Self-Publishing Packs ‘Em In At RWA

Barbara Vey -- July 24th, 2013


At RWA in Atlanta, one of the hottest author tracts to follow was the Self-Publishing Tract.  This group of workshops, geared to authors thinking of publishing on their own, was standing room only.  Interest came from authors in all stages of their careers. 

This is feedback from several authors (both traditional and Indie published). The tract was developed by #1 NYT bestseller Barbara Freethy and loaded with top speakers.

Thoughts from New York Times bestseller Dianna Love:
As a hybrid author (I’m published by a New York publisher and I’ve self-published a new book series), I am always looking for ways to improve my craft and my business.  During this conference, I learned things from highly successful Indie authors in this tract that I can actually use for both my traditional publishing and my Indie published books. That’s due to the outstanding line up of speakers for this tract who shared their learning curve and insights.  In the packed standing-room-only room for #1 NYT bestseller Barbara Freethy and NYT bestselling phenom Bella Andre’s Top 10 Tips for Self-Publishing E-books workshop not a word was uttered until someone asked a question.  No one wanted to miss any information shared by the two dynamic speakers who were beyond generous with their knowledge and self-publishing experience.  There is too much information to share here, but rule #1 is “write, write, and write some more.” If content is king in developing a publishing strategy then a connected series is queen, and quality is the foundation for that empire.   One repeated mantra is that Self Publishing is a marathon, not a sprint.  Putting out one novella to “test” the SP market is like tossing a baited hook in one corner of a massive lake and assuming you’re going to land on the mother lode of fish the first time.   (I highly recommend getting this year’s conference recordings.)

During the Beyond the Basics in Self-Publishing: Audio, Foreign Translations, POD, and More workshop, bestselling authors Bella Andre and Tina Folsom shared what they did right and mistakes they’d made (sometimes very expensive) in their drive to expand their audiences with audio and translations.  Even though Tina’s native language is German and she has resources (friends and family in Germany) who can beta read or listen to her books, she still had to battle to end up with a top notch translation, but it can be done.  Bella explained how it’s important to do more than have the audio talent you choose to read a scene of your book, especially if you have more than one POV (point of view) and your books include sex.  She suggested that the final audition include a read of the male POV, female POV and a sex scene, because you may be surprised at how different these can sound even with an excellent reader.   Additionally, there were presentations by Amazon, Nook, Kobo, and Smashwords.  If I had to sum up all these workshops and chats in one sentence I’d say it was the most engaging, energetic and entertaining (at times) tract I’ve ever attended at RWA.

*Dianna’s latest Indie book is HONEYMOON TO DIE FOR and her next traditional release is RISE OF THE GRYPHON.

Thoughts from USA Today bestseller Adrienne Giordano:opposing_forces-190x300

As an author emerging from my sophomore year of being published, I’m in learning mode as it pertains to the business side of publishing. Whether you’re a traditionally published or indie published author, the self-publishing workshops at RWA (particularly ones given by authors) were outstanding this year.  In the Metadata, Keywords and Back Matter workshop given by Courtney Milan, she stressed the importance of information that comes after the book’s end (back matter).  She suggested looking for indie pubbed authors who are performing well and studying how they’ve handled their back matter (buy links, newsletter sign-up information, Twitter and Facebook links, etc.).

Courtney also discussed the importance of front matter (everything that comes before chapter one). She mentioned that with print books people browse through the review quotes in the front of the book to help them decide whether or not they will purchase the book. With digital books, people may have already purchased the book so the review quotes don’t necessarily need to be in the front. Eliminating the review quotes in the front will get the reader to the start of the book much sooner.

During Self-Publishing for the Professional Author, featuring Julia Coblentz (Barnes and Noble), Mark Coker (Smashwords), Jon Fine (Amazon), and Mark Lefebvre (Kobo), the panelists briefly discussed price points. Mark Coker referenced a Smashwords study that indicated more books will sell at a price point of $2.99 and $3.99 rather than $1.99. With all the talk about price points, I found this bit of information helpful. I think RWA’s self-publishing tract this year was filled with useful information that will help me with both my traditionally published books and my indie published books.

*Adrienne hit the USA Today list with her Indie publication and her latest traditional book release is OPPOSING FORCES.

Thoughts from Amazon bestseller Nancy Naigle:wedding

Here’s a little bit from my experience with the self-publishing track. I was not expecting to see such a strong self-publishing track at RWA, but it sure was a nice addition. I even overheard people saying that the workshops were more beneficial for their career than meeting with an editor or agent. That’s saying something! The track included information on everything from personal experiences to release schedules.

One of the last two sessions I attended on Saturday afternoon was THE NEW HYBRID AUTHOR with Steena Holmes, Lauren Hawkeye Jameson, and Deidre Knight. No different than our financial portfolios…keeping your investment spread across a diverse set of options always makes for a stronger platform. These gals have been there and done that with traditional and self-publishing and I left feeling good about the prospects for those of us choosing that path to own the flexibility of our cash flow and growing our readership with the different formats.

The last session I attended was a PAN (Published Author Network) session that wasn’t listed as a self-publishing one, but sure applied. GIVING TO GET: Creating Free Digital Content to Promote Your Print Book. The interesting thing about this panel was that with traditional publishers we don’t always have the ability to leverage free content or special sales to drive sales. Authors Victoria Alexander, Donna Kauffman and Sally Mackenzie shared some of the innovative ideas they’ve tried from baking cakes and engaging readers with recipes, capsule summaries of your books, and character interviews. Video seems to be an increasingly popular addition to social media as a way to reach readers.

*Nancy’s latest Indie book is OUT OF FOCUS and her current traditional release is WEDDING CAKE AND BIG MISTAKES.  

Thoughts from historical romance author Tracey Devlyn:Checkmate-My-Lord-Cover-Draft-Mar-2012b-1-182x300

A year ago, indie publishing was not even on my radar. I knew myself well enough to know that I needed a team to publish my books. Working a full-time day job didn’t leave enough hours in the day to write and manage all the rest. Well, the last few months have opened my eyes to just how accessible Indie publishing really is for authors now. I went to this year’s RWA conference with the mindset to learn everything I could about the other side of publishing. The new SP tract did not disappoint.

In the From Ground Zero to Best-selling Author in Two Years: the Indie Revolution workshop by New York Times bestselling author Liliana Hart, I learned Indie pubbed authors should kickstart their careers with five different products (short stories, novellas, novels, serials, box sets) + one in the hole. Publish your five items one month and then publish your “one in the hole” the following month. This strategy helps boost your rankings with vendors on 30-day cycles. Once you’ve jumpstarted your career, keep publishing product as often as possible. Ms. Hart strongly recommended to price your stories with a mindset of making a living and to remember that what we do has value. She said an author isn’t going to live off $.99 or $1.99 books. Use lower prices as a marketing tool only. Readers will buy books in the $4.99-$5.99 range.

Other words of wisdom:
Authors need social media to succeed. Some sites she suggested are: Twitter, Facebook, Kindleboards, Goodreads, Shelfari, Wattpad, Triberr, Amazon Author Central (complete as much as possible—for every country!), and Pinterest.
Newsletters — author’s best friend
Blogging — kinda over
Street Teams – her biggest sellers (super fans)
Best Paid Ads – Pixel of Ink, eReader News Today, BookBub

Everything Liliana Hart discussed in her workshop can be found in The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing .

Audio publication was a big topic in the Beyond the Basics in Self-Publishing: Audio, Foreign Translations, POD, and More by New York Times bestsellers Bella Andre and Tina Folsom. Ms. Andre believes audio books are the fastest growing segment in the business.

Audio books – very lucrative part of Ms. Andre’s business; finding the right narrator is key and the hardest part; make sure the sex scenes aren’t read in a super creepy way; audio book covers are designed separately because of their square shape; average cost is $250-350 per finished hours — most novels are 7-9 hours
Translation – German, French and Brazilian Portuguese are the biggest romance sellers.

In Courtney Milan’s Metadata, Keywords and Back Matter workshop, she recommended that indie pubbed authors use for Amazon worldwide redirect. Adding your book’s ASIN number to the back of the URL ( will redirect readers to the appropriate Amazon website (UK, Canada, etc.) for their particular country. Use this feature on your website anywhere you have “Buy” links. – where Ms. Milan learns a lot of her new and progressive approaches to Indie publishing
Book description – focus on adding “keywords” to your book’s description to help with Amazon searches
Using Bitly to shorten URLs – helps authors keep track of what social media and posts are attracting readers. Customize your Bitly URLs for each social media venue.

*Tracey is co-founder of the Lady Jane’s Salon in Naperville, IL (a division of the New York LJS) and her latest traditional release is the highly acclaimed CHECKMATE, MY LORD.

Bottom Line:  “I don’t believe there has ever been a better time to be a writer.” ~ Barbara Freethy

50 thoughts on “Self-Publishing Packs ‘Em In At RWA

  1. Dianna Love

    Thanks to Adrienne, Tracey and Nancy for helping with this post, and for Barbara who is always on the cutting edge of reporting anything new. I was very impressed with all those workshops – the speakers held nothing back.

  2. Tina Folsom

    I must say, I’ve never felt so much positive energy at the conference. It feels like we’re at the beginning of something new and exciting. Everybody is getting charged up. I feel very privileged to be part of this new wave.

    1. Dianna Love

      How true, Tina, that this feels like we’re at the start of something special and powerful. I loved your talk with Liliana Hart. I learned so much from all of you, things I can use in all parts of my publishing – traditional and Indie. We kept this blog brief, but there was tons more information.

  3. Connie Cox

    As RWA Workshop Chair, on behalf of the Workshop Committee, we thank you! Under the guidance of RWA staffer, Stephanie Fry, we worked hard to give everyone fresh, new and diverse workshops. Barbara Freethy was our committee member heading up the Self-Publishing track. We are so glad everyone enjoyed the depth and breadth of workshops offered.

    Many thanks,
    Connie Cox,
    RWA Nationals Workshop Chair, 2013

    1. Dianna Love

      Outstanding job, Connie & team. Our business is changing rapidly and to have such forward thinking workshops was a tremendous advantage for our writers. Thanks to you and your team for all you did, too.

  4. chris keniston

    I SO regret not having attended RWA this year. I strongly felt: been there, done that, why bother. After almost ten years in the business I was convinced there would be little more for me to learn at another costly conference.

    but so not the case this year. As someone who has recently joined the Indie Published bandwagon – and has not been disappointed- I am thrilled to find all these new resources for how to do things better.

    Thank you so much for this informative post.

    what wonderful and talented authors.

    1. Dianna Love

      I heard a lot of talk about not going because of “wasting money” to hear the same thing again, so it’s nice to report back that I think this is a new look we’re all excited about for future RWA programs. I highly recommend getting the conference recordings and talking to other authors who attended to get notes on workshops that were not recorded.

  5. A.C. James

    I couldn’t make the trip to Atlanta this year but am really excited about next year. Thinking about using the trip to lay over with my father in Houston on the way home. It’s a really exciting time to be a writer in indie publishing.

    1. Dianna Love

      I’m excited, too, because there’s already talk about the possibility of speakers who couldn’t make it this year but have said they could next year, people I would love to listen to.

  6. Julia Kent

    AS a newly self-published author in 2011 I attended the RWA conference in NYC and was shocked that self-publishing was barely addressed. Other than a comment by Madeline Hunter in her keynote address and an informal gathering of self-published writers from (at a table at breakfast), no one said a word about it. That month I made about $50 from my books and was thrilled. Fast forward 2 years and WOW — an entire self-publishing track, I’m earning mid-5 figures a month (and hit a list as a self-pubber), and EVERYONE was talking about self-publishing. The camaraderie at this year’s conference was fabulous — no condescending comments about being “only” self-published, no nasty upturned noses at erotic romance — it was a sea change, and I’m so glad I renewed my expired membership and made the journey. Now that self-published authors can submit their books to the RITA contest, I feel that we’re full equals — and while the cynic in me thinks “about time,” the innovator in me feels that one self-published book at a time, we’ve pushed the RWA toward progress.

  7. Sandra Schwab

    Thank you so much for the summaries. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend this year’s conference, but I plan to get the recordings of the self-publishing track – for it sure sounds fabulous!

    1. Tracey Devlyn

      I LOVE getting the conference CDs. Just be aware that several workshops weren’t recorded. Kind of a bummer, because there was no way to attend all of them. So many great workshops!


    2. Nancy Naigle

      The good thing about the CD is you can listen to the sessions over and over. There was so much good stuff being shared– it was impossible to get it all just by being there. You’re in for a treat!

  8. Jean Brashear

    I’m not new to indie, but even so, every indie workshop had at least useful nuggets and often much more–I’ve written Barbara to tell her how much I appreciate all the hard work. I can’t remember the last time I went to a workshop I wasn’t giving, but this year, I was in them back to back! Really fabulous energy–the worm has turned!

    1. Dianna Love

      I hope everyone took a moment to post a thank you over on Barbara Freethy’s Facebook or on the SP loop. She said she was complaining that we didn’t have a tract like this and someone suggested that she put one together. Kudos to her for doing that and to all the speakers who came and shared so much.

  9. Jennifer Ashley

    I was unable to attend RWA this year because of prior commitments, but I am so glad there was such positive energy and good information about indie publishing. As a hybrid (I’ve hit the bestseller lists with indie books), I’m excited to see self-publishing given its due. Thanks go out to the terrific indie authors (Barbara Freethy, Bella Andra, Tina Folsum, Courtney Milan, Liliana Hart, and more) for generously sharing their experiences. I will be ordering as many of the lectures as I can!

  10. Shoshanna Evers

    I’m a hybrid author (NY pubbed and selfpubbed) and I attended every workshop on the Self Pub track at RWA that I could. The energy in the air was palpable. Workshops were standing room only in the selfpub panels. Very exciting stuff! :)

  11. Adrienne Giordano

    Without a doubt, this was my most productive RWA conference. It serves as a great reminder of how generous and savvy romance authors are. Terrific conference!

  12. Lana Williams

    What an excellent conference! Loved the self-pub workshops even though I’m not new to Indie. There is so much to learn in this business and it’s always changing. Thank you to all the presenters who take the time to share their knowledge with us!

  13. Barbara Freethy

    Lovely recap. I’m so happy that RWA embraced a self-publishing track this year, and I can now personally attest to how much work it is for committee members and staff members to put together so many great workshops. So kudos to everyone involved with the conference!

    I was thrilled that so many of the workshop presenters said they had standing-room only crowds for their talks, and like Tina, I thought the energy throughout the conference was excited and energized. I was impressed by how many Indie authors came up to me to tell me how well they were doing. Even if they weren’t an NYT bestseller, they were making great money, and were creatively excited about what they were doing whether they were hybrid or Indie only.

    1. Tracey Devlyn


      My heartfelt thanks for your role in bringing the SP tract to RWA’s line-up. I am so excited by the possibilities in publishing these days. My goal is to have a diverse portfolio of trad and indie pubbed work. There’s such freedom in this new model of publishing.


    2. Dianna Love

      Thanks again for this amazing tract at RWA, Barbara. I think that’s one of the most positive things to come out of this Indie revolution is that so many authors you’ve never heard of are making a living at this. Many have quit their day jobs because their writing is paying more. It was terrific to sit in on those workshops. I only wish I could have been 2 people to go everywhere I had to be at times, but at least there are conference recordings. We all appreciate that you and a stellar line up of speakers donated to give us this tract.

  14. Laurie London

    Thanks for the great write-up! I was not able to attend the conference this year, so I monitored the #RWA13 hashtag on Twitter. As a hybrid author, I’ve learned more about marketing books and promotion from successful indie authors than from any other source. I’m so grateful to Barbara Freethy for spearheading this self-published track and all the generous speakers willing to share their knowledge.

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