Ten Things I Learned at Superstars Writing Seminar 2020
Superstars Writing Seminar is unique amongst the countless writing conferences across the country. Not only is this event focused on the business of writing–though they have added a craft day on Wednesday–Superstars encourages close interaction with industry professionals going so far as groups of us eating lunch and dinner together. Everyone is approachable and friendly, from multi-bestselling authors to CEOs of writing centric businesses to large scale publishers to the unknown person next to you who instantly becomes important. We’re called Tribe and we’d love for you to join us.
This was my third Superstars and I can’t recommend it enough for anyone interested in any aspect of writing as a career path. These are ten things I learned this year.
1. There’s No One Way to be Successful
On one of the first panels I attended, Michael Anderle talked about defining what success means to you. Some writers want to make enough money to quit their day job. Some want to be a New York Times bestselling author. Others just want to tell their stories and, hopefully, find others who love them. We don’t often talk about various definitions of success as we chase the almighty dollar. Everyone isn’t driven by the same passion, even if they’re in the same industry. How do you define your own successful writing career?
2. Name Tags are a Must
Superstars is, above all else, a networking event. Which means you get to meet people and, you know, network. Which is awfully difficult when you can’t remember anyone’s name. I’m pretty good with names, but not nearly as good as the gifted Kevin J. Anderson. I will see the face of a fellow Tribe member that I KNOW I ate a meal with last year, but I just can’t find her name in my brain’s databanks. Luckily, everyone is given a lanyard with a name tag at check-in. These things are magical tools that should be included at EVERY event. It’s quite easy to cheat and glance at the tag and continue with the conversation like you totally remembered the whole time. And every year, I learn a few more names within easy recall space.
3. Connect with Guests (and Follow-Up)
To continue with the theme of networking, don’t forget to shake hands and introduce yourself to the big wigs. The Tribe mentality of Superstars makes even the most esteemed author or agent accessible. You’d be surprised who I have on my Facebook friend list simply by shaking their hand and asking an applicable question at Superstars. The part I’m still working on is the follow-up bit. It’s much harder and I’m still not there yet. Anyone have any suggestions?
4. Introverts can Extrovert
The writing community consists overwhelmingly of introverts. Not everyone fits this category, of course, but it’s definitely the trend. Since everyone attending Superstars is instantly Tribe, it’s amazing how so many attendees feel at home talking to strangers. Because we’re not strangers; we’re Tribe. The writer, who keeps to herself at most events, suddenly feels comfortable enough to talk to the person sitting next to her. Over and over again, Tribe will adopt someone alone in the lobby and include them in their lunch group. There are no cliches. There are no exclusions. And any awkwardness from all of us introverts attempting to extrovert are accepted as normal, because Tribe gets it.
5. Multiple Income Streams
The days of writing a book a year and making a living with publishing are over. (Again, I know there are exceptions, but you can’t base your future on winning the lottery.) Superstars 2021 stressed, through multiple sessions and group discussions, the need to diversify your income. Yes, you can still go the traditionally published route and make some money. To supplement that, self publishing is thriving with many more authors making a living wage through that method. Small presses, like Cursed Dragon Ship Publishing (shameless plug), are also an option, if you don’t want to be a business person AND a writer. So what’s the best plan? Do all three. The experienced speakers also recommended speaking engagements and live content and Patreon options. Also, consider writing outside of the novel format: short stories, plays, scripts, tie-in fiction, comics. Simply put, branch out and secure your income in an insecure industry by having lots of different people send you checks.
6. Ignore Audiobooks at Your Own Risk
Audiobooks are where ebooks were a few years ago. It’s the format to tackle. One of the indie publishers who makes a VERY good living said almost half of their income comes from audio. It’s expensive, but it’s growing into an absolute must. If you can’t afford it immediately, save up the profit from your sales until you can. There were multiple panels on audiobooks and even if it wasn’t the focus of the discussion in other sessions, many questions were still asked. If you want to do this for a living, it’s time to dive in to audio.
7. Finite Space is a Real Problem
Most of us fly to Superstars from all over the country, and some from out of the country. No big surprise, right? The real problem comes with trying to pack the free books from your swag bag, along with the ones you might have won, along with the ones you accidentally bought when you swore you weren’t going to go crazy this year like last year. And NOW, you have to decide which bits of your clothing you don’t love, because there’s NO WAY you’re leaving any of the books behind.
8. Business Conferences can be Inspiring
Though Superstars is all about the business of writing, just hanging around this group of creative people is incredibly inspiring. I sketched out the outline for two short stories. I wrote the list for this blog. I realized why I was stuck in my current WIP and took notes to fix it. All of this happened in the 15 minute breaks between sessions. Of course, I was inspired to ramp up audio production, try my first AMS ads, and separate my newsletter subscribers into more targeted groups. But that’s to be expected. That’s why I go to business conferences. The surprising bit is the sheer energy in the room that leads to creating more content in my existing worlds as well as a few new ones that came to me from the ether. Now to start writing before the euphoria fades.
9. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
We hear this advice all the time. I guess that’s because it’s good advice. I volunteered to moderate panels during Superstars. It’s my second time for this event. Yet, it still terrifies me. I’d much rather be on the panel than moderating. When I’m on the panel, I just have to answer questions about my expertise. When I’m the moderator, I have to time the experts to make sure we start and end within the designate window. I have to make sure the audience is being respectful (which quite frankly isn’t much of an issue at Superstars) as well as not dominating the conversation (a bit more of a problem since the audience has a ton of personal knowledge as well). I’m a bit phobic about confrontation. By putting myself in this uncomfortable position, I’ve proven to myself that I can do scary things and survive. Also, I scored a lunch meeting with Damon Courtney of Bookfunnel. I would not have been brave enough to even approach him if I hadn’t already pushed myself to moderate his panel. Be brave. Step outside of your normal habits. You never know where it could lead.
10. Take Care of Yourself
Finally, don’t forget to give yourself time. I did not stay out past 10pm any night. I missed a lot of social interacting and game playing and other worthwhile activities, but I HAD to take care of myself or I’d be a wreck in the morning. Pushing outside of your comfort zone doesn’t mean wearing thin your ability to function. If you just can’t socialize right now, find a quiet corner and read for a bit or scroll through Facebook. Go to your room for lunch instead of out so you can network the rest of the evening. Bring snacks to the sessions. Do whatever you need in order to stay healthy. Just make sure you’re not using that as an excuse not to step outside of your comfort zone. Stretch yourself, but not to the point of breaking.
There’s so much more to talk about, but I have writing to do. Are you ready to become Tribe? Good. We’d love to have you. Superstars Writing Seminar 2021 registration is open. If you’re a first time attendee, you can get a discount through this link: https://ssws.regfox.com/superstars-writing-seminars-2021?r=KELLY3515
If you have any questions, please ask in the comments. If I don’t know the answer, I know a Tribe member who does.