You may have seen me live-tweeting as much of the self-publishing track at RWA 13 as I could. There was a ton to see and hear, but I caught as much as possible.
I also had a new phone, so the typos are sometimes a bit… embarrassing. Just ignore those. 😉
You can see it Storified HERE. Keep in mind, the tweets go backward so make sure to start at the bottom.
ORRRRRRR….. My personal takeaways.
First off, the speakers were amazing. Barbra Freethy did an unbelievable job of heading up this endeavor. They were smart and interesting and gave well thought-out presentations.
If you don’t want to read the twitter stream (which I’m sure has great stuff I don’t even remember. I’ll be reviewing it again next month once my brain calms down) I’ve summarized what hit home for me below.
Of course, my takeaways won’t be yours. We’re all in different places. So, here we go…
PREPARE FOR SUCCESS
This was said over and over and over again. Whether they were talking about business structure, or investments, or branding – always, always, always prepare for success. If you do things right and keep at it you’ll get there… and not only do you want to be ready, but you don’t want to stop and “fix” things when you’re busy being all successful and stuff.
Everyone said if you’re book isn’t selling, change your cover… and keep changing it until it sells.
This broke my heart and reaffirmed something I was already thinking. The cover of The Last Single Girl is so darn cute but doesn’t sell.
It’s the number one thing we heard over and over again. Covers sell. Covers sell. Covers sell… or they don’t. So many stories about changing the cover and seeing a bump.
YOUR NAME…. on the COVER
MAKE. IT. BIG. I know, right? Scary. And it feels presumptive. But everyone said to make your name the biggest part of the wording on your cover. Several reasons were given:
People buy you and your stories, not your title.
You are your brand.
You want people to easily spot your books in the lists so they know to grab it.
This is one I shied away from previously: Put a subtitle in your title with keyword descriptors. But, they all said it, so who am I to argue? Nobody, that’s right. *rushes off to add subtitles*
One person said to make your title as “elegant as possible while still loading it with keywords” – I liked the description of how to approach it. Again, The Last Single Girl, cute title, but who is going to search that, right?
Make sure these have keywords also. The more there are, the more searchable your book.
Last night I went through the top 100 books in my categories and started making a list of common words. We’ll see if I can weave some in!
We heard it from authors. We heard it from Amazon. Now, we must go forth and do it.
Use every single piece of Author Central you can… bios, blogs, pictures. Do it all. Amazon says, yes. It’s weighted. Also, make sure that you’re using your keywords there also. Make EVERYTHING searchable (are you getting that message? *grin*)
The words “audio” and “gold mine” were used together several times.
Points taken: It’s pricey, but worth it. Do not skimp. Pay it up front. Save up if you have to. Do not get someone who does an “okay” job. Check referrals. Buy one book and listen to the whole thing.
Ask the audition to include a female POV, male POV, and sex scene (if you write them) — the sex scene read can make or break the book.
Authors said do not do the 50/50 royalty. Pay up front. Period. Do not giveaway future earnings…and it was repeated, wait if you have to while you save. Don’t skimp.
Everyone said that while work/life balance may be missing (or unimportant) for them, writing/marketing/playing on the internet time has very clear divides. That they’d get nothing done if they tried to mix the time.
THERE’S STILL A GAP
It’s getting smaller, but this is what I personally saw:
HUGE BEST SELLERS WOOO HOOOO
People making a lot of money that aren’t a household name yet
*****BIG JUMP HERE****
People like me (our books are scooting along, paying for themselves, and hoping for growth)
People who have almost nothing going on with their books
Obviously, I’d like to make that jump LOL
I’m not going to lie, as much as we joked about drinking the Kool-aid, it’s awesome to see a company who really believes in what they’re doing. They had some great info, showed how to tie it together, also mentioned the audio books, and basically talked to several different levels of writers.
Jon Fine was kind enough to continue questions in the hallway after our time was up.
If they could answer a question they did. If they didn’t know the answer, they offered to look into it. If they didn’t know about something, they asked.
If they were humoring us, they did an amazing job… but I really do think Amazon is trying to work with writers while running a strong business. Obviously it’s a balance, but good for them for doing it.
BARNES AND NOBLE
Sooooo…. I lost count of the people who basically said that they deserve to go out of business after their workshop.
I’m a huge fan. I grew up nowhere near a bookstore and with only a one room library near-by. BN changed readers lives back in The Day. I’m sad to say, I think that day is over.
Their energy level was low right off the bat to the point where it felt like they didn’t even want to be there. The presentation was… boring isn’t the right word. Neither is condescending. But you could tell they thought no one would know (or did know) anything. At one point, someone asked a question and the speaker literally said, “We’re not taking questions.”
That didn’t stop anyone and they seem to give up and realize they’d at least have to listen to the questions. The company also sent people who didn’t know how to answer questions.
Here’s a clue, when you don’t want to answer a question, the answer isn’t. “We can’t tell you that, obviously.” It’s something more like, “We’ll have to look into that.”
I was told point-blank I wasn’t worth working with until I had at least 3 or 4 successful books on BN. That they don’t look at how books are selling elsewhere.
I think almost every writer who asked a question felt insulted by the time he/she sat down.
Also, when people referenced Amazon or Smashwords the speakers had zero idea of the things they were talking about. I can’t imagine Amazon or Smashwords not being intimately acquainted with their competition.
So, um. Yeah.
AMAZON AND ALGORITHMS
Ignore them. Things are changing too quickly to try to chase them. They have small changes constantly instead of the old days of a big change here, a big change there. Know the basics of putting your book up and just do a great job of that instead.
EVERYONE’S AN EXPERT… NOT
People are so excited for information that they assume anyone who has put out a self-published book is an expert. Please don’t fall into this trap.
All week I had people asking me questions. Some I felt very comfortable answering. Some I felt very comfortable pointing them toward a good source. And some I felt like I should just say, I don’t know.
The problem is, I heard people answering newbie questions in a way that made me uncomfortable. In a way I thought was probably going to confuse the person or not give them the full enough picture to make a good decision or… occasionally… that was just wrong (which we’re indie. Do you know how hard it is to be wrong in this group? So, um….)
Judge your sources wisely. I have 2 novellas and a novel out (2 more novels this fall I’m going through the process with) – this does not make me an expert. I feel like a newbie. I have lots of questions still. I’m trying things out. If someone is willing to be honest about where they are, sure listen to them and know you should check their info. If someone seems to be talking above their ‘pay grade’ – they probably are.
The point is, everything is still changing quickly and there’s a ton to learn, and that learning is never going to stop. If you want to go indie, you have to be willing to do the reasearch and the work.
Yes, it’s a lot. Yes, people get tired. Yes, for some people it’s not worth it.
I think, the number one thing I would say about that is this: Know yourself. Know what you can do. Know what you can’t. Know what you’re willing to give up to succeed and what you’re not willing to let go. Courtney Milan put it best at The Golden Network retreat: We’re all delusional about something. Know what you’re delusional about so you can work around it.
Wrapping up: This years RWA conference was one of my favorites (only to be tied with San Fransico…man, that conference rocked). The vibe was positive, the workshops were smart, people stayed focus and kind, and the conference center had a great flow. Big shout out to everyone who worked on it. THANK YOU.
There’s a ton more info. Feel free to ask away… I’ve already admitted I’m willing to say, I don’t know. 🙂
FINALLY: Everyone who came by at the Indie Signing and made it such a huge success, THANK YOU. I can’t believe how many people approached me and already knew who I was. It was kind of shocking. I hope everyone who got a book from me gets a little smile out of it.