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:
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:
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:
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 http://bookshow.me for Amazon worldwide redirect. Adding your book’s ASIN number to the back of the URL (http://bookshow.me/ASIN) 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.
Kboards.com – 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