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#SFWC2015 – Robbz Notes at a Glance of the San Francisco Writer’s Conference 2015

Photo of talent list for SF Writer's Conference 2015



Here’s a quick pick of the sessions I covered:

My roundup story

Suggestions on choosing and maintaining and effective POV (important in both fiction And nonfiction)

Blog Your Way To A Book Deal

Sunday morning keynote – Judith Curr

From Manuscript to Bestseller – Panel with Betty Sargent, Judith Curr and John Lescroart

Super Fans for Life – How to build a core-tribe to establish a marketing base

Saturday keynote – John Lescroart

The Art of Writing is Rewriting

Writing Mind-Bending, Serious Nonfiction

Cool Tools for Blogging Your Book and Establishing Your Platform

50 Shades of Pay – How to Monetize Your Books

Meet the Nonfiction Editors (kickoff session – SFWC15)


Who’s In Charge Here? Choosing the Right POV to Tell Your Story #SFWC15

@robblightfoot #annietucker

Photo of Annie Tucker at the San Francisco Writer's conference 2015

Annie Tucker at SFWC15

Annie Tucker, developmental editor and writing coach

Asked the audience to give her examples of point of view. There are a number.

1st person – “I”

2nd person “you”

3rd “a number of pronouns apply”

1st person is usually the author telling you about his or her experiences.

She will be reading examples of things she thinks work. See “The Goldfinch.”

“Because nothing much else was open and there was nothing else to do, I wandered back in the direction of…”

Also excerpts from Joan Didion’s the Year of Magical Thinking and The Black Castle.

These concepts apply to both fiction and non-fiction. The first person lets you establish a relationship between the narrator and the reader and other characters.

The first person can be an effective tool when writing from a POV of the opposite gender. It bridges the gender gap. It’s an ambitious undertaking, but it allows you to establish a relationship.

Now, 2nd person. The “you” voice is the most restrictive of the three. In the example she is to share, it suggests the “you.”

A member of the audience jumped in to give an example of a 2nd person example in a recent Indian writer.

Annie commented and said that what she wants to talk about most of this session is 3rd preson.

Types considered pros/cons

3rd person limited – author remains consistently in the mind of one character. This is a good starting point for authors to establish consistent character and voice.

Read an example from Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.”

3rd person objective is tricky to pull off (best to do 3rd limited or omniscent)

In 3rd objective the narrator does not share any of the character’s thoughts, feelings, objectives other than through action. Example – from Hemmingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”

Another interruption from “Jeff.”

Now we are looking at 3rd omniscent. This grants the most access to characters’ minds. This will allow you to explore different plot lines through different character’s eyes.

Example used italicized words to show unverbalized thoughts. In a single chapter, from paragraph to paragraph, the author jumps back and forth.

Another example, Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood.’ 148-160 Capote alternates between 7 characters. It was easy to follow, but this is a feat. Not recommended for beginning writers.

Last suggestion – a problem that is common in what she sees. She calls this “those narrators.”  This is when the author jumps into the mind of a character that you’re not supposed to have access to.

She gives problem/examples and some suggested fixes. (She had before/after slides hard to see from the back of the room.)

She calls this head-jumping. In the middle of John’s thoughts we are suddenly in the mind of his girlfriend. This can be done but not in the same sentence or paragraph.

Her fix was to have John observe the actions of his girlfriend, but not go in her mind.

Another example the narrator talke about John, but suddenly includes his girlfriend by saying “they both enjoyed the stunning view.” This is solved by having John verbalize his feelings to his girlfriend and then she, through dialog, share hers.

Q-How often do you tell an author it’s in the wrong POV, and what is there response?

A-This is what I do in my coaching practice. I have developmental edits with ongoing weekly conversations for 4-6 months. I have not said that, but I do see the “ghost narrators” that I’ve referred to. I have also suggested eliminating some points of view, from 5 down to 3. But never made a global recommendation. This is a part of my coaching style, but if I thought they needed it, then I’d tell them.



Blog Your Way To A Book Deal: Writing & Promoting Your Book One Post At A Time



Photo of Nina Amir speaking an the SFWC15

Nina Amir – Blog Your Way To A Book Deal

Nina Amir tells her story. Her story and success began here at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference.

Her book on Blog Your Book gave suggestions, but she still had to answer the question on how you still have the time to sell your book.  You want to get your book out there being read. Most writers dislike building platforms.

A platform is your built-in readership for your book. You develop reach across all your social media and the authority to be credible. To do this, you need to blog your book. Simply, you write-publish-promote at the same thing. You do this one post at a time.

Why does blogging a book work?

In the past, websites there were static. They were like brochures in cyberspace. Google didn’t do anything with them because they were not adding terms in webspace. But when Google comes along with it’s spiders and crawlers. So, when Nina wrote intensively for five months, she rose up in the search rankings. This was because she was diffigent and because no one else, then, was doing this. This discoverability doesn’t happen on a static website.

So, as you blog you are putting content that will ultimately be in your book.

You create a foundation of avid readers. You have a platform. So, if you get 1k unique visitors a day, this is something you can tell a potential publisher. This makes you work smarter and not harder. If your blog is well designed, there is a place to sign up and get the yuckky stuff done. You can attract agents and publishers. The fact is that tons of bloggers have gotten book deals.

Christian Landers – Stuff White People Like  -got a 6-figure book deal. He and his friends were hanging out and decided like other cultures, white people are different. He thought this was funny, and started sharing it with friends. The rest is history.

Julie and Julia

Escape from Cubicle Nation

The Puppy Diaries – Blogging about a puppy while recooperating from a serious accident. Helped that she was with the NYTimes.

101 Uses for my Ex-Wife’s Wedding Dress – He was dumped and the only thing she left was with her wedding dress.

Hack – a cabbie who writes and draws about what he sees and hears in his cab

Fed Up With Lunch

Design Sponge at Home

All these titles were bloggers and self-publish your book.

More and more blog-to-book deals.

At the height of this in 2009, experts claimed 50-60 blog-to-book deals were made that year.

Blog a book – you intentionally write a book on the net with a content plan

Book a blog – you repurpose content.


10 reasons to consider bloggig your book ino existence:


1. A blog allows you to publish as you go

2. gives you exposure and builds platform. The average print book sells 250 copies, ebook 560, but active blogs get much more exposure.

3. Blog helps you establish status. 56% of bloggers can attest to this.

4. A blogged book gets your writing read. Keep blogging an they will come.

5. A blogged book allows you to test-market your book. Effective and cheap way to test a book idea.

6. Blogged book provides a daily writing commitment. Must write regularly. Create a schedule and stick to it. Basis of practice.

7. A blogged book allows you to get  feedback on your writing. Comments from actual readers. Surveys, Forms.

8. Blogged book insures you create your project. Readers become accountability partners. Readers are waiting. If you stop before you finish, you’ve failed publicly.

9. Blogged book lets you show what you’ve got. You want to give away great content. BUT DON’T GIVE IT ALL AWAY. Let people get to know, like and trust you. You leave a slice of cake out.

10. Blog book lets you and your blog get discovered. You can be found by readers and publishers.

More and more people are blogging books. Check Nina’s site.

7 Things You Need to do Before You Blog a Book.

1. Choose a subject. Keep in mind when you pick a topic you’ll have to keep blogging even after you finish the book. You’re not done. If you quit, your traffic will drop off as your readers go away. She had to figure this out. So you need a planned future. She had to figure out how to blog for a LONG TIME.

You need to be passionate about this topic.

2. Create a business plan for your book. This is why she wrote Author Training Model

3. Hone your subject

4. Plan your book

5. Map out your book’s content

6. Break your content into post-sized content

She showed the tree of a mind-map to dial it down to a posting size

photo of Nina Amir speaking

Nina shows how to plan your posts

You need to hold back 20-30% of your book.

You need to be discovered. Be ready for this moment.

Necessities for discovery

1.Write great content. Know what people are searching for

2. Drive Traffic to your website. Use social networks, go offline to conference, write titles that include keywords, write valuable content, use the tools

3. Write often and consistently. Blog 7-12 times a weeks for the first 6 months. Otherwise, you won’t get traffic. You may have to keep this up for a year.

Nina sent out a mailing list for people to opt-in.

Q and A

If you do fiction to blog, what about editing?

A-You must still revise. But this is your second draft. You can try You can drop and paste this back into the blog.

Novelists – don’t do this unless you are willing to give away your first book being blogged and self-published.

Q – But I am doing a novel. What do I write about?

A- Do the blogging about your character. This then becomes about branding. You blog about your passions, topics, themes. You still want the key words, but it’s an umbrella approach.

Discussion – She wrote the Author Training Manual and then blogged it. This wasn’t as much fun.

Q-What about the comments if you want to publish.

A-You can write about the ideas and improve your book with the comments. But to quote them you need permission.


#sfwc14 Success and #writing – Terry Whalin

@robblightfoot #lightfootznotes

If They Can Do It So Can You: The 8 habits of Successful Writers- Terry Whalin

Photo of Terry Whalin by Robb Lightfoot

Morgan James acquisition editor – works remote – lives in Orange County

Morgan James publishes guerrilla marketing titles 30

Has had a number of NY Times Booklist books

They do primarily non-fiction. Recent title: “Get Out of the Dumps: 8 Steps to clear your mind and jump-start your life.”

Do some novels, some children’s books.

Morgan James believes in giving back – Habitat For Humanity – not just something they say. They build 6 houses in Virgina last year.

His book on publishing, from the inside, has helped people. That’s his goal.

He wrote over 50 books before he went to the inside and learned how it works, contracts and the business end.

In this book, he talks about 12 successful characteristics… today he’ll talk about 8. It’s not just what he has done. He has interviewed more than 150 best-selling authors. They told him how they have practiced their craft.

Success does have characteristics and can model. He has a goal—to help you come away with actionable ideas.

He wants this hour to be one of the best.

8 Characteristics of Successful authors

  1. Rise to the challenge in your life. We all have things that keep us from getting our writing done. The successful writers have figured out how to get around this. Example: Best selling novelist Frank Peritti. Had a book with modest sales. “This Present Darkness.” It took off when a successful speaker began to mention “Present Darkness” until it took off. What people don’t know is that he was a failed screenwriter making skiis. He was injured at birth, had cystic Hydronium, his tongue hung out and oozed bloody, black residue. It took multiple surgeries, but his childhood was affected. This has informed his writing life.
  2. Understand and practice the pain of discipline. Bill Myers interview (screenwriter and novelist), Terry asked how he got all his work done. “He said it’s 5. Not anything religious.” He writes 5 pages a day. The convention was busy, and had many meetings, but Bill had a unbreakable goal. Now, you may not do 5 a day, but even if it’s ½ page a day.. it adds up. Successful writers have a word count. They shoot for that. One of his friends Bodie Thoene, (my first creative writing teacher! She taught me to write leads… and that got me my first writing job). Bodie says that no little elves come out and write. So she sits there and writes every day.
  3. Persistance is related to perseverance – Andy Andrews story. Great speaker, but could not get his book published. He would have people come up after his speeches and asked for a book. Once, a woman came up and praised him, and Andy said “Your husband (a big CEO) rejected the idea.” Andy also gave his book to Good Morning America. Back then they had a book club, and Robin Roberts chose it. That made it jump on the NY Times book list, and it has been there ever since. Andy had to keep at it to make this connection. Much of his effort didn’t go anywhere. Remember Mark Victor Hansen’s story of “Chicken Soup For The Soul.”
  4. Willing to learn from every possible source. They go to conferences and take notes. Terry told his experience at Woodlet Bible Translators. Back then, they had an author-at-large. Terry’s task was to supervise his books and budget. This created some conflict. Terry asked if he ever went to a writer’s conference, an the guy said: “Yeah, if they invite me to teach.” Terry said that he repeated the question and asked if he ever went to grow. This author said no. Don’t be that guy. You want to continually grow He’s been on Twitter for 8 years and has tens of thousands of Twitter followers. This is what you need to do. Social media – Terry has a 2 hour presentation, go to and get a free handout on this.
  5. Embrace their professional colleagues. This is their editors, agents. These writers are always wanting to improve their manuscript. Invite criticism. Be willing to rewrite. Don’t fight over every single word change. Do stand up for your voice and perspective. But most good editors want to improve your work without killing your voice.
  6. Understand the power of information. Exchanging cards… What do you do with these cards? Do you store them? Do you USE this information? Put them in your system in a way you can understand it. Card munch on Iphone – take a picture and it gets saved into text. Use these free tools.  Honor your commitments – Make your deadlines. It’s amazing how many miss deadlines and then don’t get in catalogs. Schedule your production to turn it in early. No matter what it is.
  7. Network – make and develop relationships. Help one another. You have to figure out how to get beyond the natural introversion. Great opportunities are out there.
  8. Great writers are always looking for the next great opportunity to practice their craft. All of us have ideas. But how do you convert ideas into action?

What should you NOT do?

Authors that irritate – forget mailing address and phone number.