The Book Is Written. Now What?
A Philadelphia conference helps writers and publishers find their audience.
Writing a good book is never easy, even for prolific authors. Just getting thoughts from brain to DOC file can take months, years, even decades.
And that's just for starters. The writer has to get a publisher's acquisitions editor to take it on. Then there are rewrites, edits, indexing, photo shoots and illustrating, design and layout, and proofing.
Even then, the hardest work remains to be done: finding an audience for the finished work. Without it, the author keeps a small advance as a consolation prize, but royalty checks for life? Forget it.
'Finding an audience' was the theme at the fourth Beyond the Book, a traveling conference series on the business of writing attended by journalists, writers, and photographers.
The conference, held this year at the spanking new National Constitution Center, in Philadelphia, consisted of a two hour panel session, followed by a reception. It was moderated by Christopher Kenneally, director of author and creator relations at the Copyright Clearance Center Inc., Danvers, Mass., a vendor of content licensing systems.
"There are so many books, and competition for readers is immense," Kenneally says. "If the book doesn't reach its reader, then all the effort that went into [publishing it] is for naught."
Kenneally was joined by four other panelists who discussed, from a writer's and shooter's perspective, the business of getting work noticed- first by a publisher, then by readers. Other big topics on the table: ethics, moonlighting, and promotion.
"The Internet is a place where [some] writers go to stretch the truth, but it also provides a network for checking whether a story is original or not," by making it easy to search for similar stories, says Jeffrey Seglin, director of the publishing and writing graduate program at Emerson University, Boston.
Holly Hughes, editor-in-chief of Photo District News, New York, says magazine publishers offer fewer opportunities to photographers to show their best work. She suggests shooters find creative expression while on assignment.
For example, simultaneously developing a coffee table book while out and about shooting for a client is a more effective use of time and talent.
"Putting [their] photos together in a book is a good way to express a photo journalist's vision," she says. "A good photo editor, and a writer to help with the forward, will help get the work published."
Writers can also leverage their time by repackaging works to appeal to different audiences, says Kristal Brent Zook, adjunct professor at the Columbia University School of Journalism, New York. Zook shared examples of publishers taking long academic dissertations and transforming them into pieces that reached a wider audience.
Paul Dry, founder of Paul Dry Books, an independent Philadelphia publisher, talked about how publishers can rise above the din of titles vying for the bookstores' front space. Dry's advice: publishers and authors need to learn how to cost-effectively reach a niche's readers for a niche book. "Not all books have millions of readers. The wonderful thing about books is that they can exist with small markets."
More information on the Beyond the Book tour and the Copyright Clearance Center is located at Copyright.com.