It’s one of my stock phrases: “The world needs more writers, and fewer wannabe-writers.” Sometimes people think I’m being the crotchety published author telling all the new independent and self-published writers to give it all up.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Two fundamental characteristics define writers to my mind:

Writers write, wannabes dream of being writers

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If you want to be a writer, open up a word processor, text editor, or pad of paper and start putting words down in some permanent form. Now you have a copyrighted work! Develop your writing habit by repeatedly putting words down in some permanent form; every day is best, but don’t beat yourself over the head if you miss a day now and then. You won’t get better unless and until writing becomes a habit.

Writers look for readers

Wannabes who take the first step (develop their writing habit) too often believe their work isn’t good enough for others to read. Too often,  we’re our own worst critic, but let me say this as clearly as I know how: the only way to succeed as a professional writer is to get readers! You have to find — and grow — an audience for your writing.

Today’s writers have a multitude of tools and places to try out their skills, and new ones pop up regularly. If you want to hone your fictional craft, try WattPad, or enter a contest. If you just want to describe your view of the world, head to and start blogging. Use your Facebook or Google+ space to find others interested in the same things you are and write to them.

English: Professional writers recruit for Wiki...
English: Professional writers recruit for Wikipedia writing classes for public (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By the way, here’s a secret: if you do any of the above, you not only have a copyright, but you’re a published writer. No longer a wannabe.  And that’s what I mean by needing fewer wannabes.

Know someone who needs help finding readers?

Build Your Author PlatformNow it’s time for the mercenary part of this post. Perhaps you know a wannabe-writer (or maybe more than one). For many folks, December is a time for remembering your friends and family members.  You know the definition of “friend,” right?

The people who know you best, and hang around with you anyway

Often you thank these people at this time of year with gifts. Have I got a great idea for you! It’s a collection of words that Carole Jelen and I wrote called Build Your Author Platform: The New Rules. It came out in May, and it will help the wannabes in your life find the audience they’ve dreamed of, regardless of what they wanna write about. It comes in electronic and paper format (the paper is easier to wrap; some outlets may even be able to wrap it up for you).

I’ve got some handy links to the book on my Books page. You can also visit the Build Your Author Platform website for even more places to order.

May you all have a wonderful holiday season, and a 2015 where all the wannabes in your life become writers.


What an amazing thing Book Expo America is! While I was only in New York for a little more than two days last week, “special” is really only one adjective. As an author, the trip was very successful. As a tourist, it was too short. As a consumer, well, I’ve had better experiences, but lessons learned…

I have a lot of stories to tell, but I won’t make you slog through one really long post. Since this IS an author site, today I will write about my one day at the Javits Center, home base for BEA 2014. Next time, I’ll tell you about the travel experience in the Big City.

What is Book Expo America?

A quick introduction if you’re not in the book business: Book Expo America (BEA) started as the annual conference of the American Booksellers Association, the group that organizes and lobbies for independent bookshops across the country. The conference still offers dozens of educational sessions and panel discussions focused on the book business from the perspective of the booksellers and librarians who attend.

Publishers  attend and exhibit at BEA to connect their catalogs with the humans who place orders and offer recommendations to their customers about what to read next. Authors and literary agents attend to sell their current book and make deals for their next projects. This year, even independent, self-publishing authors had a portion of the trade show floor to call their own.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, ABA battled for the survival of independent mom-and-pop bookstores against the corporate Goliaths: Barnes & Noble and Borders. Absent some context, I suppose you could say they won: Borders is gone, Barnes & Noble fights rumors of its impending doom, and ABA membership is actually up this year!

Of course, the corporate bookshops weren’t really slain by the independents, but by another Goliath that once dubbed itself “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore,” While not an ABA member,  Amazon had a big presence at BEA through its CreateSpace and children’s publishing subsidiaries. A newer acquisition, Goodreads, also gave authors tips in  using its author program.

But I digress… enough exposition! Not here to pontificate on the state of publishing. Here’s the action part!

So how did the signing go?

Glad you asked — It went great! Carole Jelen and I were among the 750+ authors scheduled to sign books during the show.  At 10:30 in the morning, a half hour before our scheduled signing, I signed in at the Author Green Room. No, it was not like an airline club room with mahogany-paneled walls and attendants for our every needs — though the couches were pretty nice. I was given my choice of Sharpies to sign with, and offered coffee or tea.

As it happened, the two representatives from BenBella Books who scored us the signing appeared shortly after I got there, so I had someone to hang out with until Carole got there. Let me say before I go too much further that everyone we’ve worked with at BenBella has been nothing less than terrific in shepherding this project through. If you ever get a chance to publish with them, take it!

Just before the appointed hour arrived, the BEA Signings manager gathered us all up for a walk to our tables. Carole and I walked down to Table 11 not sure what to expect, but when we opened the curtain to greet our public, I think we were both a little surprised to see a long line of autograph seekers waiting for us! A line that kept coming for the full 30 minutes!

We met booksellers, librarians, and writers in a variety of genres. People kept telling us how much they needed our book. Even the author signing next to us told us he wanted one! The time just flew by.

Time to Celebrate

We close out Build Your Author Platform with a whole chapter reminding you that the writing life is supposed to be fun; that after the hard work of writing your book and working on your platform, you need to celebrate the achievement and have a party.

Andy Ihnatko at MacWorld 2008. This image was ...
Andy Ihnatko at MacWorld 2008. This image was cropped from the original flickr image. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With that in mind, we gathered that evening at the Times Square Intercontinental Hotel (right across the street from the legendary Birdland jazz club), with many of Carole’s friends and associates in the publishing industry for a bit of champagne and conversation.  It was great fun, and I’m happy to say that I largely behaved myself. OK, it’s true I could hardly stop showing off the wonderful review we’d gotten that morning from big time tech columnist Andy Ihnatko, but that was pretty much the extent of my bad behavior. You can find more pictures from the signing and party on my Facebook page.


Many of us hoped the night would peak with a viewing of the semi-natural event locals call “Manhattanhenge,” but the overcast skies spoiled that. Such is life…

All in all, it was a spectacular day, especially for an introverted nerd like me. Every writer should have one (or many) like it. Many Thanks to everyone I crossed paths with!

Were you among the people we met at BEA? Have you hosted a great (or even not-so-great) book signing event? Feel free to share a story in the comments.

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buildyourauthorplatform_frontcover_3d-white-1024x1024I am about to enter new territory as an author, on several levels. Not only am I going to New York City for the first time since the mid-1970s, I’m going to Book Expo America (BEA) for the first time too.

If you’re not familiar with BEA, this is the biggest annual trade show for booksellers in the US. The show used to be billed as the American Booksellers Association conference (which it still is, despite the rebranding), and my brother-in-law, the textbook manager at the local public university, was a regular participant. After hearing dozens of stories over the years, I knew I wanted to go someday, but couldn’t figure out a way to justify the cost.

This changed with the Build Your Author Platform: The New Rules project. When Carole Jelen proposed that I write the book with her, of one thing she was certain: We would launch this book at BEA. So that’s what we’re doing!

English: Looking north up Eleventh Avenue (Man...
English: Looking north up Eleventh Avenue (Manhattan) at Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on a sunny late morning (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Carole and I will be signing copies of Build Your Author Platform at the Jacob Javits Convention Center for a half hour on Thursday, May 29 starting at 11:00 AM Eastern time. If you’re at BEA, please come see us! We may also be hanging around the BenBella Books table for different chunks of the day too.

Unfortunately, I can’t stay for the free reader-oriented BookCon happening on Saturday, but I urge you to go if you can. Then maybe we can swap stories next year.

Want to follow all the happenings at BEA? Twitter hashtag is #bea14. I suspect WorkingWriter  will be posting a lot here and on Twitter with whatever strikes me in the Big Apple. Desperately need to find me in New York? Email Let’s see what we can set up!

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