February 8, 2017

44 Takeaways from the San Diego Writers Conference

#sdwcA few weeks ago, I attended the San Diego Writers Conference, sponsored annually by San Diego State University. It was my second time at this event (here are my takeaways from last year’s event) so I knew it would be cerebral, well-worth the time and money, leave me motivated to get back into the trenches with my keyboard and red pencil, and introduce me to lots of like-minded writerly folks. Keynote speakers included Jonathan Maberry, R.L. Stine, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and J.A. Jance. I can’t believe how entertaining these folks were while imparting some amazing nuggets that I will likely never forget.

Here are my top 44 takeaways:

  • Jonathan Maberry writes 4000 words a day, five days a week.  Here are a few tips from him:
    • He doesn’t believe in writer’s block. It usually means you’re facing a challenge.
    • He writes in a bunch of genres. Doesn’t see any problem with that and wants to try them all.
  • Audio books in 2015 were worth $1.7 billion.
  • Use social media to encourage efriends.
  • Focus on just a few social media platforms. Pick the ones that work best for you (I heard this from multiple people).
  • Champion and promote other people’s stuff.
  • Bob Mayer says end matter (the stuff you put after the end of your story) can only be 5% of the book. More from Bob Mayer:
    • Half million titles were uploaded to Kindle in 2016.
    • Self-pub authors make more than traditionally pubbed authors.
    • Don’t be an a**hole! Be polite, helpful, and convivial to online friends and acquaintances (I heard this from at least three presenters).
    • Have a good reason to break a rule.
  • Tips from JLStine (the author of the Goosebumps series):writing
    • There’s no good answer to the question ‘where do you get your ideas’. Start with a title and let it lead you to an idea.
    • If you get bogged down in the story and can’t get to the ending, start with the ending.
    • Always say yes to every opportunity (having to do with marketing your books).
    • He outlines his books first. He thinks that allows him to write more books.
    • He does no research for his books. He makes everything up.
    • Twitter is a great way to stay in touch with readers.
    • Social media provides good marketing tools.
  • Justin Sloan’s tips (this guy writes multiple books a year–he was amazing):
    • It takes a really long time to get traditionally published.
    • Your goals will help you decide which way to go. Traditional is better for winning awards. Self-pub better for quick publishing.
    • Bookbub is the gold standard for promoting your book.
    • What you get out of traditional publisher is heavily dependent upon the agent you have.
    • The average self-pubbed author sells six books a year.
    • What are called ‘Whale readers’ read several books a day.
    • Offer your first book free to get readers to buy the next.
    • Use Instafreebie to promote your book. You’ll get everyone’s email address when they sign up for your free book.
    • Add an offer at the end of your book, such as a free story if they subscribe to your newsletter.
  • Have a thirty-second elevator pitch. That’s five to eight sentences. Include who you are, what your book is about, what you want people to do about your book.
  • Have ten questions about your book that you are prepared to answer.
  • Have a short and long bio.
  • Develop three to five pitches.writer
  • Be quotable. Have quick blurbs that listeners find quotable.
  • Give your media appearance a second life on social media.
  • You must become a performer once your book is written.
  • A book trailer is 90 seconds and could be as simple as you answering the ten questions.
  • Tips from Penny Sansevieri:
    • 95% of book sales are from personal recommendation.
    • Number one thing readers want to do when they finish a book is to engage with the audience.
    • Photofunia.com–add effects to pictures to make your marketing pop
    • Befunky.com–more photo editing tools for your marketing efforts.
    • You need seven touches to sell a customer.
    • You can sell on Pinterest now.

  • The key to writing a non-fiction book is to make it entertaining.
  • Narrative nonfiction probably succeeds or fails based on writer skills.

Overall, this conference gets an A. I can’t think of anything I didn’t like and will probably attend next year. Who’s with me?

More on writing advice:

How to Write Like a Pulitzer Prize Winner

15 Traits Critical to a Successful Writer

8 Things Writers Can Do No One Else Can


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thriller, To Hunt a Sub. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. The sequel to To Hunt a Sub, Twenty-four Days, is scheduled for Summer, 2017. Click to follow its progress.

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