In July I attended my annual writer conference sponsored by the Romance Writer’s Association and this year it was held in balmy Georgia, which was where my first RWA conference was held in 2006. It was fun to return to the peach state a little wiser than my first go-round and with the exciting changes in publishing right now, it was an amazing, vibrant conference.
The biggest change was the sheer number of hybrid authors out there. What is a hybrid, you ask? Simply put, a hybrid is a traditionally published author who is also “indie” publishing. It’s no secret that Amazon has changed the game of publishing and it was readily apparent that people are embracing this new way of thinking. It’s exciting times in the world of publishing. When I first became published, I had to get past the “gatekeepers” before I could see my hard work in fans’ hands. Now, with Amazon, you are the master of your own fate. Gatekeepers are no longer keeping people out of the hallowed halls of publishing and while the opportunities are dizzyingly thrilling, there is a dark side to it as well.
The gatekeepers served a single purpose: to force the cream to rise to the top. Without the gatekeeper you can imagine what’s flooding the market. There are plenty of badly written, badly edited books with slapped on homemade covers littering the virtual shelves but thankfully, those kinds of books are becoming easier to spot because they scream “unprofessional.” But the successful hybrid author, with their background in traditional publishing, have already cut their teeth on the leathery hide of old-school publishing and know what it takes to create a solid product and thus, are embracing the challenges and rewards of indie publishing. The number of workshops featuring “self-publishing how-to” from money management, marketing, to finding sales outlets was staggering. In many cases, the workshops were standing room only. One thing is for sure, the sky is the limit in terms of potential. And the new landscape is creating a whole slew of opportunity for those providing services that were previously part of a publisher’s job, such as editing and cover design.
No matter where you land in the area of publishing, whether you’re strictly indie, traditionally published, or a hybrid, the advice remains the same: be prepared for lots of hard work, paying for certain services, and paying attention to marketing. It’s no longer a writer’s job to simply write a good book, although that’s a necessary component. Social media, advertising, networking — they’re all part of the wheels that turn the machine.
Of course, it wasn’t all work and no play at RWA. As usual, the Harlequin party was fabulous with a cupcake bar, custom drinks at the hosted bar, and lots of laughs. I also had the awesome good fortune to enjoy a luncheon with grand dame Sharon Sala and USA Today bestselling author Julia Kent, which was a huge thrill. And those were just a few of the amazing experiences I came away with. I always return from RWA exhausted but with my mind brimming with good ideas and that’s the point. I go to learn, to mix with other writers, and network.
Until next year…see you in San Antonio!
Kim Van Meter is a former staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. She continues to contribute occasional columns.