Reflections on getting a book published–Part 2: The value of writers conferences
April 26, 2016
Now that my first book written under my own name has been released and I am fully immersed in the marketing phase, I hear even more people say: “I have a book, too” or “I want to write a book, too.”
And since helping people bring their publishing dreams to fruition is a part of the company I started (esteempub.com) back in 2013 and dedicated even more of my attention to the business when I left my full-time job in 2014 (correction, I left my full-time paying job; I work more than full time now that I have turned into a freelance writer, author and entrepreneur). So, my goals are to enjoy publishing my own work as well as to help others bring their great ideas into light. I have that goal written as part of my screen saver on my computer. It’s what I love doing and I am very happy I stumbled upon this calling (yes, another few blog posts on that one—or maybe even a book).
But, how do you get started? What do you do if you want to be published?
One of the most missed opportunities I’ve observed—as an editor, acquisitions director and now as a writer—is writers conferences. You say you want to write, yet you haven’t attended a writers conference?
Since I don’t have a conference of my own—know that I’m not promoting any particular conference. But I have attended my fair share of conferences as a representative of companies—and for the first time this weekend as an author and representative of my own company (#umiwriterscon). I hear the conference will be available for purchase or downloading—and I’d advise anyone serious about following your passions to check it out—or better yet, register for the next conference near you. It’s an investment in a craft you are looking to learn or enhance.
I have to admit, I haven’t always fully comprehended the value of these conferences until this weekend. We had heard the number of registered attendees was less than anticipated, but one of the editors said to me: I believe whoever is supposed to be there will be there. That’s an added bonus; Christian conferences always come with extra inspiration from Christian writers and believers. They can turn into a spiritual retreat of sorts.
Well, after being reminded by such a wise editor, I reflected on my first writers conference back in 1998. I was a new editor at UMI and we were hosting the conference to find writers. I was presenting on how to write for the two publications I edited. I probably found a few new writers and made assignments for the quarterly Sunday School materials (it still annoys me that people say they want to write but won’t take smaller assignments like a 700-1,000 word lesson; they somehow are waiting on someone to assign them a full-length book of their choice with an advance and high royalties attached. I don’t know of this ever happening to a first-time unknown author by the way—so why not start with an article or a blog or a lesson for a curriculum? It’s a step and a way to make a little extra money to save for a writers conference).
Well at the conference back in 1998, I met a woman who would later become my friend, mentor and editor. She’s one of the main people I’ve turned to during my freelance career (after my husband, she was the first person I told of my plans to quit my job)—and she promised to give me assignments—and she did, even before my tenure was done at my full-time job. My first book, Successful Moms of the Bible, is largely due to her guidance. She’s referred me to other editors at her publishing house looking for good and dependable freelancers. And quite frankly, she’s just been a joy to know and be around. She even took on one of my best friends who happened to live in her city, and she mentored her too. She once called us the daughters she would have had if she were a teen mother (since she’s just 16 years older than we are). Meeting her made that conference beneficial for me even as a presenter.
This weekend—some 18 years after meeting my friend and mentor at a UMI writers conference– I sat on a panel with another friend at yet another writers conference sponsored by UMI (in this publishing world, people can become your friends…even if you see them just once a year at a writers conference). I met this woman at a writers conference in the early 2000s (Write to Publish in Wheaton, IL). She was one of the few attendees who would even take an appointment with me (since I didn’t represent a book publisher at that time). She took assignments for UMI curriculum and she was good and always met (or beat) her deadlines. She went on to do larger projects for UMI and now has her own successful blog and her new book is coming out shortly.
I close with yet another testimony of a writer I met at a writers conference—and I actually don’t really member her. But, I received her email just as I was listening to one of my publishing role models (Michelle McKinney Hammond) speak at this weekend’s conference. The email, in short, said: Hi Katara. I met you in 2008 at the Heartland of America Writers Conference. I showed you my work and you gave me several ideas to enhance it. I did everything you told me to do. I’m happy to let you know that this week I signed a contract with a publisher (a traditional house) and my work will be out at the end of the year. It’s my life work. I’ve been working on it since 1997.
Publishing is not easy. Publishing is not quick. Publishing will not make you quick and easy money. But it can be done—and it can be worth it.
Someone needs to hear your story—what are you waiting for?!
Start writing. Sign up for a conference. Accept assignments. Go for it.
Katara Washington Patton’s first book was released on April 12. Find Successful Moms of the Bible in stores and online now. Her company’s website is: esteempub.com For more on her: Katara.pattonhome.net