For years now, my friend Kevin J. Anderson has been trying to convince me to take the Superstars Writing Seminar. I’ve sort of evaded the matter, mostly because I don’t do well in writing workshops in general. Yes, I’ve taken a lot of them, but they’re not my favorite thing in the world. Usually, at least in the old model of publishing, when people tried to convince me that I should do things in a certain way, it was either something I couldn’t do and still be me – like, writing a corridors-of-power thriller set in DC, say – or something that didn’t work very well for my own peculiar style and approach.
I’m not saying that no writing workshop ever helped me. The Oregon Coast Professional Writers Workshop not only allowed me to make my first sale (I met the editor there) but opened my eyes to a lot of things that were going on in the field. Later, the workshop – by the same people – on indie publishing and how to navigate it arguably allowed me to start transitioning from the old world to the new.
What I am saying, though, is that most of the workshops aimed at making someone a “mega bestseller” or “help him or her get ahead” in the world, unless they were selling access were a waste of time. At least that’s how it was in the old days. Because so much of the break-out and breakthrough had to do with whom you knew and whom you impressed (though granted, there had to be a level of competency there) if a workshop wasn’t introducing you to the people you needed to advance, it wasn’t doing much of anything.
Also, I looked at the authors featured in the program, and I knew the history of a few of them and I thought either their paths were so individual they couldn’t be replicated, or else they depended too much on models past and could not be followed now.
So I evaded Kevin’s push. Except this year the Seminar was in the city I live in, and Kevin got very persuasive. So, in between dealing with a dead freezer, I sat in on what lectures I could.
Yes, most of the authors are still telling stories of how they came up through the old model. But you sit there, and you think through things, and you realize it has an application in the New World of Publishing as well.
For instance, Joan Johnston’s talk about how she broke in – more on that later – was definitely a method that won’t work now. However, her story of putting letters to the readers at the end of every book talking about her other series and other books made me perk up my ears.
After all, we need to make a personal connection. Is that not the whole point? For at least five years now, my editors have been telling me to blog, both here and on my site, to twitter, to Facebook, to “build community” and to establish a personal connection to the readers.