I apologize to my readers who only check out my blogs for the Byzantine history. This blog shares information 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!
The weekend of Nov. 2-4, 2018 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. However, there were elements in 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. Their impressive line up of speakers included Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn website 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” led by Dana Kaye. She 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 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 putting ads in front of people who have demonstrated an interest in mystery novels by searching for mysteries on Amazon. You are giving them the opportunity to find your book. Oh, and 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 used were so narrow as to be useless. 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’s Creative Penn website is one many independent authors are familiar with. She shared with us her long journey to developing a strong presence and readership. She suggested 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 with Geri Clouston of Indie/B.R.A.G. and the B.R.A.G. author Jeffrey Walker. It was great sharing with other writers the support this group brings to indie writers. The conference helped me learn what I had to do differently to bring my books to the attention of interested readers. 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?