I’m back from the windy city, and it was…well…windy.
After a four day whirlwind trip to the Romantic Times Booklover’s Convention in Chicago, I thought I would share the highlights with you. I had the great pleasure of seeing some friendly faces from the CTRWA. My roomy Katy Lee, Jordan K Rose, Doc Jess Andersen, Corrina Lawson, and Sara Humphreys were all on deck to make me feel welcomed and to point me in the right direction when I got lost in the chaos. Thanks so much Ladies! It wouldn’t have been the same without you.
I went to RT with three goals in mind.
2) Learning some new marketing strategies
3) Connecting with readers.
To that end, I took several self-publishing and marketing workshops, sat in on author panels, and enjoyed the many parties hosted by fabulous authors and the various publishing houses. I’ll start with the fun stuff first. With kilted men, winged women, and shirtless cover models, I must say the entertainment kept me dancing until the wee hours most nights. Being a YA author, I’ll admit that my favorite party was the YA slumber party, hosted by about a dozen of my YARWA buddies. In spite of the fact that the party started very late at the end of a long day, I had a blast. The highlight of that event was a hilarious game of truth or dare which resulted in Lea Nolan having to perform ten animal noises in twenty seconds and someone running around the room screaming her undying love for her favorite YA hero. We were all teens at heart dressed in our pajamas and funkiest slippers. I still can’t believe the pink flamingos didn’t win the slipper contest! Best of all was putting faces to the names of all the amazing and talented women who have helped me in a hundred ways on our YARWA loop. You gals rock!
On the self-publishing front, Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords did a workshop analyzing data that revealed some interesting trends in the industry. His data showed that the highest sales occurred with e-books priced between $2.99 and $5.99, FREE promotions work to move sales and drive books up the best sellers lists thereby improving sales once a book is put back up for sale, and that long tale sales are what authors need to focus on. Bottom line–E-books are forever and it takes up to eighteen months for most books to find their audience. He was kind enough to admit that the Smashwords sales reports were not very user friendly and promised that his staff is still working to improve the system. He was very nice, super approachable, and encouraging about the future of indie-publishing.
I also had the privilege of hearing Bob Mayer and JA Konrath give their take on the future of self-publishing, and I found it all extremely interesting. Bob Mayer talked about how to sell your book/product. His advice: Great title, great cover, great content, and then more of it. He suggested linking your product to something else that is already selling and that people are emotional about, networking and relying on other authors for reviews and blurbs to help sell your book, and building community. He believes in multiple streams of distribution, being consistent with whatever form of social media you choose, and using what you know and who you are to create name recognition. Become an expert at something and sell that!
As conservative as Bob Mayer appeared in suit and tie, Joe Konrath came across as being a bit radical. He had similar advice in terms of having a great cover, offering your book at a decent price, creating a killer description, and putting out quality books—lots of them! He sees the future of e-books leading toward interactive content or “user aggregated content.” That includes adding video, music, author commentary, fan fiction, forums, and even live chats, all included inside your e-books. The idea of a book as a destination with Enhanced e-books is already happening with programs such as V-Look. We now have the ability through Autography and Kindlegraph to do virtual signings and further connect to our readers. He also sees advertisement becoming part of our e-books in the very near future. I heard from several panelists in various self-pub workshops that the Global market is opening up and translation is the next big step. Although costly (at $5-8,000) it seems a worthy investment for those with big sales in that market.
According to Liz Edelstein, trad-turned-indie-author and Senior manager of the St. Martin’s Press website, Heroes and Heartbreakers, there are basically four choices these days. Do it yourself, small press, Digital Imprints, and major houses (NY Big Six). She talked about the acronym TEMP being the criteria that authors needed to explore when deciding their publishing route. Time, Energy, Money, and Patience. Essentially, how hard do you want to work? She also answered the tough question, “Do you think there is a self-publishing bubble?” Her answer was a reluctant “yes.” With the hordes of new indie-authors jumping into the pool, anyone who started this journey over the past six months has probably had marginally less success than the trail blazers that hit the scene two years ago. Her advice was that if you’re going to do it, now is the time. In other words, he who waits to dip their toe may find the waters a bit infested. The good news is that there is always another bubble…those foreign markets again and the great big world of audio books. Technology is likely to keep offering new opportunities for those willing to brave the waters.
My favorite marketing tips from various workshops:
1) Sell your hook, not your book when talking to media outlets and trying to set up interviews.
2) Don’t look at numbers; look at who you are reaching.
3) Don’t go overboard with self-promotion. Instead, focus on creating and promoting your Brand.
I didn’t even mention the craft workshops, amazing author panels, or my first Expo, but let me assure you, it was all informative, fun, and educational.
The long and the short of it is that I met my goals for the conference. But I have to say that the greatest highlight for me was when a teenager who won my book in an online contest recognized me and gushed about how excited she was to meet me.
Of course, I was an even bigger fan girl when I met Ally Carter, author of The Gallagher Girls series. Fun times!