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This session distills a decade of collected wisdom into the all-time best insights into the creative process, the writing life, the craft of writing and the business of publishing. Get new perspectives on revolutionizing your writing routine, following the path of your story, revising with the right mindset, persevering through rejection, and more—from award-winners and bestsellers including Alice Walker, David Sedaris, David Baldacci, Patricia Cornwell, Khaled Hosseini, Brad Meltzer and Lisa Scottoline.
In the exciting panel, you will learn the behind-the-scenes secrets to writing and publishing a splashy short essay that will get the attention of the best literary agents and book editors. This technique is how the moderator, New York Times bestselling author Susan Shapiro, has sold 12 books (to Random House, Penguin and St. Martins Press) and has also helped 150 of her students get book deals (with advances ranging from $5000 to $500,000.) Panelists include Shapiro’s agent, top editors from the New York Times, Tin House, Simon & Schuster and Beacon Press and a student whose NY Times piece led to literary representation and editors calling her.
Trying to write for children but don’t know where to start? No problem. Working on a YA or middle grade novel but stuck in a rut? You’ve come to the right place. In this workshop, Gabriela will walk you through seven fundamental steps that will get you back up and running in no time. You’ll dig into the theory behind the techniques so you can understand why they work, but you’ll also see practical examples so that you can apply these tools to your own project. You’ll leave this session with a seven-step plan to help you craft stories that will dazzle and delight your readers.
To build your brand, it’s important to maintain consistency across elements of your visual identity, and book covers are a key aspect of that. In this session, you’ll learn about the principles of design from a packaged goods branding expert whose work needs to differentiate itself from among thousands of other products to get noticed. Find out which design elements are most important to keep consistent and why, how to start from your design objectives, and practice assessing design within the right context. You’ll also learn how to be a great collaborator with your cover designer by providing the right kind of feedback against your shared objectives. Finally, you’ll gain the skills to assess the design where ever it’s going to “live”—be it as a thumbnail on a screen or held in a reader’s hands.
In this workshop we’ll talk about back story, what it is and why it matters. For instance, though characters *are* what they *do*, every surprising action has to make sense in light of the character’s past. The challenge for the novelist is to find “Page One” and then move forward, revealing back story without the dreaded “back story dump.” Writers will evaluate their own works in progress and brainstorm how and when to layer in back story. Learn the principles behind the process and beef up your writing toolkit.
Writing isn’t a science, but plenty of people like to pretend that it is. From the moment they write their first story, writers are subjected to a flood of advice—advice from know-it-all-gurus, advice from the victims of confirmation bias, even advice from folks who have never tried to write a book or story.
Over the years some of this advice has become so ubiquitous it’s taken on the feel of received wisdom, but much of the “standard” advice writers hear isn’t all that good. Jeff Somers, prolific freelancer and improbably successful author of The Ustari Cycle and The Avery Cates Series, discusses the bad advice writers get all the time, from old chestnuts like Write What You Know and Show Don’t Tell to less-famous stuff like Don’t Carry a Notebook. He’ll talk about why advice that seems good is mostly harmful—and when bad advice magically becomes good advice.
Bad Advice covered will include Write What You Know, Show Don’t Tell, Write Every Day, Kill Your Darlings, Invest In a Thesaurus, You Must/Can’t Have a Prologue, Avoid Passive Voice, It’s Been Done, Don’t Carry a Notebook, and Never Open with Dialogue.
It’s every author’s dream to one day see their own book while browsing a bookstore or library’s shelves. But how do you make that dream a reality? Distribution, discount and decorum are all keys to success when working with booksellers and librarians. In this session, IngramSpark’s Justine Bylo will offer insider tips and tricks to working with these important players in the publishing industry and broaden your book’s print distribution.
Whether you’re writing novels or are trying to position yourself as an expert for your nonfiction books, magazine articles are a great way to reach a larger audience and build your author platform. Taught by accomplished freelance writer, Kerrie Flanagan, this presentation will cover the basics of magazine writing, including generating ideas, finding your target market and writing an effective query. In addition, it will cover the reasons why tapping into this market is an important and effective marketing tool that many authors do not take advantage of. Through a combination of instruction and guided activities, participants will leave with the basic knowledge of writing for magazines along with ideas for future articles to help build their writing platform.
In this session, a professional writer who’s worked every side of the business, will give you the foundation you need to get started in this lucrative field. As a writer, you have a core skill set that every company needs: the ability to grab an audience’s attention and communicate an idea. Whether you seek full-time freedom or just a little extra side hustle money, freelancing as a copywriter can help you reach your goal. You’ll leave with a foundation of copywriting basics, as well as advice on how to find these jobs, set your rates, and earn more money.
Brevity sells. Flash fiction, flash memoir, and small hybrid stories are a growing segment of the short creative writing market. In this presentation, you’ll learn what makes these tiny stories so appealing and how you can join the fun. You’ll leave with information, inspiration, and several story ideas!
From the moment you send out your first query letter, your work will be labeled by agents, publishers, and booksellers. Instead of resisting the urge to be labeled, this session will teach you why you should consider labels a way to make your books, and your author platform, more marketable. Learn how to avoid the genre box and tell the story you want to tell to the largest possible group with the help of J.D. Barker who has successfully crossed over from horror, to paranormal, to thriller, and back again. Learn how to avoid the genre box and tell the story you want to tell to the largest possible group.
For many authors, using words to build a platform comes naturally, but understanding the data to determine if these efforts are effective does not. This session will explore online platforming including an author’s website, social media, email and other outreach, from seeing the story behind the analytics and using it to make smarter decisions to grow a readership.
Query letter newbie? Start with this session and get all the query letter basics. You’ll leave clearly knowing why and when you need one, and what it should contain. This workshop helps you avoid the mistakes that lead to rejection before an agent reads your pages and will help you see things from their point of view.
After we build strong plots and compelling characters we can’t forget about the power of our sentences. In this session, you’ll learn how to spice up those dull scenes! Learn to transform a dull sentence with arresting prose, or sensory images that convey emotion and theme with subtlety. We’ll look at contemporary examples and tease apart metaphor and simile, and make them regular tools. We’ll bust cliches and use fresh images to say the same thing, only better. You’ll up your game by learning to use images thematically to plant subtext, create foreshadowing, and build tension in any story.
Historical fiction enables writers to reimagine the past in rich ways that bring to light forgotten characters, diverse perspectives, and unknown stories. But how to develop characters and settings and stories that ring true historically while resisting stereotyped notions of the past? This interactive session will give participants specific examples and suggestions for using archives, exhibits, and primary sources that bring fresh perspectives on the past while pulling readers into realistic—yet surprisingly fresh—historical worlds.
Writing memoir can be a daunting proposition—you’re the expert on your life, naturally, but narrating and organizing your own experiences effectively can feel impossible. In this session, you’ll learn from bestselling memoirist Rachael Herron how to fast-draft your memoir while keeping its structure cohesive and compelling. You’ll leave Many writers become frustrated in early drafting stages and lack the confidence to move forward.
In this session, William Kenower will turn marketing on its head so you can take the skills and passion you have for writing and learn how to apply them to marketing. With authors increasingly responsible for their own marketing—a task most writers find boring, irritating, depressing, and often fruitless—it’s important to keep perspective and have a solid strategy. Most writers’ love of storytelling does not easily translate to marketing those stories once they are published, but this session will demystify the process and offer you tangible takeaways and more confidence to get your story out into the world.
Learning the craft is only the beginning of a writer’s journey. In this workshop we will shine a light on some of the dark questions about talent, intelligence, time, and money that haunt many writers. Most of the obstacles both beginning and experienced authors face have less to do with finding a compelling opening or creating believable characters and more to do the many emotional challenges inherent in sharing our work with other people. We’ll learn to keep our attention where it needs to be to write what we most want to write.
Romance novels make up 46% of all books sold in the United States—they sell more than mystery and science fiction combined. The voraciousness of the reader base makes writing to the romance market a potentially lucrative strategy, but learning to plot, write, and revise a smart, successful, feminist romance novel can be surprisingly difficult. In this session, bestselling author Rachael Herron will lead you through the steps of writing a romance novel that will satisfy both your creative drive and the genre reader’s expectation.
Ghostwriting tends to be an elusive concept for many writers. There is a mystery surrounding what it is and how it works. This workshop will explore these ideas as well as discuss: why people become ghostwriters; how to get started; what does it really entail; what kind of jobs are available; and where do you find them. You will leave with enough understanding of ghostwriting to decide if it is an area of writing you want to pursue.
How Publishing Really Works: An Insider’s Guide to Improving Your Odds Before, During and After Publication
In this eye-opening presentation, Phil Sexton, publisher of Media Lab Books and former publisher of Writer’s Digest, examines what takes place behind closed doors at publishing houses, in meetings with bookstore buyers, and on the bookstore sales floor that will determine the success of failure of your book. He’ll also provide advice, tips and strategies for ensuring that your book receives the best treatment and the best opportunities for success, as well as what questions you should be asking before, during and after publication.
– What you can do to ensure your book is being presented in a way that will appeal to publishers, book buyers and consumers
– What publishers don’t want you to know about book acquisition, promotion, and sales
– What questions you need to ask of your agent and/or publisher to ensure your book gets the best treatment
It’s become more competitive than ever to get your book traditionally published. Selling your nonfiction book idea, however, is as much a matter of positioning and platform as it is writing skill. And while you don’t necessarily need a completed manuscript in hand to get a book deal, you do need a compelling business plan that shows editors and agents that you’ve done your homework and have a truly salable idea. Assessing your idea, your competition, and your place in the market is what this presentation is all about.
– The key components of a successful nonfiction book proposal
– How to determine if your idea is good, great, or just so-so
– What information publishers, editors, agents, and salespeople need in order to commit to your book
During this seminar, students will learn how to craft and submit succinct and powerful pitches in a timely fashion. We will discuss finding your beat, what editors are looking for and how to capitalize off of certain news cycles/trends. You will leave feeling motivated and ready to pitch more!
Have you had some success with your pitches? Would you like to grab the attention of bigger publications? Write bigger stories? During this session, students familiar with the process of pitching magazines will learn how to do just that. We will discuss what editors are looking for, review sample pitches, and learn how to capitalize off certain news cycles/trends. You will leave feeling motivated and ready to pitch more!
Too many fiction writers start their stories without any research. And those who do some research barely scratch the surface, sticking to what they can find on Google or watch on TV. This class will teach you the basics of how to research like a reporter from a former journalist who is also an award-winning author. Learn how to interview actual sources and research primary documents that can enrich your stories, whether you’re working on a crime thriller, a cozy mystery or even science fiction that involves new technologies.
The old saying that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover doesn’t apply to the world of self-publishing ebooks. If you decide that this is the path you want to pursue as an author, you must resolve to produce the best product possible — one that contains zero copy errors and a compelling digital cover that grabs the reader’s attention. Learn the five key steps it takes to self-publish an ebook that can compete with its traditionally published counterparts. This class is taught by the Grand Prize Winner of the 2016 Writer’s Digest Self-Published Ebook Awards.
Podcasts are on the rise and one of the best ways to get media attention is to be interviewed on a podcast. But how do you get noticed by show hosts or producers? And once a show airs, how do you convert casual listeners into people who will want to ready—and buy—your book? This session will show you how to:
- Approach podcast and radio producers/hosts so they’ll jump at the chance to have you on their show,
- Give a dynamite interview, so you can engage those listeners and get them excited about you and your book,
- Leverage the interview after it airs, so you can book more great media opportunities.
Taught by a dynamic duo (i.e. host and producer of the popular podcast DIY MFA Radio) this session is jam-packed with actionable advice. You’ll get an inside look at what producers are looking for, and you’ll walk away knowing how to use audio media to build your author platform.
A moviegoer has certain expectations of a film’s journey, whether conscious or subconscious. When they look at the movie poster, they think, “Should I pay $10 to see this?” But before that even happens, a producer asks, “Can I raise millions of dollars to make this?” Discover what Hollywood is looking for in a story and writer, how this complicated industry works, as well as essential techniques that grab a producer’s attention and make the execution of your story as good as the hook, all while taking the audience on an emotional ride. Understanding screenwriting is essential for novelists, too. After all, most of us want to see our books on the big screen. If you structure your novel with a film producer in mind, it just might happen!
J.D. Barker successfully published his debut as an indie and sold enough copies to land on the radar of the traditional publishers in a BIG way including seven figure advances, two feature films and a television program. He’ll open his toolbox and explain exactly what he did to make it happen. This is a not-to-be-missed session for any aspiring author or seasoned veteran trying to find their place in today’s publishing world.
Come to this hands-on workshop to learn how to apply generational insights to your work. You’ll write more fully realized millennial characters by gaining insights into their cultural, social, and economic realities. If you’re not a millennial yourself, writing characters whose lives look like yours did at that age is simply no longer good enough. Not only will this workshop empower you to write better millennial characters, accurate representation means you’ll also be better at reaching them as readers. The session is ideal for writers of New Adult, Contemporary fiction or anyone who wants to write better millennial characters.
Since writing is a (mostly) solitary endeavor, making (and keeping) industry contacts can be difficult! This session is full of tips that will help you create a strong, robust network, no matter if you’re a new or seasoned writer. In this workshop, you’ll learn how to push your career forward by learning the basics: the BUSINESS card, ORGANIZING your time, SELLING yourself, and SOCIAL media. Don’t miss out on this class that gives you a behind-the-scenes peek at how to be an expert networker, even if you are a proud introvert!
What keeps a reader hooked and flipping pages is a little element called tension. It’s at the heart of all conflict, keeps readers guessing, and characters on their toes. In this session, you’ll learn how to build and keep tension in plot and scenes, the key elements of tension, (including danger, conflict, uncertainty and withholding), and how to tap tension within your every sentence.
4 women writers, 3 pathways to publishing, 2 divorces, 1 amazing writing group. Living a balanced life is a tall order to begin with–throw in being an author and balance seems almost laughable. Fortunately, laughing is what you’ll be doing in this high-energy session led by a thriving writing group whose members each struggled with years of rejection to find four unique forms of success. You’ll learn how the power of connection can propel your writing career, and the role a writing group can play in your journey. Knee deep in the genres of women’s fiction, creative nonfiction, middle grade fiction, and humor, these four engaging women will lay bare their ups and downs on the path to publishing, with concrete advice on how to find, nurture, and benefit from a writing group.
For most writers, signing with an agent and landing a publishing deal is the ultimate dream! For weeks, you feel like you’re living in a fairytale. But once the ink dries, most are left in the dark, wondering “What happens now?”
In this panel, we’ll discuss the next steps, including: Actiontionable marketing plans; Industry do’s and don’t’s (a.k.a. How not to piss off your publisher); Prepping for the business side of being an author.
Puzzled about how to write a page-turning thriller or a brilliant mystery? This panel of bestsellers is here to share their industry secrets, successes, inspirational stories, and tips and tricks—with time for you to ask questions, too!
This panel examines challenges specific to writing women’s fiction, one of the hottest and most consistently successful literary genres. During the session you’ll find out what it took for each author to break through, what makes women’s fiction distinct and what is it agents and publishers are looking for. You’ll also have an opportunity to ask your own questions of the panelists.
Interested in writing for kids and teenagers? Don’t miss a chance to hear from authors about breaking out, what’s currently hot on the market, and how to catch an agent or editor’s eye. Plus, you’ll get a chance to pick their brain, too!
Whether you plan your writing down to the tiniest detail, or you write by the seat of your pants, an outline can make your story stronger while also making the creative process easier. Some writers think an outline is too stifling. Others spend so much time planning, they never get around to writing the book. But, if done correctly, an outline can be a powerful addition to your writing toolkit. You’ll learn how to create a strong, flexible outline that’s custom-designed for your style, your process, and your story. You’ll leave knowing how to use your outline to perfect your plot, deepen your characters and guide your story from draft to done.
Creating a writing life is both thrilling and daunting at any age, and launching one after fifty comes with its own set of challenges and benefits, which we’ll explore in this workshop. By the time you’ve completed this hands-on session, you will have connected with and celebrated writers over fifty, explored what it means TO YOU to be a 50+ writer, and created a unique plan for your own writing life, complete with a specific task (or tasks) you can immediately implement to jumpstart your plan.
Best for writers approaching or over fifty, or those who are feeling hampered by age.
Pitch Perfect is one of the annual conference’s signature sessions, open only to those who have paid to attend the pitch slam. If you intend to pitch, it’s imperative that you attend this session. Why? The opportunity to pitch your book to agents and editors is a great chance to grab the ear of decision makers that can help bring your book to market. Time will be limited, though, so you need to make sure your pitch is perfect. In this session, You’ll receive guidelines for honing your pitch, getting comfortable with presenting and finding the confidence you need to make a great impression every time you pitch.
In this session, you’ll learn the plotting and character-development complexities associated with unreliable narrators—how to spot them and how to deploy them effectively. There are five distinct categories of unreliable narrators—from the innocent all the way to the incapacitated. But you have to know how to write them properly (and within the logic of your story) in order for them to be effective. Learn how to weave an unreliable narrator into your story to enrich your storytelling and keep readers turning pages.
Point of view—you don’t even know what it is until you try to write fiction. Then the questions pile up. Whose story is this? First person or third? What about multiple points of view? How can I tell the reader what the narrator doesn’t know? How to handle point-of-view shifts? How does POV relate to narrative voice? How to deepen viewpoint? This workshop explores all these questions with examples and writing exercise.
You’ve queried and gotten nowhere. It’s time to take a deeper dive into what can go wrong at the query letter stage in this insight-rich session with “The Query Shark” herself, Janet Reid. This session is not for beginners, but if you’re an experienced (if unsuccessful) querier, Janet will give you actionable advice and straight talk about what queries get answered.
Land bylines in literary magazines and boost your career! If you write short stories, personal essays, or poems, this session is for you. During the presentation, you’ll get an overview of the submission process, tips on making it out of the slush pile, advice on rights and copyright, and how to connect with outlets looking for writers like you. Learn how to break into literary magazines and anthologies in five easy steps.
How do you get recognized in a sea of hundreds? What does a rejection really mean? Chantelle Aimée Osman, pitch/query teacher and Editor of the New Wave Crime Division of Down & Out Books discusses life from both sides of the slush pile, and provides tips for getting your submission to rise above. She’ll also cover the logistics of publishing, from editing to acquisition, and often overlooked opportunities including novellas, anthologies, as well as the pros and cons of self-publishing vs. traditional.