In June, I attended a workshop given by David Farland called “Quick Start Your Writing Career.” It was an all-day affair, 9 am-5 pm, and a joy to attend. Not only did I spend a day focusing on writing (a break from the kids!), but I also met up with a friend and former writing companion whom I hadn’t seen in nearly a decade. Plus, you know, seeing Dave again since the WOTF workshop in April… Awesome. 😁
I can’t cover everything Dave went over–one page of scribbles multiplies astoundingly fast in a Dave workshop–but I’ll give you three of my “ah hah!” moments.
“I’m not saying this is a bad system, but it is a system.” ~ Dave Farland
The “Chute.” Dave is the son of a butcher so he used the metaphor of a “chute” to describe the publishing industry. With cattle, you sort quality (and price) by sending each animal down a particular fenced-in lane called a “chute” depending on what you intend to do with it. Some are prodded down the “prime” chute, some down “choice” or “select,” and some are ushered to the chub factory.
It’s the same in the publishing industry. A publisher chooses what chute you go down, be it the dreamt of “Super Lead Author” chute, or “Lead Author,” or simply “Slot Author.” It’s fenced-in and they push you hard to stay there. The problem is, your chute determines your price and how they care for you. Your advances, promotions, advertisements, placements in bookstores, even the quality of your book covers, depends on your chute. And, if you want to change chutes? Well, you’re going to have to bellow, buck, kick, and raise a whole lot of hell to switch.
This goes for indie publishing, too, but in that case, the “chub” chute is wide, level, and easy while the “prime” chute goes up a mountain face along a game trail and there’s no prod but your own ambition.
In either case, better have a strong back and quality meat to offer.
“The number one export in the United States is our intellectual property.” ~ Dave Farland
Feed the reader. Dave explained that lead authors publish at least once a year, preferably twice. Why? Because readers need to eat. No, seriously, when authors deliver on a regular basis, such as publishing in the same month every year, fans keep coming back for more, like neighborhood strays to dinner. Not only that, but new readers look up your books and say, “Hey, the next book comes out in a few month. Cool, I’ll give it a try!” They’re pleasantly surprised. They get excited for the next release. Then the one after. Next thing they know, they’ve connected with other fans; they’re meeting up at your Midnight releases each year; they’re gifting your books to family and friends. Now, you’ve hit the bestseller list, and your books have been translated into a few dozen languages. Then, Hollywood calls. Like a dream, right?
For most of us, to even have a shot at that dream, we have publish frequently and regularly.
“Fast, good, or cheap. Pick two.”
The two to pick. Dave talked about “The Iron Triangle,” the business concept quoted above, but he clarified, adding that in the performing arts, you want to be the first two, fast and good. But there’s another dimension in the writing business, and it’s embodies in this fact: publishers will go for a consistent and good author over an inconsistently great author almost every time.
Remember the chutes? Publishing is a system, and systems are, well, systematic. An inconsistent writer is a big risk for publishers, inconsistent timing or inconsistent quality. One hit wonders are great, but proven authors are a lot less risk and make a lot more money for the company. And, remember those twice-a-year releases to feed your readers? Be consistently fast, be consistently good, and you’ll be consistently rewarded.
Those were three of the many big tips I picked up during Dave’s workshop. He covered a lot of other material: working with agents, scams and pitfalls to watch out for, ways to conduct book-signings, strategies for using social media, the pros and cons of indie publishing and brilliant ways to use traditional and indie, agents, editors, producers, wise investments to facilitate a book launch, the in’s and out’s of bestseller lists, the influence of politics on the industry… I could go on and on. It was a great workshop. If you’re a novice just getting a feel for the industry like me or an experienced writer who needs an update, and you have a chance to attend, I recommend it.