RWAUS2022: Zoe York Keynote

These are my notes from Zoe York’s keynote speech at the Romance Writers of Australia 2022 conference. Please be aware that this is not a transcript of Zoe York’s talk.

Everything I learned about publishing, I learned at my mom’s kitchen table, by Zoe York

Opened with an acknowledgement of country for both Australia and Canada (where she lives)

Three lessons from her mom and one from footy!

One: One reader at a time, signed up to a newsletter.
– her mum ran a small magazine and signed people up to her print newsletter, one person at a time
– the industry hasn’t changed that much
– get people on a mailing list

Two: Your Intellectual Property can be repurposed.
– you will always have new to you readers
– you can reinvent yourself
– repurpose old stories (backlist) for new readers

Three: When things get tough, it’s easier to drop what really doesn’t work
– life is too short to spend money on other people’s dreams, or what other people think you ‘should’ be doing.

Four (footy): Given the right circumstances and enough enthusiasm, anyone can become a fan
– story about travelling in Australia and how her husband became a footy fan

Some Things Haven’t Changed In 30 Years
– mailing lists
– consistent product matters
– reinvention
– progressive, cumulative growth plans
– fandom is contagious

Everything You’ve Heard about Publishing is True (and Also Wrong)
– it’s a marathon, not a sprint (a marathon takes training, it’s not just the race)
– they want unique voices, something fresh (but also familiar)
– write the story of your heart
– take chances and invest in yourself (and the money always flows to the author, eg authors don’t pay ‘publishers’)
– never give up (and have you considered starting again)

Ten Word Answers
– stuff from some TV show about politics
– a ten word answer is a short summary that is a good sound bite
– but what about the next ten words?
– and the ten after that

Rugby Thighs Don’t Magically Happen
– sport and publishing excellence both take hard work
– it’s not just the game. it’s training, coaching, strategy, game craft
– you need to understand the ‘mechanics’ of publishing

– cold, lukewarm, warm audiences
– cold/lukewarm audiences come from ads, socials, loss leaders, cross promotions (borrowing warm audiences)
– warm audiences come from your books (read book – sign up to newsletter)
– retain readers who like your books, then write more books that they like
– there are always new warm readers, so re-offer your backlist to them, as it’s new to them

Athletes Don’t Worry about Failure
– athletes don’t let one loss stop them. They analyse and improve
– don’t let one book that misses an audience (or falls flat or fails to find an audience) be a failure to carry on
– rename it as a game loss, a miss, not a failure (and use the data)
– there’s a potential synergy for creative people in sports analogies
– sustained success comes from the push and pull of different levels over and over

Two Questions For You
– what is the core of your business?
– how do you pull in a fan?
There are nuanced answers that only suit you. KNOW WHAT WORKS (for you)

Not being in the USA is an advantage.
We can all write USA based stories because we mainline their media
They can’t write our stories. Trust your own path.

No one is promised success in publishing. But you can create your own success. Don’t chase someone else’s path.

Let the idea of success percolate, get deep, and listen to where you want to go.
– Example is Series 2.0. Build on the success of an old series. Take what works for readers and do it again

What are you trying to build?

In five years, what do you want to be known for?

In five years, what do you want to have written?

Knowing where you are going MUST come from inside yourself.

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