Top 5 Learnings From This Year’s Self-Pub Book Expo!

Report From The 2012 Self-Publishing Expo #SPBE in NYC 

 

As I write this, I’m grateful to have been able to leave NYC on Sunday night just as they started cancelling flights. Kudos to JetBlue, who went out of their way to help everyone get out in the literal calm chaos before the storm.

 

Okay! So now I want to share with you the highlights of my experience at the Self-Publishing Book Expo (SPBE) this year. Here are the highlights from the five panels/presentations I attended.

 

1) The day started with a keynote by Bella Andre and Barbara Freethy, both multi-million, bestselling authors – who are INDIE. Yea, baby.

 

Bella gave out a few key points:

 

  • Style: If you have a series, use a similar look throughout. Your books should be recognizable just by title or look, not necessarily your name.
  • Cover art: She found, with her romance books, that having a bare-chested hot male on the front was actually hurting her sales. When she switched to a sweet, loving couple, sales soared.
  • Titles: Make sure you brand your titles. We all learned this from Fifty Shades of Porn Grey – similar look, similar titles. This is called branding.
  • Writing: Write what you love. If you receive poor reviews, don’t let it take away from your vision. Protect your creative process!
  • Write fast (if you can). Bella puts out a book every three to four months for one of her two or three series.

 

Barbara’s tips were also quite helpful:

 

  • Distribution: Both authors are so successful because they studied the best markets for their books. Distribution can be challenging for self-published authors so if you want to be in with the big boys…
  • Keep writing: It’s a slow build. Both authors have been writing for a while, and have written multiple books, although Barbara says she writes only one book per every 6-12 months.
  • Creative process: whatever is your creative process, protect it above all else (be that criticism, editors, poor reviews, whatever). You are the most important ingredient in writing your books.
  • Promotion: Spend more time writing than promoting.
  • Build your community of writers: Yahoo has writer’s loops; social media is quite interactive for writers also.

 

I really enjoyed these smart, talented ladies very much.

 

2) The next presentation was by Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing (now in it’s fourth edition), and founder/owner of Hillcrest Media Group.

 

Mark is an attorney and author – so he knows the ins and outs of book publishing from first-hand experience as well as a contractual standpoint. His presentation reviewed quite a bit about self-published authors, eBooks, print options, and distribution. Mark is a wealth of information and thanks, dude for the shout out. :)

 

3) I then attended a presentation by marketing expert, Brian Jud. His focus was on selling your book in different venues: i.e., connecting with an association, museum, specialty shop or a company. He also had some interesting info I’d not heard before or had forgotten:

  • Remember the four P’s of sales: product, price, place, and promotion.
  • Create a one-sheet synopsis that describes your book. Send it to corporate buyers or brand managers.
  • Barter newsletters: ask to provide an excerpt in exchange for a free ad on your site or
  • Donate a percentage of your profit in exchange for a free ad.
  • This is great info: If you participate in ‘Search Inside The Book’ on Amazon, your entire book shows up in Amazon search!
  • A few sites to look at: ChoiceBook.org to find out what sells in bookstores; EventNetwork.com for museum gift shops; GreatRep.com tell you who the reps are that sell into wholesalers (offer them a percentage of total sales); Manta.com for prospecting – who to contact in various companies; and finally Weddles.com for lists of associations.

 

4) I was able to attend the last fifteen minutes of Jon Fine’s presentation. Jon is the Director of Author and Publicity Relations for Amazon. I caught up with him in the hallway afterward, and asked him this question: Why do authors have to create Amazon Author Central pages for EACH country? The book populates over; why can’t the author pages?

I’m pleased to say I stumped him. He asked me to email him and he promised to get me an answer. Good guy.

 

5) Finally, my next presentation was by Dan Blank, social media and author platform consultant and owner of WeGrowMedia.com. Great info!

 

  • Pick genres or categories that already exist. People need filters. You must use categories they can recognize. Many times authors want to create a new genre; problem is, it’s makes you that much more difficult to find, according to Dan.
  • Look at the covers of the genre you’re interested in. Notice the font, placement, colors and style of the bestsellers – they’re all very similar.
  • Focus on a core audience in the early days of your book sales. It doesn’t matter if you have 100 or 10,000 followers – only a handful will truly love and support your work. Interact with them; reward them (a fan club, swag, first looks, etc.).
  • Develop your audience of readers. Most people make the mistake of connecting with all writers – which is great. We’re a generally supportive group. But are writers your demographic? Doubtful.
  • Learn how to describe your work quickly. What’s one sentence that explains your book?
  • Build trust with your readers. Your career is based on relationships.
  • Try video – it’s a much less crowded channel right now, with huge potential (YouTube, Spreecast, Google+ Hangouts).
  • ‘You write to be read. Not followed.’ Great quote.

 

In the exhibition hall, I was pleased to meet the innovative Miral Satter (formerly of Time Magazine), creator of BiblioCrunch. Great site, so helpful for any author. I urge you to check out their site and services. I wanted to chat with Amy Edelman of IndieReader.com but the line was a mile long! She was kind enough to email me and follow up.

 

Overall, I found the expo worth attending. My only concern was the amount of time spent talking about print books. Hello: most self-published authors have found great success creating digital books only – not only less expensive for us, but also greener and less expensive for the consumer. Add that eBooks can be read on any electronic device (not only Kindle or Nooks), eBooks make the most financial sense in this economy.

 

This was a self-publishing expo and a lot of good information was offered. I would love to see more presentations like Mark, Brian, and Dan’s as well as a few more women!

 

I’m a happy indie author. I’m not looking to query publishers or agents. I’ve written for multiple publications and have sold a decent amount of books. The game has changed immensely. As I recommend to all my clients, I used professional services (editing, proofing, design), and highly recommend using critique groups and betareaders. Make your book the best possible product it can be before you do anything else.

 

My suggestion to any indie/self-published author (or working on it) is to research your options thoroughly – even if you can’t make it to NYC next year. There is tons of information available in books, blogs, on social media, and by asking other authors what they have done.

 

Ultimately, the decision is solely yours.

 

If you attended, please share you thoughts. If not, please tell me what you think about the information presented. Thanks!

 

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About Rachel Thompson

Rachel Thompson is the author of the award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and The Mancode: Exposed. Rachel is published and represented by Booktrope. She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, bitrebels.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly. Rachel is the creator and founder of #MondayBlogs and #SexAbuseChat and an advocate for sexual abuse survivors. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.

Comments

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  10. Rachel, thanks for all this info. It looks like the “keep writing” theme is a common thread for all successful Indies. I, too, wish there was more emphasis on digital marketing and less on print. But the niche outlet approach can apply in digital as well. It just may be that authors have to create their own niche outlet and drive readers toward it. I think the perfect combination is to have a lot of writer friends and a lot of good reader friends. Writers do buy some books, but readers carry most of that load. Regards, SW

    • Thanks for your comment, Stephen. Absolutely, it’s important to develop that fan base (and many times, we’re also fans of others’ work so it works both ways). The writing community is, for the most part, a supportive group. I learn so much from my writer friends every day. I’m thankful to be part of such a creative community.

      The danger is only marketing toward writers. While our connections can be great, it still comes down to this: find readers in your demographic.

      :)

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  14. great tips and thanks for sharing, Rachel! My instincts aobut writing fast, focusing on my reader base loyalty building, and branding seem to be in the ballpark!

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  17. Really good article. I loved the summation of all the self-pub tips you took from the different panels. Specially love the “You write to be read. Not followed” quote by Dan Blank. I think every writer has that moment where they get caught up by followers, numbers, and think if you’re not Stephenie Meyer popular, you’re just not good enough and never will be. But then you have to go back to basics, remember what you love to do, do it well by doing your homework, and never forget that it’s a PROCESS. ;-)

    • thanks Cindi and yes, exactly. That was my favorite quote of the day, in fact.

      The other point I came away with from Dan is that creating a new genre is a huge mistake. We love to put people into slots: YA, Romance, Mystery, Nonfiction. It’s how we have learned to manage the millions of bits of info that comes at us every second. It’s what I discuss with my author clients, and most agree. Though some want to go rogue and end up paying for it in the end.

      Make it as easy as possible to be found!

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  22. Thank you for this…. LOVED it. You are fabulous writer, communicator, marketer, and WOMAN! xoxox

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  34. Excellent info, thanks for the summaries. As usual, you rock.

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  47. Pretty interesting stuff Rache. :) Studying the markets for your books, that aligns with me a lot. The.. meticulous, hack situations to find information part of me.

    • Hi Ryan and thanks for the comments. We have to always be learning to become better at marketing and understanding what resonates with readers. The best way is here, on a blog, or social (whichever channel you prefer).

      When a client wants to work with me but refuses to a) blog b) engage on social media (even in a minimal way if they’ve hired me to do it for them) or c) won’t advertise — I’ve learned that their expectations of book sales are skewed with the reality of it; therefore, I’ve learned to say no.

      Reading and researching is the best way to prepare, but doing it is the highest form of learning.

      thx again!

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  56. @BellaAndre @BarbaraFreethy, @PublishingBuzz @DanBlank in: Top 5 Learnings From This Year’s #SelfPublishing Book Expo http://t.co/T5pDupOg

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