I spent most of last week at two writers’ conferences, the EIPPY Awards and Author 101 University. From Wednesday through Saturday, writers, publishers, and agents as well as marketing experts on social media, radio, TV, publishing, and the law had me surrounded. I sat on panels with agents, publishers, and ghostwriters. I spoke with dozens of writers in various stages of the process of writing, designing, and publishing books. What always interests me is how these conferences help to resolve one of the crucial issues facing writers of any genre today: How to not just write your story but to promote it as well.
The problem is that the conflict is endemic to the process: writing and the business side of publishing and marketing are antithetical. In fact, they are natural enemies, because trying to do both at once is very nearly impossible, and yet being able to do both is absolutely necessary if a professional career is to be achieved.
My solution is to urge writers to work sequentially and finish the creative work before tackling the marketing and publishing side—with one caveat: the writer must accept that he or she has a specific audience who must be addressed, and that the writer must identify that audience from the outset. This means that when developing the initial idea for your screenplay, novel, or nonfiction work, you must shape the material to meet the current expectations of your intended audience.
Another striking aspect of both of these conferences was the increased interest in movies. I spoke with a surprising number of people who want to create a screenplay based on their books. Most of the writers I spoke with were concerned with a real-life experience and how it would translate into film. I was fascinated by this collective urge to make sense of life through seeing it as if it were a film, and I wondered why writing a book wasn’t enough.
My theory is that it’s because movies resemble dreams, which is the place where our subconscious works through our real-life experiences, not in the conscious mind but in the part of ourselves that writes books. Somehow the compression required in writing a film causes a perception shift that allows us to change our viewpoints and thus re-experience and better process the real-life events freshly.
I felt so at home in the company of writers for four straight days. Viki Winterton and Rick Frishman, who run the events, are writers themselves with more than a few nonfiction books under their belts, and they are very sympathetic to the process. I heartily recommend participating in one of these or similar conferences. The collective experience of being with a large group of fellow writers will inspire you and make you a better writer.
Here’s to Your Successful Writing!
Professor Marilyn Horowitz