Thumbs up on the San Francisco Writers Conference

Shut Up & Write! - SFWC17 OrganizerJulie Howard Attends Writing Conference

I was thrilled to be one of Shut Up & Write’s lottery winners for a ticket to the San Francisco Writers Conference. Within an hour of being notified, I bought a plane ticket from Boise, Idaho, made accommodation plans and rented a car. This was an opportunity I wasn’t going to let pass by.

A conference this big takes a strategy. Mine was two-fold: To learn how to market a book I have being published later this year, and to learn what agents/editors are seeking in the writers they represent. There were more than forty sessions a day, an overwhelming number.

About 500 people attended. I’d guess that about half had already been published and the other half were somewhere in the first-time process of writing, pitching and hoping. Spending a weekend immersed with so many other writers and talking about writing was pure heaven. I was inspired; I was captivated; I was humbled.

I have a notebook full of take-aways so it’s difficult to sum it all up. I certainly didn’t learn everything I need to know, but I came away with some “next steps.” In terms of marketing: Get a web site going and pick one or two social media outlets to use as a start. Several seminars walked me through the nuts and bolts of that, thank goodness.

Pitching an agent or book editor was a huge focus at the San Francisco Writers Conference. I had the opportunity to sit down with two different book editors during a rapid-fire 8-minute consultation session. Good tip: Keep it to about 40 seconds, get your hook up top and explain why you’re the one to tell this story.

Final note: During a panel talk of book editors and agents, they talked about what genres/topics are ending their run and topics they think will be hot for awhile. Overdone: Although domestic suspense stories are hot right now (a la Girl On The Train), expect that market to dry up soon. Also overdone, in YA fiction, take-offs on Hunger Games/Maze Runner/Divergent. What they want more of: Feel-good stories (the recent political season wore readers down), stories from minority voices of all kinds and, in contrast to the above, political thrillers.

Final, final note. Best advice I heard: The worst thing you can do is write for the money. Write what you love and you’ll write the best book that you can write.

Thanks again to Shut Up & Write for sponsoring me at the San Francisco Writers Conference.

Published by Julie Howard

Boise City Manager at Shut Up & Write! Julie Howard leads Shut Up & Write groups in Boise, Idaho. She is the author of “Crime and Paradise,” “Crime Times Two,” and “Spirited Quest.” She is currently on pins and needles waiting to see if her fourth book will be contracted by her publisher, The Wild Rose Press. More about her and her books are at or find her on Twitter at @_juliemhoward.

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