There’s nothing George Weinstein enjoys more than helping authors realize their dreams of getting published. 

“That’s my calling,” said Weinstein, who is back for his second stint as president of Atlanta Writers Club. Although his sixth novel will be released this fall, he said writing isn’t his primary focus. “It’s helping other writers.” 

To that end, Weinstein co-founded the Atlanta Writers Conference in 2008. The twice-annual event draws authors from throughout the country to meet, get feedback from and, in some cases, sign with leading literary agents and acquisitions editors.

“We showcase writers who might normally be ignored by the industry,” he said. “Dreams really do come true.”

Just how that happens, however, is a literary case of two roads diverging – traditional publishing and self-publishing. Though neither road is less traveled anymore, the options for each can make all the difference. (See “Paths to Publication” on page 13.) 

“Traditional publishing or self-publishing is a tradeoff for writers, and a bet they’re wagering,” Weinstein said. 

Often, the choice pivots around three issues: creative control, timeline and financial risk. These topics are among those addressed by Atlanta Writers Club, which was founded in 1914 and offers critique groups, monthly meetings, periodic workshops and an annual writing contest, as well as conferences. 

Novelist and Atlanta Writers Club member Susan Crawford, of Doraville, chose the agented approach.

“My path to publication was a long and winding one, with many detours,” she said. “Raising three daughters, countless jobs, moving, switching agents, life in general.” 

But when Crawford finished “The Pocket Wife,” her first psychological suspense novel, she signed up for the next Atlanta Writers Conference, where she submitted her manuscript to literary agent Jenny Bent.

“After much rewriting on my part, she took it on,” Crawford said. “My agent has opened many doors for me. She steered me through an auction, negotiated my contract with Harper Collins and went on to sell my books to many European publishers. 

“My experience with traditional publishing has surpassed my wildest dreams,” she said. 

Liz Lazarus, also a Atlanta Writers Club member,  took a different approach after finishing her first thriller and querying multiple agents. 

“I was met with rejections or no replies, to the point I thought about abandoning the project,” the Brookhaven resident said. “Instead, I did the research required to self-publish and launched my first book, ‘Free of Malice,’ in 2016. Reviews were so encouraging that I published my second thriller, ‘Plea for Justice,’ in 2018.”

 Though Weinstein said writers can spend thousands self-publishing, Lazarus had a plan to recoup her investment. It involved sending herself on a 22-state book tour for her first novel, largely arranged around the travel schedule for her full-time consulting job.

 “What I make on book sales doesn’t compare to what I make consulting,” Lazarus said, “but I didn’t write with that focus. Writing was a calling.” 

Financial lessons learned with her first book even helped Lazarus turn a profit on her second.  

In May, however, Lazarus attended her first Atlanta Writers Conference. 

“And it was well worth it,” she said. She won the best pitch award from Lake Union Publishing and is now considering traditional publishing for her third book.

“Meeting an agent face-to-face is night and day from sending a ‘cold’ query letter,” Lazarus said.

Weinstein has published all six of his novels traditionally, without an agent. The process took years, and setbacks lowered his expectations and ambitions; but Weinstein is content.

“I do not want to be a bestselling author, because those people have to work at it all the time,” he said. “I want to run a writers club, and I want to run a writers conference.”

For more information on the Atlanta Writers Club and its Oct. 25-26 conference, go to atlantawritersclub.org.

Contributing journalist Kathy Des Jardins Cioffi, owner of Johns Creek’s KRC Communications. Connect with her at krccom.com.

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