Live From LA: Questions from the Writer's Conference

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Yesterday was the annual BEA/Writer's Digest Books Writer's Conference, and I was fortunate to be a panelist on the popular Ask the Editors session. The organizer, GLA editor Chuck Sambuchino, told me it was for my in-depth knowledge of the submission and editing processes and my familiarity with inexpensive ways to self-market work, but I think that was just fancy talk for "Brian, you're so good-looking and we need a little eye candy up there for the ladies."

No, I promise you, I have not been drinking.

Others on the panel included such brilliant minds as WD Books Editorial Director Jane Friedman, WD Books Editor Lauren Mosko and Writer's Market Editor (and Poetic Asides blogger) Robert Lee Brewer. Together, we fielded a number of great questions, but one struck me as very unusual and I thought I'd share.

An audience member said that she had read/been advised that her book proposal should include a mention of any personal finances the author planned to use to promote her book, but only if that dollar figure topped $10,000. Her question was, "Is this true?"

The question caught me off guard—mainly because I've never heard this before. While it's definitely smart to provide any information about your self-promotional plans, it doesn't seem wise to place a dollar figure on what you're willing to spend of your own money to promote your work. And it certainly doesn't make sense (to me) to put it in writing.

There's no doubt that offering to spend your own money would be a selling point to publishers; after all, what employer wouldn't be thrilled by an employee that pays for the privilege of making them money. But it's a slippery slope that could lead to publishers demanding writers to spend their own money, which would put a big chunk of writers who live paycheck-to-paycheck at a permanent disadvantage.

Robert also made a great point: What happens when you commit $10,000 of your own money but only can drum up a $5,000 advance? Now I'm no math whiz, but by my calculation you'd be out $5,000 up front with no guarantee you'd ever see that money again. Both Jane and Lauren agreed that it doesn't seem sensible to make that promise, especially when you don't know what the economic times will be like come publication time.

Now this doesn't mean that you shouldn't invest in your book—and yourself—after you get the book contract. But without putting it in writing you give yourself flexibility.

ps- For more highlights and pictures from the conference, check out Chuck's GLA Blog.

Brian A. Klems is the online managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.

Have a question for me? Feel free to post it in the comments section below or e-mail me at with “Q&Q” in the subject line. Come back each Tuesday as I try to give you more insight into the writing life.