Well, the first annual Toronto Indie Writer’s Conference has come and gone. There will be one next year, and I’m signing up for it the minute they hang out a shingle.

It was great! 

Most writer’s conferences tend to focus on craft – how to write, what to write, the political and social issues of being a writer, the technique, and sometimes the fun stuff.  It’s all very literary.

This was about Trade – how to do a Kickstarter, the techniques of Facebook ads, that kind of thing.

We do get a bit of that in occasional panels at regular conventions – but usually it’s a group of people who are very experienced on the panel talking shop with each other. It’s like listening to a lively discussion in Greek.

This, on the other hand, was really focusing on working trade issues, mainly single presenters, exploring topics at skill levels in systematic ways. It was fascinating. Of the eight sessions and four round tables, there wasn’t a single dud in the bunch. Everything was useful or interesting, even if I didn’t necessarily understand it or wasn’t in a position to take advantage of it.

Honestly, some of it, was just totally above my level, I could barely follow along, but even then, it was good – If I couldn’t handle it now, I picked up enough to have some idea of how to learn, and the feeling was that I could master it eventually.

There was a synergy to the panels. Stuff I picked up in one presentation gave me ideas or options for things I could maybe look at trying with things I learned in another presentation.

There weren’t blueprints per se. I’ve been struggling with this for a long time, painstakingly trying to figure out a jigsaw puzzle with most of the pieces missing. The experience here was like being given a whole pile of jigsaw puzzle pieces, with the potential that you could put them together with what you had and actually make something.

There was stuff I missed – there were two tracks of programming and eight roundtables, so inevitably, you were going to miss half. So I made choices – I’d looked into audiobooks last couple of years, and they were way out of my current league, Kickstarter looked like it was out of my league, things like that.

As I said, of the things I attended there wasn’t a dud in the bunch, but rather than dissect panels and roundtables I attended, I’m just going to give a few highlights.

Facebook Ads – I tried this a couple of years back, when Axis of Andes was blowing up. Failed ignominiously. Basically, the learning curve was too high, I didn’t have reliable sources to search and honestly didn’t have unlimited time, so it was like trying to cross the street at a busy intersection while blindfolded. This presentation with Melissa Storm and her associates was a whirlwind tour of how the ads work and how to present strategically, along with tipping off to authentic sources to learn, and where to hire consulting services. I understood half the words, but loaded up on gestalt, and I think I’m going to hire an advisor and try again. I have a much better grasp of the landscape. Time to experiment, the only question is with what? R.J. Hore’s trilogy, the Mermaid’s Tale, Axis of Andes or the upcoming Squad 13.  If it works out, I’ll do them all.

Newsletters – This is another area I’m basically at ground zero at, and it seems to be essential for writers. Again, I’ve got a better handle on developing this with Steph Sterritt.

Book Covers – I actually have a decent grasp of book covers and the artistic principles underlying, but some great tips and information here that allows me to up my game, and enables a lot of potential projects I’d otherwise be stalled at, like doing microbooks, from Sylvia Frost.

Publishing Options with Mark Leslie Lefebvre, I didn’t actually have high expectations, but I wasn’t ready for Kickstarter, I thought. Mark blew me away exposing a fountain of possibilities, microbooks I could use to promote my and Scott Ellis’ collections, large print books, just a new way of looking at things.

Subscriptions – this was a round table, and pretty much a wild stab in the dark. My first question was – ‘What’s a Subscription?’  Things like Patreon, how they work, the pitfalls, the advantages. Once again, I realize

Kickstarter – this one was another round table, but as I was sitting there, all the pieces flew together, and I realized my Starlost project would make a perfect Kickstarter. Came away excited. I’d avoided the full Kickstarter presentation, no regrets, Mark was great. But the round table gave me a second chance to have my mind blown.

The thing is, that by this time, I’ve got an immense body of work, either out there in self-published form, or sitting around in the hard drive waiting to break out into the world, all told, I think maybe thirty books worth. I’ve got literally millions of words, in different stories, novels, packages, that I can adapt, reformat, repackage and use.

And I’ve been slowly moving them forward in different ways, mainly focusing on getting them out into the world.

But this conference was an eye-opener, offering potential for a minimum of three major projects – A Kickstarter, a Subscription project, and a Facebook/Advert campaign. And in the longer run, prospects to both continue, if any of them work, or to do minor projects.

I might actually sell some books. Hell, I might even be able to sell R.J. Hore or Scott Ellis books. Wouldn’t that be a hoot, to be able to hand them cheques?

The only downside is that I’m about as social and charismatic as a sedated wolverine. I’m not actually disemboweling people, which is good, but yeah, it’s a bit dour. I did give away most of my business cards though, which is a step forward (and picked up another great useful tip!)

On the other hand, I was able to attend book launches on Saturday and Sunday, and ended up making some connections.

It wasn’t bad though – admit to having a bit of imposter syndrome and a degree of self-loathing. There were people there so accomplished I felt like a bug next to them, when I wasn’t feeling like a fraud. But there were also people who were just beginning their journeys. People whose projects were so outré I had no reference. People who wore their hearts on their sleeves and aired insecurities and fears I knew well. So even if I wasn’t social and couldn’t network to save my life, it wasn’t traumatic being there. I’ve come back from some conferences wanting nothing more than to crawl into bed and pull the sheets over my head for a week.

At the end of the Conference though, during the social hour, I chatted with Tao Wong, who’d put the whole thing together. I knew Tao vaguely through SF Canada, he’s an extremely nice friendly guy, who probably has made more money writing than I will in my lifetime. He’s just one of those guys who seems to instinctively have his life together, as opposed to the rest of us (or maybe just me) stumbling blindly through a burning building in a hurricane. I congratulated him on a successful event, and thanked him profusely, and we had some small talk. Two things.

One is that apparently, there have been Conferences like this going on in the US for years, which completely escaped me. I was thunderstruck. I think perhaps, I’m too much of a Canadian, it just doesn’t occur to me sometimes that the U.S. is a place. It’s shocking to encounter a personal blind spot like that. If I’d suspected…

The other thing is that chatting with Tao, he mentioned he wanted to do additional presentations. Cool. What sort of things were you thinking of.  He thought a bit – Contracts, he said. Coincidentally, I’m a lawyer and I do presentations on exactly that. So he asked me to put my name in for their 2025 Conference. I might be doing programming.

Honestly though, while it would be fun and elevate my profile to do a Contracts seminar, I wouldn’t be broken up if I didn’t. I’ve been doing a lot of programming for different conventions for the last few years, and while it’s fun, it’s exhausting. I really enjoyed just sitting back and focusing on learning, a lot less pressure.

Anyway, great time, definitely doing it again.

Before I went there, I had about nine book projects, all written or mostly written, that I wanted to get out into the world, plus three or four novels I was pitching to agents and publishers, plus about fifteen previously self-published books I wanted to get up on IngramSpark, as well as five more conventions, more programming to do in several of them, more pitches to agents and a bunch of short stories to send out places, youtube videos to work on and more stories, nonfiction and novels to write.

Now though, I’m energized.

Time to stop plodding.

Time to up my game!