Time Management

50 Best Tips from the San Francisco Writers Conference

I’m a regular attendee at the San Francisco Writers Conference and have written previous “tips” posts. For your convenience, I decided to simply gather the best of them here!

Philosophical nuggets from the San Francisco Writers Conference

  1. Write a great book. Above everything you do, this determines your success.
  2. Prioritize your next book above all else. Every hour you spend marketing is an hour you’re not writing. The best marketing you can do is to write another book. (Bella Andre)
  3. Don’t worry about doing it all perfectly first time. Iterate and improve.
  4. Don’t get overwhelmed. Do only what you can do, and well.
  5. Get out of your own way. These days, nobody but you is blocking your path to publication.
  6. It never hurts to ask!
  7. For best results, you have to write, publish and market at the same time. You must push all three of these down the road, all the time. (Guy Kawasaki)
  8. Tipping points take time! You might plug away for several years before you gain traction.
  9. The most successful authors have crazy-busy lives and spend a tonne of time on the road. You might not actually want that level of success… it’s OK to aspire to more modest sales. In my book, Indie With Ease, I talk at length about defining your own journey.

San Francisco Writers Conference Tips | Pauline Wiles


  1. The most successful writers are writing every day. I don’t fully subscribe to the necessity of this (I feel it depends on your goals and lifestyle), but this often-heard advice was repeated throughout the San Francisco Writers Conference.
  2. Try the Unit system: write for 45 minutes, then take a 15 minute break to allow your brain to rest and your subconscious to work. (Do not check email or the internet during that pause!)
  3. Consider using Freedom to block your internet while you write. While the web is unavailable to you, note down research needs and do these at a less productive time of day.
  4. Commit to one year where you’ll write for one hour per day.
  5. Tap the wisdom of the crowd at outline and manuscript stage, via social media. Offer Advance Review Copies, but request name, blog & monthly page views first. Then, ask for reviews just before your book goes live.

Technique, for fiction writers

  1. Tip from an agent: well-written, “quiet” books no longer sell. Make something happen!
  2. As a fiction writer, you’re not writing real life. Cut through the everyday routine and give your characters high stakes.
  3. What is your character yearning for? What they think they want and what they really need are different things. Follow that journey.
  4. Give your character more depth by giving them a secret.
  5. You know the first line of your novel is important. But what does the first line of your dialogue say? Make that pack a punch, too.
  6. There is a great first page checklist for novels here.

Building your platform

  1. Blogging is more essential for non-fiction authors than fiction.
  2. However, all the experts agreed on the importance of an email sign-up list.
  3. Even if you’re not creating original content, curate and share constantly. This will establish you as a sector expert, whatever your niche.
  4. Aim for 5000 followers (across social media platforms) by the time your book comes out. This is where critical mass seems to kick in. (Note: this statistic was from the 2013 San Francisco Writers Conference: I suspect that number is dramatically more, now.)
  5. Don’t feel your platform has to be everywhere. Do two or three things well and in-depth, rather than touching on all things.
  6. Beta readers are more likely to give 5-star reviews. (But reviews should only ever be honest and authentic.)
  7. Brand yourself, not your book. Don’t create separate Twitter and Facebook accounts for the book: after you write several, it will drive you crazy.
  8. Be cautious about Facebook, as they’re making it hard to reach your audience. Only 10% of followers see a post now, unless you pay to promote it. Possibly consider promoting a post at a key time, for example, your book launch.
  9. Focus your efforts on people with big platforms themselves, as they’ll help promote you (for example, in guest posts or reviews).
  10. Do favors before you have to ask for them.
  11. You can get celebrity endorsements. Try this website for tips.
  12. Internet radio stations want guests and author pitches. They’re surprised they don’t hear from more authors. Check out: Blog Talk Radio and Womens Radio.
  13. The harder the content is to find/put together, the more likely it is to be valuable.
  14. If you’re a writer tempted to blog about writing, you need to be better/different  somehow than everyone else who’s doing it! A better blog topic is a theme related to your book.
  15. Blog titles: don’t be cute or use word play. Stick to things people might search for, for example: How to… Mistakes to avoid… What everyone should know about…

Making yourself discoverable

  1. Your blog tour never ends. Consider your book to be permanently on tour.
  2. 89% of journalists look at blogs when researching stories. They’re not sitting back, waiting for pitches. Give them a reason to call you.
  3. When you are a guest somewhere, don’t ask the audience to make the immediate leap to buying your book. Instead, aim to get them to your site and become part of your audience first. Capture their email address with a free content offering: “If you enjoyed this, visit (website) for free (whatever).”
  4. Can you pitch a campaign or a movement, not just a book? Take the theme of your book and consider how people could personalize this and apply it to their own life. Create an interactive/sharing experience.
  5. Blog about what’s in the news right now and connect it to your own subject matter.
  6. Get at least part of your book online so it can be read in a web browser, not just downloaded. The simplest form of this is an extract on a web page.
  7. Make a Pinterest board for your blog posts. Use a picture in each blog post & pin it to your board. Apparently, you’ll be amazed how much traffic comes from this.
  8. Journalists hate contact forms. Get rid of the contact form on your site and list your email address and phone number.

Selling more books

  1. Frequency of publishing is a powerful lever for indies. (Bella Andre is publishing four books per year.)
  2. Consider writing connected books, or a series.
  3. As an indie author, your biggest sales (in order) are likely to come from Amazon, B&N, Apple, Kobo.
  4. Get your book available everywhere a reader might look for it.
  5. Bella Andre encourages indie authors to explore foreign translations and audio books.
  6. Don’t neglect your meta data. If it’s not working, change it at Bowker. Your meta data drives the Google search algorithm.
  7. Price is a powerful marketing tool. Free is under-utilized.

If you liked this post, you might enjoy my other posts on Productivity for Writers.

Huge thanks for these tips to these San Francisco Writers Conference speakers: @chucksambuchino, @bellaandre, @GuyKawasaki, @RustyShelton, @BookBaby, @bizauthor, @DavidCorbett_CA, @markcoker

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6 Comment

  1. Reply
    Judy @Savoring Today
    March 11, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Thank you so much for your efforts in putting this list together, it was very helpful!

  2. Reply
    Jean | Delightful Repast
    February 11, 2019 at 8:03 am

    Pauline, you are so generous, always sharing valuable information with us. One of the 50 tips that jumped out at me is #27. I think a lot of writers will be surprised by that.

    1. Reply
      February 11, 2019 at 11:39 am

      Jean, I always come home with reams of notes from this conference. It’s a pleasure to share with readers like you.

  3. […] and motivating agenda of sessions, covering both the craft and business of writing. I’ve done round-up posts of this conference before, so this year I thought I’d pause and identify just one key […]

  4. […] my introvert energy levels struggled with the always-on conference environment but, just like the San Francisco Writers Conference, I still noted many insights which I’ll be pondering (and acting on!) in the coming […]

    1. Reply
      June 23, 2019 at 3:23 am

      Yes, I think I’ll need to return to my notes frequently… 🙂

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