Saturday, October 20, 2012

Writers Retreat Focuses on Publishing

   “The more a writer understands about the book business, the more a writer will succeed,” was the theme in Jennifer Basye Sander’s presentation to writers on Saturday, September 19, in Garden Valley.

  Sander is the co-author of the New York Times Bestseller, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published. She is a former Random House senior editor, longtime book publisher, and publishing consultant.

  Originally involved in politics, Sander said, “It never occurred to me that I was competitive—I don’t like losing,” which is what happened in her political life. Having ended up working successfully for major publishers and writing her own books, she admitted gleefully, “I come from a burning desire to succeed and make money!”

  Her power-packed advice was offered to writers attending Write by the River, an annual retreat hosted by writer/publisher, Elaine Ambrose, at her cabin on the South Fork of the Payette River.

  With all the talk about having business savvy, cozying up to agents, schmoozing with publishers, networking with other writers on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and at book events, the question arose, “Could Hemingway have gotten published today?”

  Sander answered her own query: “Hemingway was a cocky, arrogant, self-assured guy; he believed in himself, which is what a writer needs to do. He immersed himself into writers and writing. Yes, he could get a book published—he would not be sitting, drinking alone in Paris!”

Stacy Dymalski added laughs to the retreat.
The publishing business has changed over the years, to the point that it is intimidating to anyone steeped in the traditional theory that success in writing is obtained only with left-brained muscle. The guest speakers at this retreat emphasized business-business-business and agreed that writing the book is the easy part.

Stand-up comic and self-published author of Confessions of a Band Geek Mom, Stacy Dymalski, told the room of aspiring publishees, “80% to 90% of books published don’t make money. It needs to be considered a business—and that’s it. If you choose to self-publish, you become the ‘project manager’. You will wear a lot of hats.”

Talking about the writing business burns extra calories.
Elaine Ambrose, center, checks the catered lunch
with Lynne McKibbbin, R, of Wild Bill's Bistro in Crouch.

Amid giggles and chortles, she pulverized any Pollyanna convictions that one simply ‘self-publishes’. She warned, “It becomes an animal out of control—your job is to kill it. After you’ve gotten an editor, a copy editor, a book designer, a jacket designer, get more editing, and send it to the publisher, you begin the marketing plan.”
This is called Social Media: “It’s a ground swell—it doesn’t happen overnight,” Dymalski assures the writers. Getting active on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, web sites, writers groups, publisher sites, and purchasing ISBN numbers are just the beginning of getting your book ready. “After you get the galleys, the book is probably not right. Be patient. Blog about it. Share your frustrations.” Yikes.

  She continues, “Once you see your book on a page, it feels entirely different. You need readers, a sale distribution plan...”
Doug Copsey
Marilyn and John Cottingham, left,
chat with Doug Copsey, center, and
Lloyd Mahaffey.

Doug Copsey is well-known in the Treasure Valley as the co-founder of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival; he also helped form the Idaho Writers Guild. The story of his professional life is proof of what a writer can accomplish with perseverance and passion.  


  Those at the retreat benefitted from his knowledge of publishing houses in the Northwest and resources for writing jobs. He emphasized that the writers need to do their homework: "At first, it's writing, writing, writing; then it's marketing, marketing, marketing!
AK Turner and Gretchen Anderson co-authored Daily Erotica,
with Ambrose and Liza Long. Anderson is marketing her
 book, The Backyard Chicken Fight.
 "Why are we writing?" he asked. "Love or money? You'd better love writing or you'll never make money. The more you practice, the better you get. There are a lot of ways to make money writing, to help you do your own writing. You may not be working on your novel now; that's up to you, how you budget your time. It becomes routine."

    Copsey added, smiling, " But I can't see Hemingway on Facebook or schmoozing at cocktail parties!"

  His showpiece was a gorgeous coffee table book, With our Good Will—30 Years of Shakespeare in Idaho, first published in 2006, by Caxton Press. Copsey held it in his hands and with the mention of the Festival, he got teary-eyed and said, “It’s my baby.” The book is beautifully designed and is packed with photos of memorabilia and everyone associated with the history of this fine festival. The “rags to riches” tale is one that will be appreciated by anyone interested in Boise history, culture and theatre—or who simply enjoys a good success story.

AK Turner signing Drinking with Dead Drunks,
co-authored with Elaine Ambrose.

  Garden Valley is the perfect location for a gathering of writers, and Elaine Ambrose does it well. She owns Mill Park Publishing, based in Eagle, Idaho, which features local authors and donates proceeds from books to various charities. She has written or co/authored eight books, including the popular Menopause Sucks. Her latest book, co-authored with AK Turner, is Drinking with Dead Drunks. Ambrose is also an exceptionally witty and engaging speaker and stands on her own amidst the big names. Check out her website for books or author information:


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