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You have heard it all before. Writing is a lonely profession. By its very nature, it is a solitary craft. So,if you weren’t an introvert before you wrote your first word, you will become one in about three weeks.

However, writers do manage to connect with others: at writing workshops, seminars and conferences. Maybe that’s why they are so popular. It’s a place to interact with other humans (real life humans as opposed to the fictional ones we have taking over our brains).

This past weekend I attended an Indie Writing Workshop put on by Mystery Writers of America, Northern California Chapter. Since I self-publish my Trisha Carson series, I couldn’t wait to go, and I was not disappointed. Local writers who are both self and traditionally published had more to say than I could remember. But I wanted to pass along some nuggets that I found particularly interesting.

PHOTO: (L to R) Laurie R King, president, NorCal MWA, Sabrina Flynn, Mysti Berry)

Since we all work within a budget, one panel was asked where is the most important place to spend what little money we have. The answers: layout and formatting, editing, and promotion.

In case you hadn’t thought about it before, there is a difference between a content editor, a copy editor and proof readers. Content editors are your first stop. They check your facts. If your book is non-fiction, they make sure it is factually correct. Was it raining on April 15, 1945 in Paris? Did you make up the rain? They will find out. For fiction writers, content editors focus on discrepancies in the plot, character, or dialogue. As the name indicates, they check content. Copy editors look at language, grammar, continuity, sentence structure, paragraph length, that kind of thing. Finally, proof readers look for typos.

In the past, I have used all three and the money I spent was well worth it.

Everyone agreed -- another place to spend your hard-earned cash is on cover art. Go professional. As one panelist said, “For $50 and a beer, I had a friend design my book cover.” The results were what you would expect for $50 and a beer. Besides coming up with an excellent cover that will help sell your book, actual designers know what your cover will look like when it is postage stamp size. Think of all the book covers you have seen on your smart phone. Do you even know what you are looking at? A good designer will.

The workshop featured tips on social media, thoughts on critique groups and the never-ending list of apps that come and go.

Bottom line for me: I came home and worked on three practical suggestions: I put a mailing list on my website (so please sign up here), looked into some of the writing software programs mentioned (i.e., Scrivener and and finally decided to pay for some sponsored advertising on

For me it was a successful day, I learned a lot and talked—in real time—to real people.


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