful pitch. I was elated, for writing for a top magazine read by fellow writers was my personal goal for the year. Thanks to the San Francisco Writers Conference for helping to make the goal possible.

Much has been written about conferences – ways to make the most of them. If I were to roll benefits into a word that describes the San Francisco Writers Conference, it would be “access,” access to content and experts.

I’ve been attending writer’s conferences for more than 30 years. Many provide very good sessions. Some are more focused on a writer’s workshop or “process.”  Some are large and unwieldy. Some present experts selling their books. The San Francisco Writers Conference is just the right size, offers no pressure to buy, and delivers a plethora of events and professionals from all over the country.

But access is only one side of the coin. We writers or attendees have a responsibility to know what to do with that access – how to maneuver our way through. I call this forging the trail. Below I have listed my observations on the role of the San Francisco Writers Conference and the role of attendees:

ACCESS – Role of the San Francisco Writers Conference

A – Availability – Writers, publishers, agents, editors, and marketers come to meet attendees – to influence their development and also as potential new clients. Many of these experts travel from the East Coast, as well as from other parts of the U.S.

C – Content – Attendees hear the latest on genres, marketing, and publishing trends. Between sessions, attendees process new learning through informal conversation. Sessions cover a wide range, yet the venue is small enough to encourage camaraderie with others.

C – Certainty – Information is delivered directly from experts, not in a book, nor edited by a third party. In other words, content flows from expert to attendee, typically with a facilitator who moderates. There is no pressure to buy books. Session times stay true to the advertised hour, the result of which is a predictable schedule – allowing time to schedule appointments.

E – Every – Every workshop and timeslot brings an opportunity to learn new things, regardless of genre. Last year, after hearing agents and editors role play a book property negotiation, I picked up new insights that gave me more confidence as a writer and as a leader in my writing community.

S – Singular – The learning absorbed is unique to each attendee, depending on one’s path. Activities abound for all levels, and the takeaway varies with the individual.

S – Synergy – Sessions, activities, and interaction with others combine into something greater than the sum of the part by burrowing into the writer’s brain, leaving enduring influences that unfold over months to come.

As mentioned, after “access,” there’s the role of the attendee. A conference can offer everything, yet not have maximum impact if the writer doesn’t do his or her part. The role of the writer is to forge the trail through the access circle.

FORGE: Role of Attendee at the San Francisco Writers Conference

F – Figure out the appropriate level for entry into the content. When an attendee is new to writing, he or she has different needs than an attendee with many published credits or one crossing genres from short story to non-fiction book. What is needed to advance to the next step? Be realistic. Often attendees revise their goals after the conference, as they learn where they “fit” in the writing world.

O – Open communication lines with experts between sessions, and be aware of the time to exit – don’t waste busy experts’ time. Make interactions just long enough, and then realize that you must say good-bye to let them speak with others.

R – Read up on presenters both before attending their sessions and after the conference before following up – who worked on what book property, advice on their website, etc. If you meet an agent and you’re not following up with a manuscript, send him/her a short thank you for a great session or a helpful chat.

G – Give the new contact something – a thank you for an informative workshop or a particularly helpful portion of a presentation or handout is always appreciated. Presenters like to know what made sense and what might be refined for next time.

E – Every new piece of information helps with progress. Take notes, review them, divide them into categories such as genre information, books to read, people to follow up with. I use different color highlighters. I go through my notes every day for two weeks after the San Francisco Writers Conference, and after that less often for a “refresh.” Learning theory suggests that this approach aids in the incorporation of new learning.

 Finally, we all know that being a writer is not easy. We do it because we have to and we love it. So, in accepting these declarations, we must give ourselves permission to attend conferences and squeeze every benefit out of every minute. This is what I do at the San Francisco Writers Conference. Whether or not I come away with new writing assignments, I always bring home have new content and contacts. See you in San Francisco.

You can contact Kimberly at
She is President of the California Writers Club Sacramento.

You and We the People: Living to Make a Difference

One useless man is a disgrace, two are a law firm, and three or more are a Congress.

John Adams in the musical 1776

Although its problems and follies measure up to its potential, the United States is the world’s last and best hope for creating a just, sustainable future. How the signing of the Declaration of Independence came about will help you appreciate the discord and oppression out of which it was forged, its vision of America, and our role in keeping its ideals alive.

Here are two things for you to watch. One may change your mind, the other your life. The first is a talk by John Perkins, author of Hoodwinked: An Economic Hit Man Reveals Why the World Financial Markets Imploded–and What We Need to Do to Remake Them. You can watch it at  Perkins said that despite corporate bribes and paralyzing partisanship, we can help determine what happens in this country and the rest of the world.

A revolution won is a revolution lost. When people think the fighting is done and just enjoy the fruits of victory, they begin to lose what the colonists fought for. The only successful revolution is one that never ends, one that keeps striving to keep its ideals alive, especially at a time of political impasse, accelerating change, and the growing urgency of our problems.

The planet has only one hyper-connected economy and only one family: the human family. Benjamin Franklin warned that if we don’t hang together, we’ll hang separately. Hatred is a luxury humanity can’t afford. As poet W. H. Auden urged, “We must love one another or die.”

The poet T.S. Eliot said that politics is too serious to be left to politicians. America can only work if we the people keep the vision of the Declaration of Independence alive by striving to fulfill its dream of a free, just, independent, thriving country, willing to reach the compromises needed to balance opposing beliefs.

That is one lesson from the funny, wonderful, relevant musical, 1776, Elizabeth and I watch on the fourth. TCM shows it, and it’s also available on demand. Even this Hollywood version of a Broadway play provides timeless lessons: how divided and ineffective Congress was; the huge odds against the Declaration being signed; how one vote made the difference; and how a compromise on slavery was essential to convince southern states to sign it.

Perkins asked his audience to do one thing every day to make the world better, an idea as powerful as it is simple. More than ever before, we have the opportunity, not just to make a living, but to make a difference. It’s easier than ever for the right idea and the right book to change the world, and the Web and the smartphone put the world at your fingertips.

Perkins said that when Rachel Carson sat down in her Pennsylvania home to write The Silent Spring about how DDT was harming the planet, she had no idea she was writing a bestseller that would become a classic, rid the world of DDT, and start the international environmental movement.

If you speak, write, or work in the other arts, your passion and your gift for capturing the challenges we face and proposing solutions will make a difference. But whatever you do for a living, you can make a difference.

How about writing and signing the declaration of independence from A talk would have to have a strong benefit like X things Novelists Need to Know About Laws, Lawyers & Litigation. (Clearly, I’ll say anything for alliteration.)whatever is keeping you from becoming the best, most creative and productive person that only you can be? Free yourself from beliefs, people, and activities that don’t help you achieve your goals. Liberating yourself will be something to celebrate every day. No matter where you are in your life or your  career, heed Anne Frank’s advice: “It’s never too late to start doing the right thing.” Have a happy 5th.

The blog hopes to help readers understand writing, publishing, and how to become successful writers. Please share it. I teach what I need to learn. Questions, comments, and ideas for posts most welcome.

Do one thing every day to make the world better.   –John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hitman