I was there to talk about how I earn from writing and publishing romance novels, and I happily shared a few things that you'd already know, if you've been reading my blog. But just to emphasize a few things that I might not have been able to because of the time constraints:
1. Publish in ebook format, please.
It astounds me how not all Filipino authors are into this, and many because of their own preferences as readers. (Oh but I don't understand e-reading...don't own a Kindle...prefer reading paper...don't have a credit card so never buy online anyway...) That's like someone telling me "I made this shirt and I think you should buy it, and wear it, and love it, but it's only in size M, which is exactly my size, because I represent the people who would like to wear this, and I wear M." Decide not to publish an ebook if it is not advantageous to you, or if the format cannot do justice to your book. There are very, very few books that will fall under this exception.
2. There is a lot of money to be made in writing, if you write what people are willing to buy, and you do it well.
I should have said this, arg. Here's a test to know if you are writing what people want and are doing it well: Name your price and see how they react. Someone asks you to contribute an article for their site? Name your price (what you think is FAIR based on your talent, the time you spend working, and the response it gets from readers), without asking them what their budget is. If they say "yes" to what you perceive is your value, then you're on the right track. If they negotiate, or choose to get someone else, then you need to work on a few things. Or you just need to work with the right people.
As someone who writes books, I encounter this and have come to terms with it. There are people who will only read my books if they're free. People who will buy, but only if it's $1. People who will buy, but only if it's paperback, and under P200. I am fortunate enough to have met people who've decided they're willing to pay the price I set for the book, without haggling. It's a struggle to discover what our value is, but every interaction tells us if we're heading in the right direction.
Now, it's not just skill, but product too. Maybe that book we wrote was something we wrote "for ourselves." What makes you think other people will want to buy it? Not a question you should be worrying about as a writer, sure, but as an entrepreneur? Yes.
3. You don't need a lot of money, but you will get what you pay for.
One of the problems that startup author-publishers encounter is either raising funds for a good editor and cover designer, or not knowing someone who would be willing to volunteer to do it for them. I got lucky in this aspect I guess because when I started out, I spent only P489 on my first self-published book, and my friends volunteered their time and services to turn it into a fun little project. (I've since given them money.)
So yeah - if you don't have the money, it doesn't have to hold you back. You can produce a professional-quality book if you have the right people working with you, even just as volunteers, if they believe in your book enough. (And know that the can be adequately compensated later.) In this case, the question I ask is: why don't you know people who are awesome enough to work with you on this? Why are you in a position where you are probably the most artistic and creative person you know? Get out there and interact with other writers and artists! What have you done lately to help a friend's passion project come to life? Because as with all collaborations, you're supposed to be able to give as well as you take. Maybe the way to eventually meet the people who will work with you is to contribute your skill to help someone else.