Saturday, August 28, 2010

Greater Vancouver Writers' Day

One week ago today I attended the Greater Vancouver Writers' Day, an initiative of The Word Guild along with Les and N.J. Lindquist. It was a profitable event which even brought with it a personal triumph (I managed to get to and from the venue in Vancouver from Langley using public transportation — gotta love Skytrain and the Translink website's trip planner!).

NJ ,relaxing with a cup of tea 
after her presentation was done
NJ took the first half of the day. After we introduced ourselves around the circle of 17 she launched into an informative presentation covering all the basics for a Christian writer: Art, Craft, Ministry and Business. She managed to include something of interest to all attendees, from those who are still thinking about taking the plunge into writing, to multi-published authors.

Along with her informative lecture, she gave a wad of handouts. Just this afternoon I filled out her helpful "Action Plan" sheet with its main headings:
- My long-term goal: ___
- Intermediate steps I can take: ___
- I will write: when___; how___; where___.
- I will give myself ___ to work at becoming a writer.
- My first goal is to___
- My accountability partner will be: ___
- My support team will be: ____

One of the things she emphasized was the fact that publishing a book is not the best way to reach a lot of people. In Canada a book that sells 5000 copies is considered a best-seller. Compare that to many magazines which have circulations in the tens of thousands and papers like the  monthly B.C. Christian News which has an estimated readership of 100,000. So if you want to be read widely, write magazine articles, newspaper features, even letters to the editor!

Her handout "Kinds of Writing" was eye-opening. Of course I've heard of most of these kinds of writing before, but to see them all listed on one sheet — there really are many possibilities! The good news is that many of them are a lot less stressful than completing a book manuscript, getting it published (one way or another), then doing all the marketing, promotion and selling. (Or course, your relatives and friends won't be as impressed as if you have a real live tome of yours to show them. Oh well...)

"Editing" is a Multifaceted Word" was another great handout. I'm going to use the list (Concept editing; Substantive editing; Fact-checking; Line editing also called Copy editing; and Proofreading) as a reminder the next time I have a big project in the editing stage.

After lunch of wraps, veggies, fruit and cookies, Les gave his presentation. His information on publishing and distribution was invaluable. I didn't know, for example, that distributors get a 60%, sellers a 40% discount on the cover price of the book. But it makes sense, because everyone needs to make a margin in order to stay in business.

Another tidbit I picked up is that the various book outlets (Chapters, vs. Christian stores, vs. Amazon, vs. Walmart) use different distributors. So having your book available through a variety of  distributors is key to its distribution and in turn its success. Cross-border distribution is also tricky.

Les, enlightening us about the 
somewhat dour state of the book industry.

Not surprisingly, the distribution part of the equation is more difficult for self-published authors, than for authors published through royalty publishers (who mainly take care of distribution through their established channels). 

And then there are the returns. Les told us that in the Canadian book industry, 40% of the books shipped to the various retail outlets come back (which means that the monies these stores paid for the books must be returned to them). The publisher eats that cost... so guess who that is if the book is self-pub'd?

I came away from the day realizing, more than ever, that writing is a business as well as a ministry.The more I realize this, the better equipped I'll be to approach it realistically.