NIWA holds independent publishing conference for writers

by: COURTESY PHOTO: RICK PAULSON - Ripley Patton and Athena, who independently published their books, participated in Speed Date an Author last fall at the Hillsboro Public Library, which was put on by NIWA.While many readers dream of publishing their own book one day, Tonya Macalino of the Northwest Independent Writers Association (NIWA) encourages want-to-be authors to start now.

NIWA’s first symposium at McMenamin's Grand Lodge in Forest Grove, Feb. 1 and 2, will focus on three tracks: writing, publishing and marketing.

Author entrepreneurs will teach courses designed to appeal to both writers opting for self-publication and those going the more traditional route.

Among several others, courses include, “Being Your Own Fact Checker: Tips and Methodologies for Research,” “Ebook Formatting: The Crash Course” and “Guerilla Marketing: Low Budget Strategies.”

Macalino has seen the trend in independent publishing change things for writers.

On the plus side, writers no longer have to be at the mercy of agents and publishing houses or yield to other trappings of the conventional path of publication, she said.

Self-publishing writers often have more artistic control over their projects and manage their careers from an entrepreneurial perspective, according to Macalino, and they can earn a larger percentage from book sales.

“What used to be the entrepreneurial 'wild west' of self-publishing three to five years ago has changed dramatically through technological leaps and systems that are more and more user friendly,” Macalino said. “All those people who used to dream of publishing a book can now do it. And many do.”

But, “the resulting down side includes the fact that Amazon has now become the new publishing industry's ‘slush pile’ — the chaotic collection of unread manuscripts which clutter the desks of editors,” Macalino said. “With hundreds of thousands of indie titles hitting Amazon's electronic bookshelves every year, readers take over the duties of traditional publishing house editors, discovering titles and pushing them to prominence through word of mouth.”

As a result, the challenges of publication now include the quest for “face time” with the reader audience. It has become a game of being first to discover new review sites and the latest promotional gimmicks, Macalino said.

In this fiercely competitive market, it's become a question of longevity and quantity — the more books an author has out there, the more likely they are to succeed.

Writers must be prolific, coming out with one or two titles every year, and many writers who once published traditionally are now fashioning hybrid careers, using their names to launch independently published works, according to Macalino.

Authors now have to make a myriad of decisions throughout the process: book cover and overall design, the editing process and the actual publication.

NIWA Symposium courses are designed to address these issues.

The courses “will give you a heads up on standards for layout and design,” Macalino said. “They will help you become an informed consumer in a confusing and ever-evolving marketplace.”

Whether authors publish traditionally or self-publish, Macalino said, the audience is the same: readers. NIWA seeks to help writers understand the importance of honoring their reader audience with books that are well written and edited, well designed and equipped to be part of a highly competitive market. “It's about respect for the art of writing,” Macalino said.

NIWA also has an online forum and is developing a database of articles for those seeking self-publication. The organization holds monthly networking meetings and has developed the NSQ (NIWA Seal of Quality), a standard for which self-published writers can apply. If approved, the seal will be featured on both print and ebooks.

The program will close with the Author Showcase, billed as “the biggest book party in Washington County.” More than 30 authors will be on hand, signing books and offering raffles. Proceeds will benefit The Library Foundation of Hillsboro and The Right Brain Initiative.

Registration for the two day event is $275 before Jan. 24 but $325 thereafter. An awards banquet ticket is an additional $40. Authors wishing to participate in the Author Showcase will pay an additional $20 table fee to display their NSQ approved books. Register online or by mail, downloading the PDF registration form from NIWA's website. Go to for more information.

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