What I Gleaned from the National Conference

Every conference has its buzz word, and this year it was hybrid author. It’s the latest “big shiny” for authors to seek. I call them untenable goals, because for most of us who do not fall into that top 10% of published authors, or who are new to the business, it’s just another distraction to keep us turning the ever-constant wheel in the hamster cage of the industry of publishing.


What hybrid author means is you publish across many platforms: Traditional, small press, indie, self-publishing, publishing of backlist, you name it you can do it. Or so the story goes. However, nobody can tell you how to get your foot in the door with the traditional publisher. Retail space is shrinking, it’s an ever-changing market, and NY publishers are going to acquire new authors with a proven market. So how do you become a hybrid author? Indie publish first and develop a readership? How do you do that when you’re an unknown? Amazon has already changed the algorithms for the KDP Select program that gave some new e-published authors a boost with free days. Those huge results are not happening for many new authors anymore. With everyone getting onto the same escalator and jostling for position, and a gazillion and two free e-books offering every week, how can you and your book stand out?

Learning how to effectively self-publish is time consuming, and often times costly if you want a really good product. And you should want that. So what has changed? Not much really. Authors are still looking for how to best reach and grow a readership. Authors are still attempting to get noticed by New York. Authors are still trying to make a little money. Authors are learning how best to promote and market. Authors are frustrated at the loss of quality writing time as they juggle all of these issues and still crave the days when all they had to do was shut the office door, sit their bum in a chair, and write their little hearts out.

I hadn’t been well at this conference, so I only managed one day of workshops, and several conversations outside Starbucks with people in the know. But my ears were open. So what are agents and editors looking for? A good story with a good hook. Something that feels different and fresh. Something that compels them to keep on reading. I think I heard that at my first ever conference in 2002. What has changed…not much? My advice? MP900414028[1]

There is no magic wand, no process that is perfect, and no secret password. I say go back to where the juice is. Have fun in writing your stories. Put that love and excitement of crafting a story back into your life. Forget about titles and new shiny things. Be flexible. If you are unpublished, take time and care to build a presence for yourself in advance of being published. If you are newly published, don’t compare your success to that of anyone else. This is your journey. Don’t scatter your forces too broadly. Choose a couple of marketing devices that you enjoy and build upon those. Limit your spending and always look first at what you will get in return for your expenditure. If you are multi-published, keep doing what you’re doing, and know that I am watching you. ; )

Writing is hard. It will always be hard. But if you don’t love what you’re doing you need to stop and take a look at where you’ve veered off the path, because if your stories don’t reflect your passion they will fall flat. It all comes back to the book. So, yeah, frustrating as it is, those agents and editors do know what they’re talking about.

So speak to me my friends, what do you know? What works or doesn’t work for you? Tell me your concerns if you are a reader, or a writer.

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24 Responses to What I Gleaned from the National Conference

  1. Janie Emaus says:

    Trying to stand out in this ever increasing world of published authors is a challenge for me. I like the idea of a “hybrid” author as I’m spread out all over the place!
    I’m glad you had a good time, despite not feeling well.

  2. Kady Winter says:

    So sorry to hear you weren’t feeling well at the conference, but interesting that it put you in a different frame of mind. Able to see the big picture. And what sage advice came from it. As an unpublished author just starting out, it’s so important to hear this kind of grounded wisdom. Thanks so much Robena!

    • Robena Grant says:

      Aw, thanks Kady. Guess I had way too much time to think. (When I wasn’t reading one of the four novels I completed while staying in my room.) : )

  3. Great post, Robena. Sorry you weren’t feeling well during the conference.

    I think you hit the nail on the head…just keep writing. I think the message from the agents and publishers is generally the same thing. They want a good story, but ‘fresh.’

    Focusing on the writing is the main thing – at least in my mind.

  4. I’m sorry that you spent part of the conference not feeling well.
    As far as publishing goes – don’t know what to tell you. I plan on studying the success of Kristen Ashley. She is very prolific. Seems to be loving her career. Was entirely self-published for years and has an amazing following. Is only now being accepted and published by more traditional markets. Now she is certainly a hybrid author who could successfully publish in any market.

  5. Oh wise woman – this blog was spoken in your usual sage Robena fashion.

    Same old, same old, with new titles – hybrid. right.

    The thing that draws the most attention to me as a writer is still the big publisher print book. It can go where no Facebooking dares.

    Yup – write that book that keeps the editors interested. That’s all we can strive for.

    Glad you got to a few workshops at least!

    take care,

    • Robena Grant says:

      Thanks for coming by, Lynne. I’ve decided to step back after this next contract and take some time to write one of those “stories from the heart” and with no goal in mind other than to recapture the spark.

  6. Wonderful blog, Robena. So glad you are better. I loved your advice and think it’s right on! Enjoy the creative process of writing. Always write the best book you can and keeping writing! Those are attenable goals.

  7. Great post, Roben, and I’m so glad you’re feeling better! I tried calling you a few times, but couldn’t get through. Have fun writing! Three words we should all live by. 🙂

    • Robena Grant says:

      Thanks, Robin. I had switched my phone off and forgotten to turn it back on. And my daughter after trying me ten times, and not being able to even leave a voice mail message, called the hotel. She helped me to discover that although I had recorded a message for my new smart phone, the company hadn’t transferred from old to new. Sigh.

  8. Write new stuff. If you’re blocked on a larger piece, try a short story, or an essay. Blog if you enjoy it, but don’t let it eat up your life.

    Words in a row. Keep putting words in a row, because you can’t be a hybrid author across many platforms if you don’t have work to PUT on those platforms.

    • Robena Grant says:

      Absolutely, Bev. We can all work and rework the stuff we have on the page but to create something new…that’s what we have to keep striving for.

  9. JL Hammer says:

    Thanks so much for the recap of nationals. I wish I could have attended. As an author, I find it a challenge to reach readers. Promotion is very time consuming and I want to find the most beneficial path. I keep a log of which promo works and which didn’t, but I wish I could focus more on just writing.

    • Robena Grant says:

      Agree 100%, JL. It is hard to reach readers. It seems all we do is spin our wheels. I’m hoping that if I get enough books out in one year that the newer titles will help with some of the older titles. The “magic” is supposed be momentum gained at book #5. ; )

  10. Kelly says:

    So true, Robena. The takeaway from all these conferences is always “write the best book you can!” So sorry you were SOO sick.

    • Robena Grant says:

      Thanks, Kelly. It hit me as intriguing. This was the first advice I’d received over ten years ago, and it’s still being said, because after all, what else is there if there is not a good product? : )

  11. Christine Collier says:

    Hey Robena!

    Wonderful, wonderful post! Truly, well said! I’m sorry I didn’t see you at conference 🙁 I was there as well, but was a zombie the entire time. I’ve learned that I do not possess the ability to share a bed w/ someone and get quality sleep. I had three roomates. So I didn’t make it to that many workshops out of fear I fall out of my chair after drifting off.

  12. I’m on vacation, which means I get to read. I picked up a copy of a book by an author I’d never read and was…disappointed. I kept reading and all I could think was, “I know better unpublished writers.” Publishing isn’t fair, so I think all any of us can do is write what we want to read, not try to tailor to a current trend.

  13. Robena Grant says:

    Lovely to hear from you, Megan. Hope you have a great vacation.
    Your words are wise because if we chase a trend the passion of the book, which comes from the heart of its creator, won’t be on the page and it will be less than shiny.