As a reader of this blog, you may already know how much I love and recommend writers conferences for the inspiration, guidance, knowledge, exposure and networking they provide, as well as being one of the best ways to find out what’s working now in this ever-changing field of publishing.
And one of my favorite conferences for nonfiction writers is the Nonfiction Writers Conference, founded by Stephanie Chandler and the Nonfiction Authors Association. It’s virtual, making it easier and cheaper to attend than most conferences. Because it’s been virtual way before the world went on Zoom, Stephanie and her time have had time to fine-tune ways to take advantage of the virtual format while emulating many aspects of the in-person variety.
Once again, I’m thrilled to interview Stephanie Chandler about this year’s conference, what’s new, what’s critical to an author’s success and what we’ll learn from attending the conference.
Nonfiction Writers Conference Keynote Speaker: Cheryl Strayed
Lisa: I’m so excited that Cheryl Strayed is the opening speaker! I loved Wild. Can you share why you chose Cheryl and one or two questions you plan to ask her?
Stephanie: I’m a mega fan of Cheryl Strayed and have had her on my speaker wish list for years. She is the perfect person to speak to nonfiction writers about her process and what it takes to do well in this industry.
I plan to ask her about her writing habits. For example, does she write every day? How does she choose her next project? I also want to ask her about the process of her books going to film and a Hulu series. What was that like? How much say did she have in the creative process?
Lisa: I look forward to hearing Cheryl’s answers!
Lisa: The Nonfiction Writers Conference is virtual. Can you share some of the advantages of a virtual conference and what you’ve learned about offering a virtual writers conference over the years?
Stephanie: We’ve been offering this event virtually since 2010, and it’s always been important to me that we take the experiences of an in-person writers conference and deliver them online. Because of this, we offer one-on-one consultations, live agent pitches, a virtual networking session, and a private Facebook group for attendees.
One of the most significant benefits of an in-person event is that no travel is required, saving our attendees both money and time. And it allows us to welcome attendees from around the globe who otherwise may not have been able to attend.
Real-World Success Stories
Lisa: Because you’ve been hosting this conference so long, you’ve been creative and masterful at creating a genuinely engaging conference with many features we’d see in an in-person event. What are some of the new presentations you’re most excited about this year and why?
Stephanie: This is the first year we’re hosting panels with real-world success stories, and I’m excited about bringing several talented authors, including several who are self-published, to share how they are selling large quantities of books and building revenue streams around their books. The live literary agent pitches are always super fun and interesting, too.
Pitch the Agents at the Nonfiction Writers Conference
Lisa: I’m looking forward to those as well! One of the highlights of the NFWC is the pitch-the-agents session. Can you say a bit about this year’s agents and the benefits of pitching? Also, how do people get the opportunity to pitch? Any advice on preparing and pitching an agent?
Stephanie: The agents participating this year include Rita Rosenkranz and Gordon Warnock, and both are seasoned literary agents actively seeking nonfiction book projects. In addition, we have Carleen Madigan, acquisitions editor for Storey Publishing, a division of Hachette focused solely on nonfiction.
Lisa: I just have to interrupt for a second to say how much I love Rita Rosenkranz. At the very first writers conference I attended, I ended up at a table with Rita after the opening ceremony. Within about ten minutes, everyone else yawned and left the table to go to bed. Rita spent the next half hour giving me, a complete beginner, a lesson in the publishing industry and provided advice on book proposals which helped me land a book deal with my first book and which I use with my clients to this day. Rita is a generous person, whip-smart, and has represented clients of mine.
And, of course, I’m always excited to meet new agents. In fact, after last year’s conference, Jennifer Chen Tran reached out to me and we’ve been in touch about a couple of projects. It’s pretty amazing to experience a venue like the Nonfiction Writers Conference where one can develop relationships with agents and other publishing insiders virtually! But please go on. Tell us about who gets to pitch the agents and how they are chosen.
Stephanie: Gold, Platinum, and VIP attendees of the Nonfiction Writers Conference are invited to submit a brief application to pitch. Then we will select 20 participants at random and each will receive up to five minutes to share their pitch and get feedback from the agents. If any agents want to see a proposal for further consideration, they will request it after the session and participants will be notified (typically the following week). Whether attendees are pitching or not, this session gives great insight into how the world of traditional publishing works!
Pitches and Proposals: Essential Messaging for Authors
Lisa: As many of our readers know, Stephanie, you invited me to share what goes into a successful elevator pitch and a successful book proposal. What inspired you to include the elevator pitch?
Stephanie: So many authors have difficulty describing their books to people. Whether you encounter a literary agent or potential reader, it’s essential to know how to deliver a concise description of your book that is also captivating. I think every author should know how to do this and I’m so glad you’ll be showing the attendees how!
Lisa: Me too!
New Ways to Reach Readers
Lisa: Publishing is changing so fast. What are some of the more recent opportunities in our field, particularly in new ways to reach readers or sell books?
Stephanie: Audiobooks are gaining market share each year and are projected to keep growing by leaps and bounds in the years to come. Authors not leveraging this medium will likely miss out on additional readers.
Lisa: I hear that a lot and several of my clients have enjoyed great success with their audio books. I couldn’t quite see my journal as an audiobook but I look forward to creating audio for the next one!
Registering for the Nonfiction Writers Conference
Lisa: There are several levels of registering for the NFWC, including some levels that include NFAA membership. It can seem a little overwhelming at first. Can you highlight a couple of the options and benefits in brief?
Stephanie: Our most basic conference registration level is Live access ($197), which allows attendees to participate in all live sessions, but they do not receive recordings and are not eligible for agent pitches or one-on-one consultations.
The next level is Gold access ($297) and it includes all event recordings plus access to the agent pitches and consultations.
Platinum access ($397) includes all Gold benefits plus typed transcripts.
Joining the Nonfiction Authors Association
During conference registration, attendees can opt to add membership in the Nonfiction Authors Association.
Authority membership ($39/month or $390/year) in NFAA gives members 50% off conference registration. It features a variety of benefits, including weekly media leads, access to our extensive database of educational materials, twice-monthly Zoom events with fellow members, a members-only Facebook group, discounts with our partners including IngramSpark and Lulu, discounts off our courses, and more.
VIP membership ($790/year) includes all the benefits of Authority membership, plus free admission to the Nonfiction Writers Conference, a complimentary listing on NonfictionBookClub.com (our new site!), free access to our author toolkits and the Nonfiction Writers Conference greatest hits. Total added value: $1,300+
Thought Leader membership ($2,490/year) includes all VIP member benefits plus an all-access pass to our live courses, access to the book publishing and book marketing master courses, a free entry in the Nonfiction Book Awards, and an interview recorded for our podcast. Total added value: $4,500+
Lisa: Wow. I’ve always enjoyed the value of the conference and the NFAA, but this is beyond what we’ve seen in the past. Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
Stephanie: We care about delivering value to our conference attendees and our members. I appreciate you, Lisa, because you’ve been an excellent speaker for us in the past, so I’m always happy to invite you back! Thank you for taking the time to help us spread the word about the conference. I look forward to seeing you there.
Lisa: At the risk of sounding goofy (which, okay, I can be), Aw, shucks. Thank you. I look forward to it too. I’ve blocked out those days because I am so excited to attend these valuable sessions myself. I always learn something new that supports my work as a book coach and author.