Superstars Week, Day 5: Q&A with the Superstars, Part 2

Welcome to Day 2 of Q&A with David Farland and Kevin J. Anderson. You can access the authors’ websites at http://www.wordfire.com/ and http://www.davidfarland.net/ respectively. Kevin J. Anderson has a post on his blogsite devoted to the seminar and those presenting in 2012, http://kjablog.com/On to the interviews:

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Q: What do you have to go through to prepare for the seminar?

David Farland: I simply meditate on the topic that I’m going to teach, normally. Much of this is information that I’ve gleaned over the past thirty years, and so I might need to write down notes, codify what I know. Normally, we’re talking about topics that you can’t get much information about in books.

Kevin J. Anderson: The talks and panels themselves are not so difficult, because we have all lived this material and we know it very well. For me and Rebecca, it’s all the complicated logistics of setting everything up with the venue, and then doing the publicity, waiting for signups, hoping that we get enough attendees to pay our expenses, and then managing all the little details.

Q: What is your favorite panel and why?

Kevin: I enjoy giving the “Popcorn Theory” talk, because it’s fun to show people how all these projects don’t happen in a vacuum-if you do good work, one thing leads to another and another.

Dave: I think that I’m most interested in the panels on self-marketing, particularly ones that involve social media, quite simply because we have people like Brandon and Kevin who are the best writers I know on the topic. I actually learn things in these panels that I can take home and implement myself!

Q: What part of the Authors Dinner do you like best?

Kevin: Hmm, the potatoes, maybe. Or the dessert. But probably having a chance to sit down and talk with some of the students, face to face in a relaxed setting for a few hours. We end up asking them as many questions as they know us. Many of the attendees of past Superstars will realize that we really do consider you to be friends and colleagues, and we hope to watch your careers skyrocket.

Dave: For me, it’s just getting to know the authors, try to find out where they are in their careers, what they need, and in a short time see if I can offer some advice that might be of help.

Q: The publishing industry is changing fast. Now going on your third year, has the content of the Superstars seminar had to change to reflect the ever-evolving industry? If so, in what ways?

Dave: Yes, we are going through some dramatic changes, with the rise of the whole self-publishing movement. It really has become a viable way for an author to get into business, but it has its own pratfalls and its own huge potential. To me, it suggests that we need to expand our curriculum a bit, to cover the new media. It’s a very exciting time that we live in!

Kevin: A lot of the lectures are still relevant–the professionalism, productivity, networking, etc. We are going to have a lot more focus on eBooks, indy publishing, hardcopy as well as electronic — maybe even half a day to the topic. Dean Wesley Smith is giving a full hour on copyright law and Kris is doing a talk (which I can’t wait to hear myself) on tough negotiating, getting better deals and how to change contract terms that aren’t in your favor. I think we might also do a lecture on income streams (instant money, long-term trickles, etc.) We have always had more material than we could possibly cover. We do want to change it up so it’s not just a rerun every year. We’re still developing the curriculum, but it should have all the good stuff from before and some new and relevant stuff too.

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Kevin and Dave are enthusiastic about sharing knowledge, always glad to help serious writers improve their abilities and prepare for the difficult process of getting published. All of us fictorians want to thank them for their encouragement, eager participation in our blog, and for bringing us together through the Superstars Seminar.

I’m confident I’ll enjoy another information-packed seminar in April, and I’m looking forward to making more writing friends. If you’ll be going for the first time in 2012, or if you have questions for us attendees, please drop us a note in the comment box below.

Starting Monday, we’ll be back to our regular MWF blog schedule with a guest post by Mignon Fogarty: the Grammar Girl (one of our more famous Superstars alumni).

Superstars Week, Day 4: Q&A with the Superstars, Part 1

Now for our last two days of Superstars Week: Q&A with Kevin J. Anderson and David Farland, two of the panelists participating in Superstars Seminar. The other regular participants are: Eric Flint, Rebecca Moesta, and Brandon Sanderson. For more info on the seminar, go to www.superstarswritingseminar.com.

Though they need no introduction, it felt like a requirement, so:

Kevin J. AndersonKevin J. Anderson is the author of more than one hundred novels, 47 of which have appeared on national or international bestseller lists. He has won or been nominated for numerous prestigious awards, including the Nebula Award, Bram Stoker Award, and New York Times Notable Book. By any measure, he is one of the most popular writers currently working in the science fiction genre.

David Farland

David Farland is an award-winning, New York Times bestselling author who has penned nearly fifty science fiction and fantasy novels for both adults and children. Along the way, he has also worked as the head judge for one of the world’s largest writing contests, as a creative writing instructor, as a videogame designer, as a screenwriter, and as a movie producer.

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Q: Who thought of the Superstars Seminar and why did you think it was a good idea?

Kevin J. Anderson: Rebecca and I had Dave, Brandon, and Eric come to stay at our house for a few days so we could have a “bestseller summit” — with the intention of benefiting *ourselves*. We were all bestselling, well-established authors, and there just aren’t workshops to give practical, no-nonsense advice to Pros. We learned a lot from one another in those few intensive days, and we realized that we had a lot of good information to share with other serious writers, who weren’t getting it anywhere else. The first seminar, in Pasadena, we had two TV producers who wanted to come and sit in-Steven L Sears and Marc Scott Zicree-and they ended up being guest speakers. The second year, in Salt Lake City, we had Sherrilyn Kenyon as our official guest speaker, but Tracy Hickman and Howard Tayler also came to attend, and they spoke as well. For the next seminar, we have Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, but we’ll probably have some other surprise guests, as well.

David Farland: This was Kevin Anderson’s idea. Some of us professional writers had gathered to talk about the state of the industry. Brandon and I were both giving advice–me through my Daily Kick and Brandon through his podcasts, and Kevin suggested that we create a writing workshop taught only by NYT bestsellers. I’d never seen one like this in our field, but it certainly made good sense, especially when one hears that wanky advice often given out by new authors who, while they may mean well, just aren’t very well informed.

Kevin and I have been friends since at least 1990, and we often talk–either through email or in person. I’d discovered Eric Flint through writers of the Future and helped him get published. I’ve always loved Eric and respected his work. And then I was Brandon’s writing instructor at BYU. I later took him out on his first book-signing tours and helped him get his career started. So we’re not just writers, but also we’re all friends. Each of the authors brings his or her own experience and strengths to the table.

Q: How long do you intend to keep doing it?

Dave: Oh, I’ll die in 15 years or so. I think I’ll retire shortly thereafter.

Kevin: It’s very time consuming and a lot of work, but we get plenty of rewards. It all depends on whether we have enough attendees!

Q: What has been your most rewarding or favorite moment from the seminars so far? (We had to specify that they couldn’t use Tracy Hickman’s story during the 2011 seminar.)

Kevin: (Note that the Tracy Hickman story was not planned; he just asked if he could have the microphone for a few minutes.) It’s very rewarding to see how many people from the first two Superstars have signed up again for later seminars — so, either it isn’t sinking in the first time around, or they feel it’s valuable. I love watching the discussion groups on Facebook and keeping in contact with some of our attendees, to watch how their careers are taking off (much faster than mine ever did!)

Dave: That’s a hard one. For me, the greatest reward is to meet the people at the seminar. I’ve very much enjoyed getting to know several people from the workshop, though I hesitate to try to name them all, for fear that someone will be left out. You see, as a writer, we don’t get to have much in the way of a social life. So I really take delight in getting to meet you new authors.

Q: If a student is to take away only one piece of information from this seminar, what do you hope it will be?

Kevin: That being a professional writer is an actual job-a business-and you need to treat it as such. You can’t just be flaky and “artistic” and miss your deadlines.

Dave: Ah, for each one of you, it will be different. One of you might need to learn to make writing a habit. So that’s what I want you to take away. One of you might need to learn how to run an auction. If so, I want you to walk away with that. One of you might just need to learn how to hope in the face of discouragement–and so you must gain that.

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Join us tomorrow for the rest of our question and answer session.

Superstars Week, Day 3: Confessions of Repeat Offenders

Hello, intrepid readers, this is Leigh, and I’d like to welcome you back to the Fictorian Era’s Superstars Week! For the last two days you’ve gotten an idea of what you can gain by attending the Superstars Writing Seminars, but today, Nancy, Clancy, and I will be telling you why we felt the need to go back for more. Yes, all three of us are Repeat Offenders, having attended both previous seminars.

So, why return to a seminar you’ve already attended?

For me, there were a number of reasons, but today, I’m going to talk about how, by returning to the Superstars Writing Seminar, you’re not just revisiting something you’ve seen before. The seminar is dedicated wholly to learning the writer’s place in the publishing industry. And let’s face it, people, that place is changing fast. This seminar is a true insiders look at what any writer looking to make a career publishing can expect, and the options available to get there.

As an example, in the first Superstars seminar, we had the core five authors, Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, Eric Flint, Brandon Sanderson, and David Farland. Across the board, they said that traditional publishing was the way to go. Then, Amazon unveiled their e-publishing program. Self-publishing wasn’t the pariah it previously was. The next seminar dedicated an hour to self-publishing and e-books. As part of that panel, Moses Siregar, a previous Superstar attendee, had a heated discussion with Eric Flint over e-publishing, and David was heavily leaning toward self- publishing. Since then, David’s written a post on this very site stating that he believes self-publishing to be the future of the industry, and this year, Superstars has brought in Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, two vocal authors on indie publishing issues. Clearly things have changed, and Superstars is keeping pace.

Yet, as with any seminar, there are portions that are repeated every year, but as Clancy will tell you, even that can be a good thing.

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Clancy here. And here’s why I’m a repeat offender: I signed up for my second Superstars seminar unsure if I would hear much that I hadn’t learned the year before. But I wanted to meet Sherrilyn Kenyon (a guest speaker) and see my alumni buddies, so I decided to go. Color me surprised me when I learned as much, if not more, as I did the first time. During the year between the two events, I had changed. Where I was with my writing and my career had also changed, and I was hearing different things even though much of the content was similar. My mindset tuned into completely different points made.

I wanted to give you an example, but I can’t think of one. I know… challenged. Anyway – I remember sitting there during a presentation that I’d heard before and thinking to myself, I know they discussed this last year, but I was hearing the content through a different filter and what caught my attention were not the same things that did the year prior. I wish I had an excellent example to share. Just know that it was a profound ‘a-ha’ like realization. So, I wish I could go again this year because I know I would, yet again, learn more and different things than I have already.

Read on to see why Nancy is right and the contacts and friends I have made during both seminars are still with me, still in contact, and are still impacting my life in ways I will forever be grateful for.

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Nancy Greene, on the issue of “Contacts and Kismet”: We attend conferences to make contacts including the conference speakers, vendors, and participants. I confess to being a Repeat Offender at Superstars Writing Seminars for all the reasons you’ve heard about over the last few days and for the people I meet.

Approximately 20-30 attendees at the 2011 Superstars were Repeat Offenders. I’d guess the number is about the same for April’s session. The Superstars crowd isn’t cliquey. We go out enmasse. The “we” is the Repeat Offenders, one or more of the speakers, and anyone we can convince to join us. Dinner and late night drinks at the hotel bar are similar affairs. Because we’re a social group, there’s a lot of extra time with the speakers, which is something that often doesn’t happen at other conferences. The social aspect’s a great way to forge long-term friendships. After all, we’re all writers, and can help each other after the conference ends.

I’ve written about the benefits of writers helping writers before in the Benefits of Holding Hands on this blog. Because of Superstars and the friends made there, the Fictorians have:

(1) Participated in this blog (all members are Superstars attendees),
(2) Received weekly encouragement and accountability checks,
(3) Received advice and critiques from some of the presenters,
(4) Edited or beta read novels written by the presenters,
(5) Assisted other Fictorians in getting short-stories published,
(6) Been introduced to other fabulous connections, including agents and publishers, and
(7) Advertised or promoted the other writers on the site.
The list contains the things I can think of off the top of my head. There’s more.

The writing industry is small. The way to “break-in” is to have a great product, and an even better network. We might have made the contacts and achieved the same results without Superstars, but the process would’ve probably been years longer.

Kismit happens.

But you have to ensure you’ve done your work and made the contacts you need to be “in the right place at the right time.” Superstars is an excellent place to make those contacts, and it’s why I’m a Repeat Offender.

So, if you’re a Repeat Offender, feel free to let us know why you keep going back to Superstars. And everyone should stick around for tomorrow and Friday for a two part interview with two of the founders of this fantastic seminar, David Farland and Kevin J. Anderson. See you in April.

Superstars Week, Day 2: Top Benefits of the Superstars Seminar

Today, Day Two of Superstars Week, three more Fictorians share some of the top benefits the Superstars Writing Seminar provided to us.

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Frank Morin: Superstars was a landmark event in my writing career. I came to Superstars thinking I knew what it meant to be a writer. I left knowing what it takes to succeed.

The presenters shared so much knowledge in such a short time, it’s hard to understand until you’re there. Of all the brilliant advice, here’s what I found most useful:

1. Volume matters, particularly in today’s market. One book per year is minimum. No longer can a writer slave over a manuscript for years before it’s ready for release. Just like everything else in our world, the pace is faster than ever. Competition is fierce and readers’ attention spans are short. They have too many other options available. They won’t wait for years. Kevin J Anderson said early in his career, he was querying with over 30 separate pieces simultaneously.

2. Contracts. This is business. Publishers, and even some agents, are not your friends. The only person who is really looking out for your interests is you. Learn about contracts, ask questions, and don’t sign anything you don’t fully understand.

3. The economics of publishing. We got a glimpse at the economics involved from both the authors and publishers points of view. It was eye opening. I had never realized publishers generally lose money on an author’s first book. A publisher is making an investment, hoping to reap a return on that investment through future books by that author as their fan base grows. That helped explain why most new authors get very little for a first novel. Understanding how the industry works allows us to approach it as professionals, with correct expectations.

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Ann Cooney: Superstars was wonderful because now I’m able to manage my career with confidence and approach it with professionalism rather than naive timidity.

Superstars showed me where the bar sits to be a professional writer. For example, if you’re serious about writing, WRITE! A novel a year is the minimum output. So, that first year after Superstars I wrote two novels to complete the trilogy I had started. Last year I researched and wrote another novel. This year, my new research complete, I expect to complete one, possibly two novels for a series. So now when I talk to publishers and editors, I have a product line which show I’m serious because I have more than a one-time dream I’m selling.

Before Superstars I found the idea of talking with anyone in the industry intimidating because I felt so naive. And I was. Now, with some understanding how things operate, it’s easier talk to publishers, editors and successful authors in a time when the industry is changing so much.

When I saw how much the superstar authors give back to the writing community I was inspired to do more than I had been. I’m a short story contest judge. I’m editing an anthology. I help other aspiring writers and support writing groups. The neat thing is that the more I give, the more I learn and grow and my network of resources and contacts are always expanding.

In short, the greatest thing about Superstars is that I have great role models who have not only inspired me but have shared what it takes to make it in this industry. And for that, I’ll always be grateful. Thanks!

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Jason Michelsen: I can’t recommend the Superstars Writing Seminar enough. Even after going through two different writing programs at the undergrad and graduate levels in college, there were so many things left untaught during my education about the business side of the industry. I suppose it is a school’s job merely to teach its students how to write better, but, as I learned at the
seminar, there is so much more to being a writer than just writing.

For one thing, we never discussed contracts in school, and if you ever want to get paid as a writer, knowing about contracts is important. The lecture by Eric Flint on contracts was invaluable. Granted, there are a lot of writers out there who may not read their contracts carefully and leave all negotiating up to their agents, but I for one want to know exactly what’s in my contract should I ever be lucky enough to get published through traditional means.

Getting published through traditional means typically requires an agent, something else that was never discussed when I was in school but is covered at length during this seminar. It’s true that just about every author has their own unique story about how they acquired their agent, but the Superstars Writing Seminar prepares you for what you need to do when you’re ready to go to market with your finished manuscript.

Knowing a little about the market doesn’t hurt either. Okay, knowing a lot about the market is ideal: what kinds of books are selling, what publishing houses publish the types of books you write, what you might expect to make as a mid-list author or national bestseller, etc.

Sure, discussing salary might be jumping the gun a bit for most seminar attendees, but that’s the beauty of the Superstars Writing Seminar. Not only do you get access to a wealth of knowledge about the publishing industry, you also get access to some of the most prolific writers producing speculative fiction today. So if you go, hang out with the authors during breaks, ask them questions, network and make connections with your fellow attendees. You’ll be glad you did!

See you in April at Superstars!