Why I went
As someone new to the freelance writing world, I'm digging my hands into any new material shedding light on how to freelance and how to publish. The BlogHer Writers '11 conference is the first conference hosted by BlogHer specific to addressing the question of how to turn blog writing into a book and though I've never been to any of their conferences this one seemed geared towards many of my questions as a new blogger who has considered publishing short stories.
Though most of the writing I currently do is for blogs or of the article format, I do have an interest in writing non-fiction stories. Should I try to publish the non-fiction stories as tranditional story collection book? Should I just blog these stories? Should I self-publish?
All questions I hoped Blogher would help address!
What I Learned
Over the course of the day I attended the Welcome session, the General Session: Blogs to Books, Publishing 101, Alternative Publishing Models: It's Not Only about the Printed Hardback and finally the Closing Session with three successful authors. And look at this lovely photo I took of Lisa Stone, Co-Founder and CEO of BlogHer speaking at the Welcome Session!
In the Blogs to Books general session the conference jumped right into addressing the blog to book publishing phenomenon. One of the panelists Patrick Mulligan of Gotham Books represented some of the more pop culture types books which have made it into the mainstream such as LOLcats and the Chuck Norris books. As you can imagine, the advice of much of the panelists was that these types of pop culture driven books are hit or miss, expensive to produce and have begun to over saturate the market.
I was surprised to learn that editors do sincerely surf the internet reading blogs looking for well articulated material that might lead to some form of published material in traditional material. Neeti Madan of Sterling Lord spoke about the question, "Should a book have a blog?" encouraged authors to only do so if they really plan to commit to the blog and to possibly keep blog posts in que to publish while on tour rather than taking time away from other valuable marketing work. Much credit was given to the amount of market research that can be developed based on comments on blog posts, number of readers and the degree to which you learn your audience by devloping a following as was explained by Marian Lizzi, Editor-in-Chief of Perigree Books.
In the Publishing 101 session I learned much about the agent, editor, publishing house steps to publishing. Judging by what I learned at the panel, self publishing has the benefit of being print on demand, but can cost a fair amont up front. I was pleased to hear that publishers are now looking to all sorts of formats to publish writing rather than simply the traditional book including e-books, podcasts, aps, and small short story collections to be printed on demand.
The Alternative Publishing Models panel (Katherine McCahill Digital Product Manager and Peter Harris of the Penguin Development Group prepare for the panel in this photo) was incredibly informative, including panelist Kamy Wicoff, the Editor and Founder/Publish SheWrites which is sure to be a priceless resource as a blogger. (Vote for her or Lisa Stone or any of your other favorites for the Women's Media Center 2011 Social Media Award.) Wicoff spoke of what an exciting time this is to publish because of all the new ways adventurous and creative writers can expand on traditional print models including the use of behind the scenes of making a book or even a radio show.
Who I Met
My day at the conference was hectic to say the least! After the morning sessions I rushed off to complete my day job (dog walking) leaving just enough time to make it back for the afternoon and closing sessions.
Because of my busy schedule I missed the lunch session and the small group mentoring session which was a real bummer! But nevertheless, I did make one connection during the conference Suzanna Raga who is a blogger, published author and lives in New York. Addtionally I've met new writers via the #BlogHerWriters twitter hashtag.
So now what?
I'm glad to have learned the different layers to the book publishing process, something I new nearly nothing about before the conference. Should I choose to publish, it won't likely be in a traditional book format and I'd likely go through a small press (I wish small presses were better represented at the conference!) rather than try to self-publish or reach out to the big publishers. After hearing the long journey's the three sucessful authors (pictured below are authors Ann Napolitano and Jean Kwok speaking with Jory Des Jardins of BlogHer) shared, I'm reminded of how much passion writing requires. I'm comforted to know that others have many ups and downs in terms of being motivated to write and the publishing process, and that often you have to be your own biggest fan driving the project you're so determined to share.
For now I'll continue to blog and pitch to some magazine for possible print publication. I'll explore the resources and contacts I've made through the conference. And I'm starting to become more comfortable calling myself a writer.