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.

(Steve) Jobs for Writers: A Recipe for Making Insanely Great Apple Pie

CNBC chose Steve Jobs as the most transformative businessman of the past twenty-five years. Walter Isaacson’s brilliant bestseller Steve Jobs is must reading for anyone interested in technology, business, or anyone who wants to read the amazing story of an American genius. He transformed the computer, music, animation, video game, applications and telephone industries.

Steve Jobs reads like a novel that happens to be true. Isaacson captures the man, his personal and professional life, the companies he created, his frailties, and his accomplishments.  Isaacson calls Jobs “the greatest business executive of our era,” comparing him to Edison and Ford. His life is a story of ability meeting opportunity. Jobs was the right man in the right place at the right time: a place about to became the world center of technology, that prized innovation and the spirit of enterprise, and accepted failure along the way.

Zen, the counterculture, Bauhaus minimalism, and Jobs’ quest for enlightenment influenced his drive for beauty, purity, unity, simplicity, and perfection. He spent much of his youth barefoot, unwashed, and on extreme vegetarian diets, in a search for wisdom that led him as far as India. He was a visionary, charismatic pied piper who “combined the power of poetry and processors.” He convinced his employees to believe in his goals. As early employee Debi Coleman said: “You did the impossible, because you didn’t realize it was impossible.”

But Zen couldn’t stop Jobs’s intensity from instantly transforming him into a merciless tyrant for whom everyone was either a hero or a s**thead. His relationships with his family and friends, his employees, the people he dealt with, and his health, were victims of his temper.

Could Jobs have accomplished what he did otherwise? Based on the effectiveness of other CEOs, Isaacson doesn’t think so. (Publishing veterans will recall the success of Simon & Schuster during the tempestuous reign of Richard Snyder.)

Jobs’ life provides a recipe for success that can transform your career.  Here’s how writers can make insanely great apple pie:

1. Work for love not money.

Jobs became a billionaire, but lived simply and was never in it for profit. He loved and took pride in what he did. Speaking at a Stanford graduation, Jobs said: “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose….There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Software engineer Andy Hertzfield said: “The goal was never to beat the competition or make a lot of money. It was to do the greatest thing possible, or even a little greater.”  Pursuing your goals will become your life. Make both labors of love that are worthy of each other.

2. Think different.

He has the uncanny ability to cook up gadgets we didn’t know we needed, but then suddenly can’t live without.  —Newsweek describing the “techno-Zen experience” of Apple products

Apple’s famous “Think Different” advertising campaign, which featured icons like Einstein, Gandhi, and Jobs’ favorite Bob Dylan, helped set the company’s products apart. Creativity and innovation will be two of the century’s essential virtues. Someone once said that life isn’t about discovering yourself; it’s about creating yourself.  Set your work and yourself apart by adding the secret sauce that only you can bring to your work: Think different.

3. Think big.

Jobs said, “People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” He wanted to “make a dent in the universe” by creating “insanely great” products. To accomplish this, he drove himself and his employees to create great products and what he regarded as his greatest achievement:  the most creative company in the world.

Jobs fostered a company culture that settled for nothing less than the best, regardless of the time, effort, money, and angst required to produce it. It’s said that we only use ten percent of our brain. How much more than that do we use any of our potential? You can accomplish far more than whatever you think you can, so liberate yourself: Think big.

4. Collaborate.

Jobs called what he did a “team sport.” It required collaborating with the best people he could find. He built a staff of A players who used “deep collaboration” to build the only technology company to integrate design, manufacturing, marketing, and distribution. Profit centers for your ideas continue to spring forth.  Assemble a community of collaborators to help you create and monetize your work.

5. Focus.

According to Isaacson, Jobs’s “management mantra was focus.” Jobs said: “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” Jobs maintained a laser focus on the few products he chose to produce, on how they were sold, on his company, and his customers. His ability to focus saved Apple from failing.

Set literary, publishing, and community goals that compel you to achieve them, and maintain your focus on how best to use your time to advance your progress. Make every day as productive as you can.

6. Be committed.

On a recently discovered tape, Jobs said: “Doing anything of magnitude takes at least five years.” He also said: “Producing something artistic takes real discipline.”  Producing a steady stream of salable, excellent work, and making it succeed are marathons, not sprints. Dedicate yourself to going the distance.

7. Unify your efforts.

Isaacson: “Jobs wanted Apple to create its own unified utopia, a magical walled garden where hardware and software and peripheral devices worked well together to create a great experience, and where the success of one product drove sales of all the companions.”

Jobs had a compulsive need for end-to-end control of every aspect of Apple’s efforts. This enabled Apple to produce simple, better, innovative, integrated, synergistic products that fans love. Jobs saw the iCloud as the hub for his customers’ “digital lifestyle,” enabling them to access their data seamlessly anywhere, on any device, including the television he was working on.

Like a self-publisher, Jobs took responsibility for everything, including his mistakes. Self-publishing empowers you to control content, production, and marketing. But it also creates the responsibility to make sure you get the help and feedback you need to ensure that your work is first-rate and that you are promoting it effectively.

Write for as many media as you can, but to create synergy and build your brand, unify your work in style, approach, purpose, and how you communicate about it. Make your blog the hub of your online presence. Create “customer stickiness.” Once your readers know, like, and trust you and your work, you will have fans for life.

8. Simplify.

Jobs said: “You have to deeply understand the essence of a product to be able to get rid of the parts that are not essential….We make progress by eliminating things, by removing the superfluous.”

To make Apple products as simple to use as he could, Jobs took great pains not to ignore complexities but to conquer them. He believed Leonardo Da Vinci’s dictum that “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” When a six-year-old boy in Africa, with no experience with technology, was able to use an iPad immediately, it was a magical moment for Jobs.

The more readers you want to read your work, the more simply it should be conceived, written, and marketed. My favorite rule from The Elements of Style is “Omit needless words.” It’s the ultimate rule of writing. Or as industrial designer Dieter Ram said: “Less but better.” You face shifting, conflicting obligations. Simplifying your life will help you meet them.

9. Serve your customers.

Apple serves its customers so well they are fierce defenders of the faith who camp out in front of stores to buy new products. No amount of marketing can get digital natives who can’t tie shoelaces, tell time on an analog clock, or write cursive to dress in costumes and go to bookstores at midnight to buy 800-page novels. But J. K. Rowling did it with the Harry Potter books. Put everything you do as a writer in the service of your work and your communities. The better you serve them, the better they will serve you.

10. Make form as important as content.

Form follows emotion.   –Apple designer Hartmut Esslinger

Jobs said: “Design is the fundamental soul of a creation.” His gift was connecting art, humanity, and technology. He wanted the form of his products to delight customers. He took great pains with the design of Apple’s products, packaging, marketing, and stores to make them as pure, bold, simple, seamless, and beautiful as possible. This esthetic extended even to the parts of products you can’t see.

Everything you do embodies your goals. Design is becoming one of the justifications for print books. Readers do judge books by their covers. Make the design of your work as compelling as the work itself.

11. Build your brand.

Jobs worked on an apple farm and sometimes lived on apples. The company’s logo, a rainbow-striped apple with a bite taken out if it, captures the whimsical, friendly, youthful, different, rebellious, playful, creative, innovative, anti-corporate qualities Jobs wanted Apple products to have.

Your brand is your identity what you stand for. It’s based on your content, how you communicate, and what your readers experience when they read your work. You or the title of a series you write will become your brand. Make what you do communicate who you are as a person and a writer.

12. Write for the world.

“We’re just one world now,” was a revelation Jobs had in a Turkish bath about teenagers there who had the same clothes, tastes, and gadgets as kids everywhere else. You’re not just writing for an American audience; you’re writing for the more than 2 billion people on the Web who crave stories and information as much as you do.

13. Build anticipation.

The last time there was this much excitement about a tablet, it has some commandments on it.

–The Wall Street Journal on the iPad

Isaacson wrote that Jobs enjoyed playing impresario. “Putting on a great show piqued his passion in the same way as putting out a great product. Jobs was a master at building anticipation for new products and unveiling them to packed audiences. Use a blog, talks, social media, and other ways to test-market your work and make fans eager to read it.

14. Cannibalize yourself.

Jobs said: “If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will.” He was never concerned about how the sales of one product might lessen the sales of others.

People like to consume books in different ways and sometimes, in more than one way, such as listening to a book in a car or at the gym and reading it in bed in a book or ebook. Make your work available in as many ways as you can. Your fans will continue to buy your work in whatever ways they wish.

15. Keep learning.

“If you’re not busy being born, you’re busy dying.” –Bob Dylan

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell wrote that Jobs–like the Beatles whose music he loved–did a 10,000-hour apprenticeship to learn his craft. Jobs traveled across the world to help improve his products. Jobs said: “Curiosity is very important.” Keep up with accelerating changes in publishing, technology, and your field. Use them to help you find ways to work more creatively and productively. Earning requires learning.

16. Adapt others’ ideas.

Jobs was outraged when Microsoft and Google copied his ideas, but he was shameless about using other people’s ideas. However, as Isaacson notes, “good execution is as important as good ideas.” A book is only an idea and the execution of the idea. Coming up with ideas may be easy, but as any miscreant on death row will attest, execution is hard. Keep tabs on how authors are writing and promoting their work, and adapt their techniques, but improve on them.

17. Strive for balance.

Jobs balanced his short and long-term business goals, but he failed to do that in his personal life and regretted it. Balance

work, home, leisure, and the time you need for renewal

your time online and off

writing, communicating about it, and monetizing it

18. Fail your way to success.

Jobs got kicked out of his own company. Apple was on its deathbed when he returned from exile to rebuild it into the most valuable company on earth, surpassing its open-source archrival, Microsoft. You will endure failure on your way to success. Learn from it, and never let it stop you from persevering.

18. Embrace uncertainty.

“Embrace uncertainty” was the headline of an ad for the iPod Shuffle.

Apple had a design studio where a select few could see all of the products in development for the next three years. The quest for revolutionary products was endless and inspired Jobs.

“In the first 30 years of your life, you make your habits. For the last thirty years of your life, your habits make you.” This Hindu saying was on the invitation to Jobs’ 30th birthday party.  He also said:  “Your thoughts construct patterns like scaffolding in your mind….People get stuck in those patterns, like grooves in a record, and they never get out of them. You have to be willing to take whatever you’ve done and whoever you were and throw them away.”

He believed that “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”  So his motto was “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”  Don’t get too comfortable. You have to entertain crazy ideas in the lifelong quest to become the best writer and author you can be.

19. Be a mentor.

Jobs inherited his desire to love his work and take pride in it from his father. Even as he was dying, Jobs continued to honor the mentors who helped him by mentoring Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Larry Page, and others. Find mentors to help you, and pay it forward by helping others.

20. Enjoy the journey.

Jobs said: “Creative people want to express appreciation for being able to take advantage of the work that’s been done by others before us….A lot of us want to contribute something back to our species and to add something to the flow. It’s about trying to express something in the only way that most of us know how…We try to use the talents we do have to express our deep feelings, to show our appreciation of all the contributions that came before us, and to add something to that flow. That’s what has driven me.”

Jobs’s wife Laurene said of him: “He cares deeply about empowering humankind, the advancement of humankind, and putting the right tools in their hands.” His favorite maxim was the Chinese proverb: “The journey is the reward.” He lived to work and loved the challenge of cajoling the best out of his employees in the pursuit of perfection.

In addition to literary and commercial goals, you need public-service goals that you are passionate about accomplishing for your community and the world. I hope your goals are as noble as Jobs’s were. Make pursuing your goals a labor of love, and whatever your destiny is, you will enjoy the ride, bumps and all. 


We will not see another Steve Jobs.  But we will not see another you either. So I hope this recipe inspires you to make your own insanely great apple pie. You and your readers will be better for it. If you have what it takes, do what you love–and what you must–to achieve your goals, you will succeed. So think big and go for it!


The blog aspires to help us both understand writing and publishing. Questions, comments and suggestions welcome. 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 12th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community February 12-16, 2014 / San Francisco InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel

Keynoter: Yiyun Li / / /@SFWC/

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

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

September 6, 2014 / Unitarian Universalist Center / Geary and Franklin

Keynoter: Adam Hochschild /