Aspiring Writers Ask Questions

bookstack-tall.jpgWhen I have a few minutes and I come across an ad for a conference marketed to self-publishing writers, I go have a look. I admit I am cynical, but I am also willing to be convinced that these are legitimate offerings.

For example:  the San Francisco Writers Conference  has got me wondering.  It runs for three days, costs $750 plus hotel, travel and $60 if you want to do the speed dating for agents thing.  One part of what they list on the website front page:

  • Launch your writing career–or take it to a more professional level.
  • Choose the sessions you want from a schedule of workshops and panels that fit your specific writing needs and goals.
  • Learn about a wide range of publishing options from leaders in self-publishing and traditional publishing.
  • Get your questions answered at the Ask-a-Pro session featuring New York and California editors…included in your registration fee.
  • Go to Speed Dating for Agents – Pitch your book ideas one-on-one in a room full of literary agents ($60 option for registered attendees only). Since the literary agents at SFWC are on the lookout for new clients, you may find the perfect agent for you and your book.  
  • Receive free editorial feedback on your work from freelance book editors. Click HERE for the FAQ sheet!
  • Build your personal writing community at SFWC’s onsite Cafe Ferlinghetti with writers from all over the United States…and other countries, too.

There are opportunities to talk to other people who are pursuing self-publishing, of course, and to the hundred or so exhibitors who are there to sell their services.  Freelance editors, for example. I’m guessing there will be many opportunities to hire people to help you with marketing and book design, as well. I don’t know if there are any reliable statistics out there about how much money people invest in getting self published, but it would be helpful to have such figures.

If you went to this conference you might decide not to invest in any of those services, and be satisfied with what you learn in the three days. There are some well established and respected authors on the roster.

But there are some red flags. First and foremost: At the bottom of the page you’ll see that this horizontal list of links to more information: 


Beyond the typo in San Francisco, the real problem here is the link to  San Francisco Writers University. The link goes nowhere, which might mean they are having server problems, but then  (according to Google) no such university exists. Which makes me wonder about the non profit status as a 509(a)(2) organization.

My understanding is that this non-profit status is for organizations that exist to support organizations with full non-profit status, such as schools. Or universities. So the question is, if San Francisco Writers University doesn’t exist, which organization is being supported?

My advice to anyone interested in self-publishing is to be very careful about this kind of offering. Ask a lot of questions. Ideally they would let you get in touch with other people who have attended in the past. Ideally, they would have statistics to offer on how many people published (and how successfully) or found an agent following from the conference. I would want to know how much time that the featured authors spend mingling, or if they are only present for the classes or panels they participate in. And I would certainly want to know about the San Francisco Writers University. 

If you’ve been to this conference and have something to say, please do comment.