roh morgon

~shifting directions

Here we are, nearing the end of the fourth month of 2011…

I can’t believe the year is already a third over. Time flies when one is buried in both work and writing.

For those of you who occasionally check my blog, I apologize for my long absence and appreciate your loyalty.

The last several months have been a wake-up call for me. It all started at the San Francisco Writers Conference in February, where the predominate message on how to get published was nearly 180-degrees from that of last year’s conference.

In 2010, the traditional route to becoming a published writer  (i.e. via agent, publisher, etc.) was still being promoted at the conference as the smart and secure way to go. Those who were venturing into self-publishing were viewed with shaking heads and whispers of doom. But at the same time, some folks were watching the risk takers–and taking notes.

Several major events in 2010 and early 2011 indicated the wind was beginning to shift in the other direction.

The number of e-book purchases sailed past hard copy numbers in several categories, firing a warning shot across the publishing bow that the whole world felt. The bankruptcy of Borders was a direct hit, the first of many salvos that are continuing to rock the publishing industry.

The February 2011 Conference was aflame with the recent Borders news, yet highly optimistic about the changing publishing climate. And sessions on self-publishing, or indie publishing as it’s now being called, had an equal presence with those following the traditional, or legacy model.

In March, a new storm hit the publishing world as established author Barry Eisler walked away from signing a two-book, $500,000 contract with St. Martins Press to publish the books himself. And a week later, self-publishing darling Amanda Hocking signed a four-book $2,000,000 contract with the same St. Martins Press.

Needless to say, these two events left many folks scratching their heads.

But when it comes down to the dollars, both decisions make perfect sense. Barry retains control over his story and his release schedule (it can take up to two years for a book to hit the stores after signing with a publisher). What’s more important, and the deciding factor in his decision, is that he can earn more in the long term by publishing the books himself than he could using the traditional model.

For a little insight into Barry Eisler’s choice, check out this conversation between Barry and Joe Konrath. A follow-up to that post can be found here in Part 2.

Amanda Hocking, on the other hand, gained a legitimacy and recognition that is difficult for self-published writers to attain. She also now has a team behind her to take care of much of the publishing details, freeing her up to do more of what she loves–writing. To read about her decision, I encourage you to visit Amanda’s blog.

As for Amanda’s accounting, some would argue she could have made more by publishing those four books herself. But I don’t think she’s going to be hurting for money, because she still has her self-published titles that are selling well. And as print readers discover her books and visit her website, her self-pubbed works will keep selling.

Ultimately, these two authors did what they felt was in their best interests, and no one should question their decisions.

But we can watch the results of those decisions unfold, and learn from them.

I know I am, and I know which direction I’m heading.

I realize the self-pub route is difficult and requires a lot of work. But so does the traditional, and if I go that route, I have an uphill battle (see December’s ~biases in publishing).

My posts will be infrequent over the next several months as I re-position myself to publish on my own. I have a number of changes to make, both to blog and website, and a lot of preparation to get Watcher ready to hit the market by my target date.

So continue to check back once in awhile for news about the paradigm shift that is shaking up the publishing world. It’s a revolution that’s been a long time coming, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

roh morgon @ Friday, 22 April 2011 3:03 pm
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~hello, world

Yeah, it’s me.

Where have I been, you ask?

Walking the stone halls of Starhaven with Sullivan as he tries to regain control of the mess that he’s made of his life. He’s decided that he wants his story written, and written now.

The last thing you want to do with a rebellious teenager is to ignore him when he finally opens up and spills his guts to you.

And so I’ve been devoting every spare moment to writing his story, which meant that husband, friends, and blog all had to take a backseat for awhile.

But I can no longer afford to ignore any of them (especially my husband). And as I’m learning here at the San Francisco Writers Conference, I can’t afford to ignore my blog anymore, either.

Today has been incredible – and it’s only the first day! I’ve met new people and reconnected with old friends, listened to sage advice and cried at the words from inspirational speakers.

But the big buzz this year is about the state of the publishing industry, and how much it’s changed in the last twelve months. Borders’ bankruptcy declaration is but the tip of the iceberg as the publishing business restructures itself for the digital age.

It’s a new world out there folks, and, to borrow a line from renowned editor, Alan Rinzler, now may be the best time ever to be an author.

roh morgon @ Friday, 18 February 2011 6:06 pm
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~Nathan Bransford, Central Coast Writers Conference & Book Festival – part II

So, where was I?

Oh, yeah. On a rant about an experience I had at the Central Coast Writers Conference in San Luis Obispo (see part I).

But that’s not what this report is supposed to be about. It’s supposed to be about the conference workshops, the cool industry people that were there, the awesome attendees, and the friendships that were formed.

So I almost deleted my previous post, since folk are likely more interested in the conference itself and not my own personal experience of it.

But then I thought about those people who’ve never been to a writers conference and have no idea what to expect. People similar to me. I attended my first one a year ago – this very conference, in fact.

People who might be unprepared for how vulnerable they’ll feel about their writing, how sensitive they’ll be to criticism – no matter how gently it’s given – when it’s delivered in person and face-to-face.

Those dashed hopes, the fear that our writing isn’t good enough, is a part of every conference.

And so is this part:

The part where a professional compliments you, or gives you encouragement, one-on-one, with a smile and a reassuring pat on the back.

Nathan Bransford did that for me. I spoke with him at lunch about my concerns with my novel written in present tense. He smiled and shook his head, then gave me this bit of uplifting advice:

He told me it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter whether it’s first person or third, whether it’s past tense or present. What matters is the story. What matters is the voice. That’s all. Tell the story and tell it well.

Even though I’ve read this on his blog, expressed in many different ways, I was still surprised by the rush of relief upon hearing his words. I smiled and nodded, and glowing, thanked him and left him to finish his lunch in peace.

So that’s my experience at the conference from a personal perspective.

The rest of the story?

There were some great workshops. Those on writing covered poetry, short stories, mystery, travel, nonfiction, children and young adult. There were a few on getting published as well.

One that I attended was called Poetry: The Heart of the Story and the Story of the Heart. It was  taught by Kevin Clark, a poetry and literature professor at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo. It was a wonderful examination on how to weave words that evoke thought and emotion, something that’s important for any storyteller, whether they write poetry or prose.

Another was Writing for Young Readers: Deep Stories in Small Words, given by Kathleen Duey. We ended up discussing MG and YA as well as children’s stories, and she offered advice based on her experiences as a writer of all three. Kathleen has the coolest website, too. This was a great workshop.

But my favorite of the weekend was given by Nathan Bransford. He is the most positive and upbeat guy, one who smiles and laughs – a lot. His workshop was called Getting Published: Let’s Play Query Mad Lib, and it was quite a hoot. He gave us his basic formula for a successful query letter, then divided us up into groups of 8-10. Our task: Write him a winning query – humor encouraged.

The results of this were hilarious. My group chose ‘historical sci-fi’ as the genre of the novel, with a hero named ‘Caesar Lightyear’ whose goal was to recover the Mayan calendar and save the world from the evil Brutus. It was ridiculous.

There were a number of silly queries with ludicrous plots and over-the-top heroes. The winning entry was a vampire story! Cracked me up (since that’s what I write!). Who says vampires are dead?!

One of the best things about a conference is meeting folk that are passionate about writing – on both sides of the publishing fence. I ran into a couple writers I’d met last year, and made the acquaintance of a few more. One of these was Anne Allen (hi Anne!) who told me that I’m on the right track to getting published by blogging and going to conferences. You can read her take on the conference here.

So overall, it was a great conference, and its moments of downs were vastly outnumbered by the ups. The only other thing I can say is…

Go to writers conferences, get a taste of the real world. Put them in your budget and at the top of your to-do list.  Think of it as an investment in your writing career – the payoff can be well-worth the expense.

roh morgon @ Saturday, 9 October 2010 2:21 pm
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~Nathan Bransford, Central Coast Writers Conference & Book Festival – part I

Wow. I can’t believe how time gets away from me. It’s already been over 2 weeks since I attended the Central Coast Writers Conference. I’m not going to rant about the passage of time – been there, done that, will probably do it again.

But not now. Now I’m going to give the report on the Conference that I promised.

It was my second year at the CCWC, and, like all conferences are for me, quite a roller-coaster ride.

This day-and-a-half conference is held in gorgeous San Luis Obispo, CA, which is a thriving university town and my old stomping grounds. Its community college, Cuesta College, provides just the right setting for the examination and promotion of the literary craft.

The keynote speaker this year was renowned blogger and uber-agent Nathan Bransford of the Curtis Brown Literary Agency. His positive message to the audience was upstaged only by his open and friendly manner. The Nathan I saw at the podium was the Nathan I’ve seen in his blog – helpful, caring, supportive – EXCEPT he was in 3-D!!

Couldn’t get any better.

The first session was Friday evening after the keynote. And that’s where my car on the rollercoaster dropped out from under me, leaving my stomach in my throat. When the industry professional read the opening from my unpublished novel, Watcher, she started out by complimenting me on my writing. But halfway through my piece, she derailed my elation when she commented that present tense doesn’t work, that no one likes to read it and no publisher will buy it, and that I should re-write my novel.

The audience protested on my behalf, shouting out, “What about The Hunger Games?” Her response was that she hadn’t heard of it, nor of any of the other recently-published titles that the audience continued to mutter.

All I could think about was the gargantuan task of re-writing a first-person present-tense novel (and its half-written sequel) in past-tense.

No way.

Yet the nausea continued to grip me as I thought about the last year-and-a-half of my life that I’ve dedicated to this story. A story that refused to be written in third person, or past-tense. A story with a character that insisted on telling it HER way, writer be damned.

And so I went home, deflated, angry that once again an industry professional had dashed my hopes against the hard rock of publishing reality.

The same thing happened at last year’s conference. Different professional, different reason. But I listened to her, and made her recommended changes, and improved my story.

But re-writing the whole thing?  That was going to take some deep thought.

(to be continued)

roh morgon @ Wednesday, 6 October 2010 4:22 pm
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~tomorrow’s blogfest and upcoming writers’ conference!

OMG – it’s almost here!

I have been so slammed lately with real-world stuff that almost everything relating to writing (including this blog) has been rudely shoved into a gloomy corner.

And that’s how I feel when I can’t make the time to write or blog – GLOOMY! And pissy, cranky, crabby – you name it. I love to write and really enjoy blogging. Not being able to do either takes some of the purpose out of my days…

BUT – tomorrow is the BACK-TO-SCHOOL BLOGFEST!!!

I’m so excited – and I’m thrilled at the number of participants who’ve signed up! I can’t wait to read everyone’s entries. It’s a good thing I stretched the ‘fest over four days, because I want to read each and every story.

The other thing I’m excited about is that I’m attending the Central Coast Writers Conference this weekend, and guess who the keynote speaker is!

Nathan Bransford! Uber-agent for Curtis Brown, Ltd!

Nathan has the coolest blog full of great advice for writers – I encourage you to check it out if you’re not a regular reader.

He’s also presenting one workshop session called: Getting Published: Let’s Play Query Letter Mad Lib – and I was lucky enough to get a seat in this! The timing couldn’t be more perfect for me. I am beyond excited…

Hope to run into some other West Coast writers from the blogosphere while at the conference. I’ll give a full report when I get back.

Off to do my homework for school tomorrow…

roh morgon @ Tuesday, 14 September 2010 5:23 am
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~what are agents really looking for?

Check out this post by Veronica Roth over at GotYA on agent responses to queries at the Backspace Writers Conference.

roh morgon @ Wednesday, 2 June 2010 11:41 am
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The San Francisco Writers Conference

I recently attended the San Francisco Writers Conference (http://www.sfwriters.org) held February 12 – 14. Let me say just one word about this conference – AMAZING!

Well, actually  I have a few more words than that to describe this fantastic gathering of editors, agents, writers and other folks within the publishing community. A lot more.

Let me start with saying I met some fascinating and talented people during the course of the conference. The variety of interests, backgrounds, and works of these professionals is astounding to this newcomer. It was like stepping into a bookstore – even though some had similar titles or maybe even similar areas of focus, each one was unique and full of surprises.

People are like books. They are walking stories filled with the scenes and chapters that make up their lives. Some fit in specific genres, others are crossovers, or slipstream, or whatever you may want to call it. And you never know what’s inside until you crack open the cover.

One person I met was a former military pilot. That’s all they said about their time in the military. But as conversations developed with this person, I started listening to the variety of places they’d been in, and realized this was no ordinary pilot. Moreover, it wasn’t what they said, but what they didn’t say, that made me realize the special ops background of this person. Talk about a rich palette of landscapes and experiences to draw from! But I also understood that it wasn’t all fun and adventure. You don’t walk away from that business without haunting memories of loss and regret. I felt fortunate to have met this person and wish them all the best (out of respect for them, I’ve used the genderless ‘they’ intentionally).

And that is really what the primary purpose of this conference is – to meet people, to network, to make connections. Agents and publishers come to these conferences to see old friends and find new talent. You are given opportunities to ask questions, have your writing reviewed, and even submit your work to professionals who normally don’t accept unsolicited material.

The seminars and workshops that take place throughout the day are filled with information on both the technical aspects of writing and how to navigate the rough waters of getting published. I gained insights from every one that I attended and regretted missing many of the others.

The conference schedule was quite impressive. There were five to six workshops every hour, along with other activities, beginning at 9:00am and ending at 7:00pm (or later). Many of the presenters only speak at one or two conferences per year, but this particular one seems to be favorite.

The Larson-Pomada Literary Agency ( http://www.larsen-pomada.com/lp/index.cfm ), is California’s oldest, and is the primary sponsor and host of the SF Writers Conference. Michael Larsen and Elizabeth Pomada put San Francisco on the publishing map when they moved from New York and established their agency over 40 years ago. Thanks to their efforts, San Francisco is the second largest publishing center in the country (New York is the first for those who are new to the biz).

So if you truly want to get published, then you need to make a point of attending writers’ conferences. They are held throughout the year and I strongly encourage you to invest in your writing career and attend one or more. Who knows – you may meet the person who can open the door that will allow you to see your book sitting on a shelf in your local bookstore.

roh morgon @ Wednesday, 24 February 2010 6:19 am
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