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

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


Reading for Refugees: Got Any Spare Libros?

Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. –Barry Lopez

More than 50,000 children from Central America have been forced to cross the Rio Grande seeking asylum. Their tragedy is an opportunity for people who care about reading and books. These future readers need new or used books:

  • Picture books without text
  • Children’s, middle-grade, and young-adult books in Spanish or bilingual editions
  • Books for learning English
  • Basic Spanish-English dictionaries

The government has sent 1300 children to San Francisco where you can send books to the: Central American Resource Center, 3101 Mission Street, 94110, (415-642-4400).

Please forward this to readers you know, especially to schools, bookstores, libraries, service organizations and houses of worship.

If you can translate this into Spanish and send it to Hispanic organizations, please do.

Needed: an organization to accept donations for books and a knowledgeable volunteer to order books.


The goal of the blog is to help writers succeed by understanding writing, publishing, and becoming a successful writer.

I teach what I need to learn. Questions and comments most welcome.

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

The 6th San Francisco Writing for Change Conference / Changing the World One Book at a Time

September, 6th, 2014 / /

Keynote: Adam Hochschild

The 12th San Francisco Writers Conference & Open Enrollment Classes

A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community

February 12-16, 2015/ / / Mike’s blog: @SFWC /

Keynotes: Judith Curr, John Lescroart, Yiyun Li

Michael Larsen-Elizabeth Pomada Literary Agents / Helping Writers Launch Careers Since 1972 / / 415-673-0939 /1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109



Why a Powerocracy is Winning World War III and How Writers Can Help Save the World

Whoever has any authority over you, no matter how small, will attempt to use it.

–Quigley’s Law

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.    

–Barack Obama

World War III started in the eighties. Not a shot was fired, so no one noticed. A Pocracy (that’s short for Powerocracy and suggests the gap between its words and actions) silently declared war on people and the planet. After three decades, the Pocracy–a borderless, international assortment of individuals, businesses, governments, and institutions that act independently yet increasingly control our lives–is winning.

Only a worldwide movement of tech-enabled citizens, collaborating to save their rights, their communities, their country, and the environment, can save us. If the resistance to the Pocracy doesn’t make itself felt by the end of the decade, it may be too late.

The War is the inevitable consequence of the quest for order, efficiency, growth, control, power, and money. Technology became the engine that enabled business, government at all levels, religion, nonprofits, the media, the military, and individual influencers to become the Pocracy.

Speaking Truth to Power

The Pocracy’s members first gained support by providing solutions to problems. But power corrupts. That’s the human condition. Now members are concerned more with their own agendas than what is best for the human family and the planet. Because of their power, willingness to collaborate–even with competitors–the Pocracy has become the biggest problem humanity faces. The cumulative effects of the War are growing rapidly, and these tragedies will continue to worsen, unless those who care act.

Because power corrupts at all levels of organizations from local to international, the real enemy we face is power–the power of position, money, time, size, secrecy, belief, ignorance, prejudice, family, the tribe, tradition, the media, marketing, consumerism, inertia, and short-term thinking. The unimpeded growth of the Pocracy makes it increasingly difficult to prevent its members from controlling humanity instead of serving it.

One sign of the problem: patriotism becomes treason. As Edward Snowden said in December, “I am still working for the NSA right now. They are only ones who don’t realize it.” 

Members of the Pocracy have their own onerous, complex set of growing challenges. They can’t provide a vision of our problems, let alone solutions.  Only a bottom-up movement can convince the Pocracy and their employees that serving the common good is in their long-range interest.

Peace is the Way

Force can’t bring about the changes we need. The movement needs to embrace the principles and practices of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela, and be further empowered by creativity, innovation, technology, and scalability. Because means affect ends, we need to balance passion for our ends with compassion while striving for them.

The millions of people who work for the Pocracy are our friends, colleagues and members of our family. They are potential allies who have gone or been led astray. Most believe they are doing the right thing. But our shared nature and fate bind us far more tightly than what separates us.

The Pocracy needs to make the short- and long-term effects of their actions on people, their communities, and the planet transparent more important than growth or profit. Its members need to be accountable to a local or international court of law, based on an enforceable International Bill of Rights ( The court’s judgments need to be swift enough and the cost of transgressions certain and great enough to prevent them. But courts need to make ensuring justice more important than following the letter of the law.

Decision-making needs to be an open, collective, expeditious process. But when change is rapid, disruptive, and unpredictable, decisions need to be monitored and revised as needed. This requires the perpetual scrutiny of media not dependent on advertising or the beliefs of their ownership.

Making Change Possible

Change will come from a mobilized grass roots.

–Barack Obama, Dreams from my Father

The movement needs to overcome the Pocracy’s resistance to change and its effects members’ power or profit. The world needs the benefits the Pocracy provides, and businesses deserve to make a fair profit. The challenge is to focus members’ efforts on what will serve them, us, and the world in a sustainable way.

People who can exercise the power of the ballot need to:

  • Find and elect representatives with no interest in wielding power who are more concerned about their constituencies than themselves
  • Elect officials for as short a period of time as possible
  • Make finding and preparing their successors a continuing process

 Writers and other independent media people have to communicate unbiased, compelling visions of problems and solutions. They are essential voices of change that give their audiences the facts, vision, guidance, and inspiration they need to work together. The goal of the San Francisco Writing for Change Conference ( is to empower writers to become change agents.

 Mobile devices, the organizing tool for the movement, will enable it to maximize its worldwide potential for communication, creativity, community, and collaboration. The movement will only prevail if it is eternally vigilant and makes monitoring and renewing itself an integral, continuing part of how it functions.

 How the Movement Will Succeed

 The movement needs to generate momentum from the bottom up. The challenges it will face are to enable the world to:

  • Abandon individual and collective beliefs that don’t serve the good of humanity. As New York Times columnist Mark Bittman said of food: “If it’s good for us, it’s good for the planet.”
  • Agree on the magnitude and threat of the problems
  • Enlist the support of the Pocracy and its workers
  • Harness the world’s wisdom, knowledge, creativity, innovation, and skills to find solutions
  • Give individuals and organizations enough power to be effective, but not enough to be corrupted
  • Carry them out while–as a United Nations report on climate change noted–“managing the unavoidable and avoiding the unmanageable”
  • Celebrate victories to help sustain the movement’s hope, spirit and momentum 

 The United States is the logical place to start the movement. Americans can be catalysts for the coming of age of the human family by beginning the collaboration needed to preserve freedom and Gaia’s global village. Winning World War III gives us the opportunity to create a new American dream for a new century with solutions that work for everyone on the planet.

 Why the Movement Will Succeed

 Nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.

–Barack Obama

 Faced with overwhelming but less daunting odds, the Founding Fathers would, for the same reasons they led the Revolution, relish the prospect of the struggle. Benjamin Franklin warned: “For surely if we do not hang together, we will most assuredly hang separately.” We must find a way to reconcile our differences and care for one another and the planet, or we will suffer a catastrophic future.

            If we survive our follies, this century will prove Napoleon’s belief that, “Humanity is only limited by its imagination.” If we can think of something, achieving it  is inevitable. If the people and resources to build the movement emerge, it will succeed. Now is the time to figure out how to help.


The goal of the blog is to help us both understand writing and publishing.

Questions, comments, and suggestions for improvements most welcome.

 The 6th San Francisco Writing for Change Conference / Changing the World One Book at a Time

September, 6th, 2014 / /  

The 11th San Francisco Writers Conference  & Open Classes

A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community 

February 13-16, 2014 / / / Mike’s blog: @SFWC /

Keynoters:  Chitra Divakaruni, Barry Eisler, and Mark Coker

San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / free classes / / / @SFWritersU  

Michael Larsen-Elizabeth Pomada Literary Agents / Helping Writers Launch Careers Since 1972 / / 415-673-0939 /1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109




The Blessings of Thanksgiving for Writers

Thanksgiving is a time to take (turkey?) stock of the blessings that writers have:

  • Loving to learn, read, write, serve your readers, and share your passions
  • Stringing words together like lights that enlighten your readers
  • Knowing that you’re doing what you were born to do
  • Having literary and publishing goals that motivate you to achieve them
  • Having ideas to write about
  • Writing what people want to read
  • Producing work that has social value
  • Writing work you can resell in other forms, media, and countries
  • Having technology to  help you create, share, promote, and profit from your work
  • Experimenting with new ways to express your ideas
  • Being supported by your friends and family
  • Having a community of early readers
  • Having fans who love what you write
  • Being liked and respected by authors you admire
  • Having an agent, editor, publisher, and fans who champion your work
  • Finding new ways to Monetize your work
  • Having a community of collaborators to help you
  • Maintaining a balance between work, home, and leisure
  • Earning enough income to support your writing habit
  • Not having everything you want
  • Having challenges that bring out the best in you
  • Being so energized by your work and your readers that you wake up every day eager to write
  • Living in a home and community that cherish creativity
  • Being part of  a business which is a labor of love

Then of course, on Friday, there are turkey sandwiches on dill rye with mayo and pepper…

 I hope you’ll share these blessings and let me know which ones I left out.


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 answers. 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 / / / /@SFWC/

San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn

Laurie McLean, Dean/free classes/

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