I apologize to my readers who only check out my blogs for the Byzantine history – I am going to instead share information that will be more helpful for authors trying to get traction and sales in the independent publishing market. Don’t worry that this will become a habit – the Byzantines will return shortly!
Last weekend (Nov. 2-4) I attended the BookBaby 2nd Annual Independent Authors’ Conference in Philadelphia. This conference is geared solely towards those who are publishing independently, not traditionally published, although there were elements to it that all authors could learn from. BookBaby’s focus on independent authors meshed with my desire to spread the word about the Byzantines through my books, and they had an impressive line up of speakers, including Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn website in Philadelphia all the way from England, and Jane Friedman who works with authors to build successful businesses.
One suggestion I have for attendees of any conference: get there early and attend pre-conference workshops. The leaders of these workshops can delve deeper into the topics they are covering than most of the breakout sessions can. The first workshop I attended was “Your Book, Your Brand” which was led by Dana Kaye who founded a boutique PR company for traditionally published authors. Her energetic and professional presentation contained some great suggestions, including assembling an email list for keeping in touch with your readers. I’ve been reluctant to do that for fear of becoming one of those people who annoys the world with too frequent emails. Her response: don’t email so often!
Steve Spatz, BookBaby’s founder, emphasized the need for good metadata – a term I’ve heard bandied about without grasping what it meant. Essentially, it means advertising to people who will have a natural interest in the books you are selling. It doesn’t mean blanketing the world with ads to sell your mystery novel, including people who have no interest in mysteries. It does mean placing ads in front of that subset of people who have demonstrated an interest in mystery novels by searching for mysteries on Amazon and giving them the opportunity to find your book. Oh, and I believe he did mention something about developing an email list.
I also began to develop a better understanding of the importance and use of keywords in my books’ listings on Amazon. It turned out the keywords I had been using were entirely too narrow in scope – I had to broaden their reach for my books to ever pop up when a reader starts meandering through Amazon looking for something new to read.
Jane Friedman’s breakout session, The Art & Business of Your Author Platform, spoke on developing your audience through blogging, email newsletters (I sense a pattern going on here!), and strong search engine optimization (SEO).
Joanna Penn, whose Creative Penn website many independent authors are familiar with, shared with us her long journey to developing a strong presence and readership. She mentioned writing shorter books more often to keep your products fresh in the eyes of readers and, of course, developing an email list.
I spent time also with Geri Clouston of Indie/B.R.A.G. and the B.R.A.G. author Jeffrey Walker, sharing with other writers the support that this group brings to indie writers. The conference was a great opportunity for me to learn what I had to do differently to bring my books to the attention of readers who might be interested in buying them. And I guess I will be putting together an email list.
I will end with one of my favorite quotes. It’s from P.T. Barnum: “A terrible thing happens without promotion. Nothing.”
So who wants to sign up for emails?