I will post another ‘Writers are Crazy’ post next week, but I wanted to share some thoughts on the RWA conference.

Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights. Pauline R Kezer

I really enjoyed the recent RWA conference in New York even though I lost a beautiful earring my mother had bought me (note to self—don’t wear lovely earrings when setting up for a luncheon for over 2000 people) and every day I had to dodge people dressed up as Mickey and Minnie Mouse on my way to the conference hotel (I was in the overflow hotel several loooong blocks away).

Overall I found the conference informative.  And one topic that resonated throughout was that the industry is in a state of change due to the big Es—eBooks and Economy, and the big Bs—Bookstores and Buyer habits.

Being among my fellow attendees, I sensed a lot of fear and anxiety do to these shifts, but change is necessary if this industry is going to survive. I’m confident it will. My hope is that authors/writers will take this opportunity to understand their value again. For a long time (too long) they’ve thought of themselves as the bottom feeders of the industry–easily replaceable and tolerated. The new shifts in the industry have allowed many authors, including myself, to  discover that through eBook and POD publishing they can make their work available to readers and build an audience (at their own pace). This has reinvigorated writers who, because an agent or editor said so, thought their careers were over. Old series are getting a new life. Writers are becoming creatively free again.

I enjoyed the workshops and chatting with other writers. Here are five things I learned (okay, so I already knew them, but they were reinforced):

Roles have changed for everyone. Some authors are becoming publishers, some distributors are becoming booksellers, and many agents are trying to find out where they can ethically stand in this changing climate. Everyone is scrambling to know how best to manage all the different options and for writers the options are vast. There are small presses, big presses, ePresses, indie publishing and more. Instead of being fearful, it’s time for writers to think like entrepreneurs and seize the opportunities presented before them.

Don’t ignore print. Yes, eBooks are expanding at an amazing pace, but print books still rule (about 70% of the market). Don’t forget that many people still prefer this format. So if you’re an independent publisher or working with one, make sure you also consider print on demand. If you want to go the traditional route make sure your contracts are solid (and fair) for both eBooks and print.

Do your homework. It’s time for authors to wise up about contracts. Whether you use an agent, literary attorney or both, it is crucial that you know what you’re signing. Shady clauses are being slipped in some, while outrageous ones are being inserted in others. Know what your agent is up to. Know what the market really looks like and don’t base your career plans on gossip and rumors. Know the facts. Think you’re safe if you go the indie route? Give me a moment to burst into laughter. There are plenty of charlatans setting up shop ready to divert your income stream into their personal bank.  Again, instead of being fearful, arm yourself with knowledge.

Protect your joy. New York Times Bestselling Author, Sherrilyn Kenyon, was the keynote speaker for the Awards Luncheon on Thursday and it’s a speech worth buying and listening to if you ever feel like quitting. You can also read her powerful speech here. She shared how she’d survived a tough childhood, a family tragedy, the ups and downs of the industry, the naysayers and a nasty rejection only to preserve and become the success she is today. She talked about believing in yourself and finding others who believe in you too.

If possible stay away from negative people because they aren’t heading where you’re heading. You’ll still face a host of detractors including rejection, jealousy, and disappointment, but the joy of creation must be something you guard like a pit bull.

Have a sense of humor. The workshop “Secrets of the Bestseller Sisterhood” with Jayne Ann Krentz and Susan Elizabeth Phillips was woefully under-attended because of where it was located. Most people probably couldn’t find it. I arrived just in time after roaming to a number of other rooms trying to find their session. And boy, am I glad I did. It was excellent as always. I recommend you get the recording so you can listen to these two brilliant and talented women tell you how they’ve managed to stay and rise in an industry known for eating its young.  They talked about ‘voice’ and ‘core story’ and ‘the strategy’ behind sending work to assistant editors. It wasn’t just their wisdom that impressed me, it was their outlook and use of humor (if you attend their session you’re guaranteed several good laughs). They don’t take themselves too seriously. They’re optimistic, but they are also savvy businesswoman, that’s their biggest secret (something they didn’t even need to mention).

In closing, change is everywhere, but don’t be afraid. Let your branches grow and reach for amazing new horizons.