Steven E. Browne had a few indications that he could write in his teens. “I won the Nathan Hale Essay Award when I was 14. In junior high school, I worked on a thesis sentence for a book report for an entire week and then was accused by my English teacher of lifting it from somewhere else. In college I wrote a story that my father thought was publishable and in my freshman year an English teacher thought I had great talent. I also wrote, and produced films and television programs during those college years,” Browne says.
In the early 80s, Browne wrote a book on video editing and sent out queries. A publisher wrote back that there was no place for a book on video editing. Months later that publisher released their book on video editing. Luckily, Browne ignored that publisher’s advice and his self-published book hit the bookstores a month earlier. A few years later, after out-selling that competing title, he sold his video editing book to a technical book publisher (Focal Press) and it remained in print for 14 years. He adds, “I sold several more textbooks to that publisher and still receive a small royalty check twice a year.”
In 1992, Browne self-published his first novel, Protecting the Source. Using Dan Poynter’s Self-publishing Manual as a guide, he printed 2,000 copies in the Midwest and had them shipped to his front door in California. “I received a very favorable review from the American Library Association. Many libraries bought the book. I also arranged dozens of book signings around Southern California and sold all 2,000 copies,” Browne says. Before the book was released the galleys were presented to several movie studios through director David Evans (The Sandlot). Unfortunately the movie Independence Day was in production, which had a similar plot device.
His newest offering will be published this January. Rick, Renee and the Fat Man is a comic adventure set in and around the romantic setting of the Half Moon Bay Ritz Carlton. “I actually found myself laughing while writing this one,” says Browne. The book was in progress during his attenedence at the SDSU convention and Browne says that the advanced readings comments helped him in his subsequent revisions of the book.
As for advice for other writers, Browne adds, “I have been a writer for decades and have even tried to stop. I cannot. I tell my Meetup group it is a disease and the only cure is to write. There are quite a few who suffer/enjoy this addiction. Going to a writer’s conference is a way to know you are not alone.”
Browne’s Thoughts on the SDSU Writers’ Conference
The SDSU Writer’s Conference was an eye-opener. I chatted with editors, writers, and agents all weekend. I learned more in those two days that in the previous two years. I realized how many dedicated people work in and around the publishing business. I was especially impressed with the agents who spent hours and hours looking for writers to represent and even more in their quest to get their works published. I came to learn that agents do not have a nine-to-five job, they have a lifetime commitment. I also discovered that many writers, like myself, may not be admitted to the traditional publishing club. However, because of the cost-effective avenues for self-publishing, I started a blog which turned into a book about finishing a novel and now am working on a follow-up on getting published using traditional and self-publishing options. I also started a meetup.com group because the conference taught me the value of critique groups as well as meeting and talking with other writers. Oftentimes in our meetings, writing tips emerge that help all the members. I have over 120 members and have one of the most regularly attended critique meetup.com groups in Southern California.
If a person considers themselves a writer, they MUST attend a conference. Meeting other writers, hearing the advice given and face-to-face meetings with agents is essential to understanding the ever-changing and complicated publishing business.
I always tell authors that are considering self-publishing their works that the traditional agent/publisher is the desired way to get into print. Publishing professionals know the business, have direct contact with bookstores and support their books with marketing expertise. Writers write. Publishers publish. When a writer publishes, the writer is fired and the publisher takes over. These are two very different jobs.
I would recommend the conference not only for the personal connections to people who work in the publishing business, but also for the unique opportunity to have agents read your work. I found this review process incredibly insightful and increased my respect for work they do.
Meeting others who experience similar challenges, fears and even disappointments yet continue to strive to succeed gave me the will to continue on. The agents I talked to were always encouraging and supportive. They all knew as I did that the chances of gaining representation were slim, but they also hoped that somewhere in that room were authors that might have a book they could get into print.
The SDSU conference was not as intimidating as some others. This was not a New York City literary convention. There was a small town sense with a big city opportunity feel. Friendship and support was evident everywhere, yet there were agents who could and would get the job done.
Two items come to mind – the first and most important was the optional pre-reading of pages by the agents. As authors we all think that this agent will sign us on the spot when they read our first pages. It is good to understand where we need work and what the agent is looking for in those pages. These comments are not discouraging. It is a realistic honest reply to an author’s pages.
The second unique aspect is that this conference is within easy reach to the millions of individuals from Santa Barbara to San Diego. With gas at under $4 driving is an attractive choice. Two writers carpooling and sharing a room is something to consider.