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

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




12 Parts of a Perfect Pitch for a Nonfiction Book: Exciting Agents and Editors About Your Proposal

Pitching your nonfiction book to an agent or editor takes less than thirty seconds. The goal: generate maximum excitement in as few words as possible. Without being self-serving, you must capture the essence of your book, why it will appeal to book buyers, and what’s most impressive about your platform, promotion plan, and credentials.

Books are either prose-driven or promotion-driven. Promotion  and platform–your continuing visibility, online and off. on the subject of your book with potential book buyers–aren’t as important for certain kinds of books such as reference books. They’re also not as important for academic presses, or for small, niche, or midsize houses outside of New York. So you have to be clear about your publishing goals for your book and what it takes to achieve them.

Half of the twelve parts of a pitch are optional; you may not need them. Here’s how to excite agents and of editors at Big Apple houses:

  1. A sentence with the title (and subtitle, if needed) and up to fifteen words that prove your book is unique and salable.
  2. The model(s) for your book: one or two books, movies, or authors–“It’s The Tipping Point meets The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”
  3. (Optional) A narrative nonfiction book, such as a memoir, requires two or three sentences about the time, setting, and the story.
  4. The most important thing about your platform: what you are doing to give yourself continuing visibility on the subject, online or off, with potential book buyers, and if the number is impressive, how many of them, and where. Wrong: “I give talks.” Right: “I give X talks a year to Y people in major markets.”
  5. The most effective one-to-three things you will do to promote your book, online or off, and if the number is impressive and appropriate, how many of them. Your promotion plan must be a believable extension of your platform.
  6. The length of your proposal.
  7. (Optional) The length of your manuscript, if it’s ready to submit.
  8.  (Optional) The names of people who will provide a foreword and cover quotes, if            they’re impressive.
  9. (Optional) Mention if you’re proposing a series.
  10. (Optional) Information about a self-published edition that will help sell it.
  11. Your most impressive credentials: your track record; experience in your field; years of research; prizes; contests; awards.
  12. (Optional) Anything else that will impress agents or editors.

            Like the parts of your proposal, these elements are the building blocks of your pitch. Arrange them in whatever order will give them the most impact. How to Write a Book Proposal discusses platform and promotion.


The 5th San Francisco Writing for Change Conference

Changing the World One Book at a Time

October 12, 2014 /

The 11th San Francisco Writers Conference

A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community 

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

San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean / free classes / / / @SFWritersU  

Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents

Helping Writers Launch Careers Since 1972 / / 415-673-0939

1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109

You and We the People: Writing for Change

One lazy man is called a disgrace, two lazy men are called a law firm, and three or more a congress.

John Adams in the musical 1776

Although America’s follies and problems approach in size and gravity its potential and stature, the United States is the best and greatest country the world has ever had. The signing of the Declaration of Independence is worthy of celebration, if only to remind us of how unlikely an enterprise America was at its birth, how remarkable its vision of America, and our role in keeping its ideals alive.

On the morning of America’s birthday, I want to recommend a speech and a musical comedy for you to watch. One may change your mind, the other your life. The first is a talk by John Perkins, author of Hit Man: An Economic Hit Man Reveals Why the World Financial Markets Imploded–an What We Need to Do to Remake Them. You can watch it at Perkins says that despite corporate bribes and paralyzing partisanship, we, as citizens, can determine America’s future.

America is a centrist country, but politicians and the public usually hear more from zealots at the ends of the political spectrum, rather than the middle. Parkins 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, writers 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 Internet enables you reach the world with your fingertips.

Perkins said that when Rachel Carson sat down at her small desk in her Pennsylvania home to write about how DDT was harming the planet, she had no idea that she would write The Silent Spring, a bestseller that became a classic that liberated the world from DDT and started the international environmental movement.

Whether you write fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, your passion and your gift for portraying the challenges we face, and proposing solutions, can make a difference. Knowing how big a difference you can make is impossible, but it’s much greater than you think.

How about writing and signing you own declaration of independence from whatever is keeping you from becoming the best, most creative and productive person you were born to be and that only you can be? Free yourself from beliefs, people, and activities that waste your resources, but don’t help you achieve your goals. That will be something for you to celebrate every day.

A revolution won is a revolution lost. When people believe there’s nothing more to fight for and just enjoy the fruits of victory, they begin to lose what was so costly to win. The only way to win a revolution is to keep striving to keep its ideals alive, especially at a time of political impasse, accelerating change, and the growing urgency of the problems we face. Our hyper-connected planet has only one economy and only one family: the human family. As Benjamin Franklin warned, we have to hang together, or we will hang separately.

For America to work, we have to do what we must to keep the vision of the Declaration of Independence alive and perpetually strive to fulfill its dream of a free, independent, thriving country, united by the compromises needed to balance contrary beliefs.

Every 4th of July, Elizabeth and I watch 1776, a Tony-winning  musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence that has important lessons we ignore at our peril. The show brings to life the remarkable but all-too-human men who made it possible.  The show captures how divided and ineffective Congress was at its birth, how one vote made the difference, and the disastrous compromise on slavery required to make America possible despite overwhelming odds.

No matter where you are in your life or your writing career, remember Anne Frank’s words: “It’s never too late to start doing the right thing.” America’s only hope is to remain a revolution in progress that we keep alive with our efforts. Have a happy 5th


The 4th San Francisco Writing for Change Conference: Changing the World One Book at a Time will take place September 15th at the Unitarian Universalist Center, Geary & Franklin Streets,

The goal of the blog is to help you and me understand writing and publishing. Rants, comments, questions, and answers needed to make the blog more helpful.

The 4th San Francisco Writing for Change Conference:

Changing the World One Book at a Time

September 15, 2012 / Unitarian Universalist Center / Franklin & O’Farrell, San Francisco

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

D & N: The Chain of Endless Inspiration for Writers

What is essential is invisible to the eye.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Desires and needs.

We are a blend of nature and nurture, but also of what we want and need. Don’t people’s needs and desires, and how they try to satisfy them, tell you and your readers the essentials of what you need to know about them? Because D & N are unique and universal, portrait and portent, they can create and convey character. People are what they want, as well as what they do and say.

What are people’s lives but the stories of how they pursue their D & N? These  stories are  characters’ literary DNA, the blueprint of their real or imagined lives and a source of endless inspiration.

We are all born with the same basic needs. We prisoners of them. But, just as mistakes are the ornaments of freedom, desires are the ornaments of our lives. They’re what we add to needs to help make life worth living. Footwear is necessary; Jimmy Choo’s are optional.

And yet, D & N make us running around in circles like hamsters on a wheel. The moment of satisfaction may either end a need or desire, or only subdue it, in which case, it’s the beginning of a renewed need or desire, perhaps for something different, if not better.  Is this The Human’s Journey, and when we return from each quest, we bring back new knowledge about our D & N and how to satisfy them.

To be a successful writer, writing must be a need. To be as good a writer as you can be, make getting the words right a compelling desire. To be a successful author, you must know:

what your literary and publishing desires are

what you want to write and for whom

how you can satisfy the needs and desires of publishers and book buyers

how you want your books published

how well you want them to sell.

Your goals determine what you write, how you write it, for whom, and the platform and promotion you need.  Your goals determine who you become, so choose them wisely and change them when necessary. May your goals always inspire your best efforts.


The goal of the blog is to help you and me understand writing and publishing. Rants, comments, questions, and answers are needed to make the blog as helpful as I want it to be.

Just Announced:

The 4th San Francisco Writing for Change Conference

Changing the World One Book at a Time

September 15, 2012 / Unitarian Universalist Center / Geary & Franklin, San Francisco

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