Dinner With Friends and the Digital Frontier


The last time I reviewed a Dinner with Friends I was happy to gush over the quality of the program’s content, and the concept of pairing industry experts with the local creative community, all over a great plate of food. Show up, feed your mind, body and soul. What’s not to love?

I’m pleased to say that, a year and a half later, this serial offering from Art House Dallas is only getting better with age.

September’s Dinner with Friends catered specifically to the writer. It’s no secret that the roots of Art House have mixed and mingled more so with those of the music industry, but this latest Dinner, like Feedback last fall, shows an intentional effort to branch out towards creatives outside of song, growth for which we writers are grateful.

While organizers could have pried area writers from their rickety garrets to offer the same old how-to guide to publishing, Art House’s program went leaps and bounds beyond, bringing a legitimate heavyweight from the world of digital publishing to share with attendees a glimpse into the future.

What follows is but a portion of the wealth of content Jason Illian, published author and Founder/CEO of the company that created Bookshout!, shared with the crowd. Like Art House’s own event model, if in your writing you focus on great content and a great platform, you’ll find success.


The publishing industry is now the Wild West. E-book sales are eclipsing print sales. E-readers are becoming ubiquitous. Bricks and mortar booksellers are struggling to compete. The Department of Justice is battling the big five publishers, Amazon and Apple over price-fixing. Everything that happens between the writer writing and the reader reading is in a state of flux, and this chaos could equal a very real opportunity for people willing to work hard, write great content and embrace technology.

Given the industry’s inconstancy, it has never been more important to develop your platform. The ideal book proposal now includes a plan for you, the writer, to promote and sell your own work. Only the best selling authors are going to get publicity from their publishing houses. So if you’re going to end up doing the work, you might as well reap the rewards of the more friendly e-publishing pricing structures.

Think creatively about how you can create a following and monetize your intellectual property. Give away some content in exchange for e-mail addresses. Keep your day job so you can keep your prices low. Sell your e-book for $.99 but charge a premium for a print edition or autographed copy, or a companion video. Release your work through blog posts one chapter at a time. Make yourself available for readings and speaking engagements. Authors make more money speaking than they do selling books. Remember that the US makes up but a small portion of the English-speaking world. Find a niche. Take a trip.

Your platform should include a network of fans who really like your content. The best publicity is word of mouth. We don’t always trust advertising, but we do trust our friends. If one thousand people pay $9.99 for your e-book, imagine the possibilities if they recommend your book to their network of family and friends. Content is king, but virtual content is King Kong. You don’t have to make it big just to make a living. 

Depend on your creative community for feedback. A lot of writers are afraid to share their work. Find a group you trust and listen to their criticism. Your writing will improve. Choose an author you like and whose style is similar to your own and emulate their writing. Don’t spend your money on self-publishing, spend it on editing. Pay an editor whatever they’re asking because a good editor is invaluable. You should be able to create an e-book for the price of a restaurant dinner.


Be careful. Always read the fine print of any agreement, be it a print or digital contract. Don’t give away all the rights to your content if you’re not ready. You never know when the next thing you write turns into the next blockbuster movie. When it does, you’ll want to be sure and get your fair share.

Don’t sacrifice quality. If what you’re writing isn’t great, it’s not going to sell. You have to give people a reason to buy. If you don’t have a passion for writing, that fire in your eyes, then publishing may not be right for you. At the same time, if you’ve got something great to say, and a unique way of saying it, you have a responsibility to share.

Remember, we are responsible to use our gifts to the glory of God and the good of man.

Joshua Seth Minatrea is a Dallas-area thinker and creative. His aim is to gain and give space, time and direction for creation. He has never been bored. Real books, espresso-based beverages and pocket-sized reporter Moleskines® are a few of his favorite things.