I’ll be honest, I was half afraid that the seminar would be nothing more than a sales pitch, but it wasn’t. Even the sponsors didn’t promote, which was refreshing. (And made it more likely for someone like me to recommend their services.) The speakers were by and large very informative and sometimes funny. Some of it was more geared toward non-fiction than fiction, but even that had some value to indie/self-published writers. For me, the most informative speakers were content marketer and author Joe Pulizzi, horror/dystopia writer J. Thorn, social media providers Deb Carney (Book Goodies) and Vinny O’Hare (Awesomegang) , Facebook marketing guru Andrea Vahl (Don’t use Boost), cover artist Derek Murphy, and authors/podcasters Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt (although they went on a little too long). Okay to break it down: Joe Pulizzi talked about finding the niche between your book and your readership, and how to reach the last. (There was a strong drive toward e-mail subscripting throughout the day). Find your influencers, successful writers in your genre. He also talked about finding 4 – 1 – 1 – the spot between influencers, content, and translating those to a sale of your book. 4-1-1 is also the divisions of marketing – 4 posts/twitters about yourself, one about your content, and one about ‘buy my book’. He talked about the three-legged stool – offering e-books, print and digital versions of your books. He spoke about using popovers rather than popups – especially using software like Pipity – in conjunction with e-mail subscriptions, and using keywords to make it easier for programs like Google to find you and your book.
Horror/Dystopia writer J. Thorn was a riot. Like so many early self-publishers he made the same mistakes most most of us did – not getting properly edited and creating his own covers. I give him major kudos for humorously posting on-screen those early reviews – if you thought yours were bad, his were worse. (This is literature?) It was really funny. Fortunately, and wisely, he also realized that many of those early reviewers were right, and took the necessary steps to improve. He hired an editor and a professional cover artist. He definitely recommends outsourcing those skills. (He’s a techie so he does format his own books. I recommend hiring a formatter, too, if you don’t have the same tech skills.) He also advocates not reading your reviews once you’ve dealt with those issues. Reviews are for readers, not for writers, and not everyone is going to like your writing. (Where have you heard that before? *grins*) He also emphasized the importance of having multiple books. He used gardening references, like watering your garden – finding better ways to promote your books. Books, plural. Nothing sells book one like book two. Find marketing sites. Make changes to the book. Do revisions. Try different descriptions. Use Amazon’s Select, or find another way to run your book free. Price pulsing (run one price during the week, another on the weekend, or some variation thereof). Use #mondayblogs. Do series! Do boxed sets of your series, or in conjunction with other writers. He talked about weeding the garden. In his early days he wanted to write fantasy, and did. Those were the books that garnered some of those horrible reviews. He had them properly edited and hired a great cover artist. As time went by, though, he realized he enjoyed writing horror and dystopia, and wanted to read more, but there wasn’t more out there. So he wrote the kind of novels he wanted to read. And that’s what every self-published writer should do – write what you want to read. Back to weeding the garden. Those early novels? He took them down. One of the truisms of writing is that you really have to write a lot, and keep writing, until you find your voice, your niche. Most of that early work will be crap. I wrote several full books, and scrapped them, before I wrote something I felt so compelled to write – and write well – that I couldn’t deny it. (Personal advice – never delete those early works. You may be able to rework them, or the idea. Some of mine I still have, and may revisit.) There’s also no Kindle Gold Rush. Those days are gone. He did suggest using Kindle Select, but also branching out to other vendors, and also using promotional tools like #mondayblogs, price pulsing (running one price during the week, another on the weekend) or experimenting with pricing, and the importance of writing series and creating boxed sets of those series. He also spoke about the need to work with others with no expectation of return – creating boxed sets of similar books – to build your name and associate it with other successful writers. Using his methods, he went from selling two books per day to selling 200 per day. David Lawrence from ACX spoke about using audiobooks as another leg to your stool – another method of providing content for your readers. He’s done TV and lots of audio. (I have to be honest here, I just started with the audio experience. It started out good, but didn’t finish that way. I was hoping to learn how to find a new, moreopen-minded narrator. The response I didn’t want was the one I got – “I can’t help you.”) However, there was a lot of useful information in his talk, including the biggest mistake that most writers make about those who provide services to authors – expectations. Expecting the narrator to sound like the voice in your head. Expecting them to understand the names and terms you use. They can’t read your mind, or duplicate what’s in it. Work with them. What seems obvious to you isn’t to them.