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:

Writers

  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.

Readers

  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
www.michaellarsenauthorcoaching.com
Cofounder, San Francisco Writers Conference: A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community and San Francisco Writing for Change Conference: Writing to Make a Difference
www.sfwriters.org / www.sfwritingforchange.org
415-673-0939 / 1029 Jones St. / San Francisco, 94109

The Holy Trinity of Creating Communities for Writers: Content, Service, Visibility

For your work to be read, you need to build communities of fans. The holy trinity of community—the three elements you need to build community are content, service, and visibility:

  • Because content is king, you need to keep producing work of different lengths and in different media. You have more ways to serve your readers than ever: more media and devices for reaching them faster, less expensively, more easily, and in more places than ever.
  • Making a book succeed requires a holy trinity of acts by your readers:

–They have to buy your book.

–They have to finish it; 57% of books aren’t finished.

–They must like it enough to use word of mouth and word of mouse to tell their communities they must read it.

  • Readers have to find your work. Timing, the President descending from his helicopter with your book, and other forms of luck can make a book take off, but there are two basic ways books succeed:

Magic: the simpler, faster way is word of mouth and mouse. Fans online and off enable a book to go viral, a rare phenomenon.

Communication: consumers have to hear about a new product seven to ten times to convince them to buy it. Communication is queen. The faster you want to build your readership, the more effectively and frequently you have to use all of the ways you can to serve your readers so they remain engaged members of your community of fans.

Becoming a successful author usually takes more than one book. Agent Don Maass, author of Writing the Breakout Novel, believes it takes five books for authors to build an audience. Make creating fans for life your mission. They’re waiting for you, and they want to help you succeed. Why not let them? The aces are the writers who create content and communicate about it best. Finding them is easy: look at any bestseller list. Starting dealing yourself a winning hand now.

 

The blog aspires to help us both understand writing and publishing. To make the blog as helpful as it can be, please respond with your questions and suggestions for changes. I hope you find it worth sharing.

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

The 10th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / February 14-17, 2013 / www.sfwriters.org / sfwriterscon@aol.com /

Keynoters: Bella Andre, Anne Perry, and R. L. Stine

http://sfwriters.info/blog /@SFWC/ www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoWritersConference

San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn

Laurie McLean, Dean/free classes/www.sfwritersu.com/sfwritersu@gmail.com/@SFWritersU

415-673-0939 / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109

The 5th San Francisco Writing for Change Conference / Changing the World One Book at a Time

September 2013 / Unitarian Universalist Center / Geary and Franklin

www.sfwritingforchange.org / sfwriterscon@aol.com

Creating a Literary Ecosystem: The 10 Essential Elements of a Successful Writing Career

You can create a literary ecosystem: a balanced, organic, evolving, sustainable, inter-dependent, international, environmentally sensitive community. Your system will be unified by two holy trinities and by passion, interest, service, connection, and commerce. The ten circular, integrated elements of your literary ecosystem will be

  • Passion—your love for creating and communicating your work
  • Purpose—literary, publishing, and community goals that inspire you to achieve them
  • Professionalism

–knowledge about writing, publishing, and your field

-the holy trinity of craft: reading, writing, and sharing

–the holy trinity of commerce: communities, a platform, and test-marketing

–using the technology you need to succeed

  • Perspective—understanding that developing your craft and career is a long-term process
  • Products and services—being a contentpreneur by producing a steady stream of work in your field in different forms and lengths that you re-purpose in other media
  • People—win-win relationships with engaged, committed, growing communities of people you serve who want to help you, because they know, like, and trust you
  • Platform–your continuing visibility, online and off, on your subject or the kind of book you write with your communities and potential buyers   
  • Pre-promotion–test-marketing your work in as many ways as you can
  • Promotion— serving your communities by using your passion and platform to share the value of your work  
  • Profit—what you need to achieve your personal and professional goals and maintain the system

The importance of each element will vary, depending on what you write. Promotion and test-marketing will be more important for a book than a blog post. 

Your ecosystem has to keep learning from and contributing to your communities, the hyper-connected human family, and the planet. Your system will continue to build synergy as long as you sustain it by enriching its soil with content and communication. Make cultivating your ecosystem a lifelong quest. You will accomplish more than you can imagine.

The blog aspires to help us both understand writing and publishing. To make the blog as helpful as it can be, please respond with your questions and suggestions for changes. I hope you find it worth sharing.

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

The 10th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / February 14-17, 2013 / www.sfwriters.org / sfwriterscon@aol.com /

Keynoters: Bella Andre, Anne Perry, and R. L. Stine

http://sfwriters.info/blog /@SFWC/ www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoWritersConference

San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn

Laurie McLean, Dean/free classes/www.sfwritersu.com/sfwritersu@gmail.com/@SFWritersU

415-673-0939 / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109

The 5th San Francisco Writing for Change Conference / Changing the World One Book at a Time

September 2013 / Unitarian Universalist Center / Geary and Franklin

www.sfwritingforchange.org / sfwriterscon@aol.com

A Nonfiction Writer’s Audition for Our Agency

Every word in a nonfiction proposal has to be right. The sample chapter has to be as enjoyable to read as it is informative. The proposal has to generate as much excitement as possible
in as few words as possible. But even that may be a small part of the challenge for arousing the interest of agents.

Here is what I email to new nonfiction writers who want to submit a proposal to our agency. I hope it gives you a perspective on what it takes to excite New York publishers about books from new writers:

A book is like an iceberg: Writing is 10%; marketing is 90%. –Chicken Souperman Jack Canfield

Many thanks for writing about your book. Somebody is going to publish it. Out of necessity, our goal is to sell books to New York houses, and they want writers with a platform and a strong promotion plan. So the challenge is to maximize the value of your book before you sell it. Because it’s harder for publishers to launch new authors, publishers want authors who are ready to launch themselves. As agent Rita Rosenkranz says, publishers aren’t buying promise, they’re buying proof. Because we can usually tell from a platform and a plan if we can help a writer, that’s where we like to start.

The plan in your proposal will follow “The Author’s Platform,” a list in descending order of impressiveness of what you have done and are doing, online and off–including numbers when
possible–to give yourself and the subject of your book continuing visibility with potential book buyers. A plan shows how you will use your platform to sell books. Editors won’t believe a plan unless it makes sense based on what the author is already doing.

Your plan starts under the subhead “Promotion” and begins like this: “To promote the book, the author will:…” This is followed by a bulleted list of what you will do, online and off, in
descending order of impressiveness, and when appropriate, how many of them. Begin each part of the list with a verb.

Numbers are very important to publishers. For example, having a blog and writing “Will give talks” won’t help. Publishers will want to know how many people read your blog and how many talks you’ll give and to how many people, which, again, has to be based on what you’re already doing.

If one of your goals is being published by a New York house, you’re welcome to email me just your title followed by your platform and promotion plan, written
as I’ve suggested, in the body of a letter, not as an attachment,
followed by your query letter, whenever they’re ready. Regard your ability to follow these suggestions is a compatability test. Please call me at 415-673-0939, Monday to Thursday, 11 AM-4 PM, California time, if you have questions.

If you haven’t already done so already, please check the helpful information www.larsenpomada.com. My book, How to Write a Book Proposal has more information about promotion and building a platform.

If I can’t help you as an agent now, our site describes how I may be able to help you as a consultant.

Hope we can help.

Mike Larsen

 

If your goal is to be bpublished by a small or midsized house outside of New York, you may not need this ammunition to sell your book, and these publishers buy books directly from writers.  But it’s important for you to find books and authors to use as models for your literary and financial goals. Go for it!

I write the blog to help us both understand what we need to know about writing, publishing, promotion, and agents. I hope you find it worth reading and sharing. Rants, comments, questions, corrections, and ideas for posts greatly appreciated.

The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / February 16-20, 2012 / www.sfwriters.org / sfwriterscon@aol.com / http://sfwriters.org/blog / @SFWC / www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoWritersConference / 415-673-0939 / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109

San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean / free classes / www.sfwritersu.com / sfwritersu@gmail.com / @SFWritersU

 

 

Collaboration: The 7th C to Becoming a Successful Writer in a Hyper-Connected World

Elizabeth and I just got back from two weeks in France, which gave me the chance to read one of the most important bestsellers of this young century: That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum. It provides a comprehensive perspective on America’s four largest problems and how to update our five-step formula for national greatness so we can play the role only America can and for which the world depends on us.

The World at Your Fingertips

One reason the book is essential for writers is its vision of a hyper-connected world. Two billion people are already on the Web, many using the 4.5 billion cell phones for the planet’s 6.8
billion people. Smartphones explode your potential for connecting, creating, and collaborating. They are already transforming the world. You can get online on the top of Mt. Everest. By the end of the decade, most of the people on the planet will have smartphones that will be even more amazing at delivering all media all the time anywhere.

You are writing for a hyper-connected world. This offers you vast opportunities for reaching a growing worldwide audience in as many forms, media, and countries as you wish. To be a successful writer in a hyper-connected world, you need to be a one-person, multimedia, multinational conglomerate. This requires a large continually growing team of collaborators,
online and off. In Part 4 of my six posts on “The 6 Cs for Becoming a Successful Writer in the Digital Age,” I mentioned collaboration in the section on “Contentpreneuring.” But reading That Used to Be Us made me appreciate how essential collaborating is to every part of the writing and publishing process and why its importance will continue to grow. I think we will see more authors, like Friedman and Mandelbaum, collaborate to take advantage of both their combined craft, creativity, and ability to promote their work, and the growing opportunities to profit from it, but most authors will continue to write their books alone.

9 Ways Collaborate on Your Success

Once you finish your manuscript or proposal, the rest of the process requires collaborating with

  • early readers, a critique group, or a freelance editor
  • an agent, if you use one, on prepping and selling your book
  • an editor on preparing, publishing, and promoting your book
  • the rest of the house on your book’s success
  • your communities of fans, writers, and publishing professionals on building word of mouth and mouse
  • the media to develop effective appearances
  • co-agents to help you sell the subsidiary rights you keep, such as film and foreign rights that create more opportunities for collaboration
  • pros who can help you develop your book for other media such as apps, if you have electronic rights
  • organizations that can offer you speaking engagements

You and your communities will help each other. You can barter for goods and services, partner with professionals, and hire virtual assistants. Be creative and resourceful in choosing the best people and tools to get a job done. Don’t feel overwhelmed by the challenges, just do your best, and you’ll get better at it, and benefit from your efforts.  Collaborating will be a continual learning process, but the Web has opened a world of possibilities, and I hope you will make the most of them.

(A money-back guarantee: If you read That Used to Be Us and feel I wasted your time, I will happily refund what you pay for it. Just send the receipt and tell me where I went wrong.)

[Formatting anomalies not in draft. Suggestions welcome.]

The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community /February 16-20, 2012 / www.sfwriters.org / sfwriterscon@aol.com /415-673-0939 / http://sfwriters.org/blog / @SFWC / http://www.facebook.com/pages/San-Francisco-Writers-Conference/112732798786104 / 1029 Jones St. / San Francisco, CA 94109 / San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean / free classes / www.sfwritersu.com / sfwritersu@gmail.com / @SFWritersU