More than 100 people attended “Book Publishing 101,” PW's one-day seminar for aspiring authors, held at NYU's Kimmel Center on September 22 and sponsored by NYU School of Continuing & Professional Studies, iUniverse and TurnHere. The difficulty of getting published, and then reaching readers, was a central theme throughout the day.

Agent David McCormick of McCormick & Williams told the audience that while client (and fellow panelist) Matthew Sharpe's storytelling and writing stood out for him, he still had to shop Sharpe's manuscript to 41 editors before Counterpoint's Richard Nash bought it. McCormick got a laugh when he joked that he might consider representing a first-time author, but would first ask, “How many times have you been on The Today Show?” Keynote speaker Wally Lamb related how he was accidentally discovered: he submitted the same short story to the same magazine twice—by mistake the second time—and it was accepted on the second try. When the story appeared, he soon found an agent.

If there used to be a more freewheeling aspect to the children's market—no agents needed, for one—that has changed, according to “Writing for the Children's Market” panelists Rosemary Stimola and Liz Szabla. While Stimola said a children's writer could have gotten a book deal with a major publisher without an agent 10 years ago, it's much harder in today's market. New authors need to have realistic expectations, both speakers emphasized.

But finding a publisher is only the beginning of the publishing process, the audience was warned. Panelists repeatedly stressed the importance of authors working with publishers to make their books stand out in a very crowded marketplace. “You need to be the CEO of your own publishing experience,” advised Heidi Krupp-Lisiten, CEO of Krupp Kommunications. Speakers on “The Nuts and Bolts of Publishing” panel had some practical suggestions on how that could be accomplished. Hearst Books v-p Jackie Deval explained the power of an author's platform, noting that authors need to use any and all connections they have to promote their books. Random House's Ruth Liebmann talked of “making friends with your local bookseller,” while the Book Report Network founder Carol Fitzgerald encouraged authors to use the Internet to push their titles. “Life has changed,” Fitzgerald said. “Authors have to work it.” The two speakers on the “Alternative Publishing” panel—HarperStudio's Bob Miller and Keith Ogorek of iUniverse—also spoke about the importance of Web marketing. For Miller, that means giving all HarperStudio's authors handheld video cameras so they can “vlog”; for Ogorek, it's adding author Web sites to his company's menu of services.