After the Poets and Writers Weekend in Manchester, Thoughts on the Publishing World…

I once again participated in the Poets and Writers Weekend in Manchester. It’s a great event planned on a shoe string, but put together with some great presenters and wonderful hosts. Beth and Clemma did a stellar job organizing the event.

I’d like to share a few observations about the weekend from my end of things, especially as a panelist on the changes in publishing and as a presenter.

Jumping to self publishing too fast: Self-publishing is a wonderful option, and with the machine at the Northshire Bookstore, it’s a great option. However I noticed far too many would be authors, who couldn’t find a publisher on their own, jumping right to the self-publishing option. First of all, self-publishing, in my view, should either be a strategic move because you’ll have the right publicity channels and resources to get the word out or because you’re plain out of options. Secondly, it is very, very hard to get a book published without an agent who not only has the contacts, but will hone a writer’s proposal into the right stuff for publisher. Before self-publishing, every writer needs to look long and hard for an agent who can put their proposals into the hands of publishers. Keep in mind that agents should only take a cut of your book’s sales. If an agent wants money up front, don’t go for it.

From Idea to Editor: We didn’t spend too much time talking about the particulars of working a book idea into a winning proposal that will wow an editor. I think a workshop on that next year would be a great help. There is so much research that needs to go into a proposal, and I can’t stress enough the importance of finding a good editor to polish it. Good editors will bring your most important ideas to the front, cut away the unnecessary junk, and make your writing shine. You can’t afford to not have that when you hand in your proposal. Can you imagine how terrible it would be to bore an editor?

Doom and gloom in the book world: The publishing panel offered a very sobering assessment of the publishing industry, one that is fraught with uncertainty as blogs, e-books, and a down economy eat up profits. One of the things we didn’t get to cover too much was the possibility of books as art in and of themselves—merging art and word together in the pages of books may create an experience that cannot be duplicated on a computer screen. We didn’t have time to get into all of that, but as far as a new direction for publishing, check out books such as Jesus for President and Refractions. They mix art with the written word and may be the kind of books customers will still want to own in a physical format.