The 2015 PubSense Summit, March 23-25 in Charleston, South Carolina, helped aspiring and emerging authors understand the three major ways to publish their work: traditional publishing, self-publishing, and hybrid publishing. Authors who pursue hybrid publishing use self-publishing to start building an audience, then seek traditional publishers to help them expand their reach and audience.
The stellar line-up of PubSense speakers and panelists included:
- David Symonds, general manager of Amazon’s CreateSpace
- Cevin Bryerman the publisher of Publishers Weekly
- Julia Coblentz, senior marketing manager of Nook Press
- Mark Lefebve, director of self-publishing and author relations at Kobo Writing Life
- Robin Cutler, general manager of the IngramSpark program
Other PubSense panelists included authors, literary agents, independent booksellers, and executives with small publishing firms and companies that offer author-support services.
Exhibits showcased services can help emerging authors with website development, video book trailers, legal issues and liability coverage, marketing, editing, cover design, publicity, trade-show representation, and global distribution.
Here are a few key points made during the sessions I attended.
As an author, you are an entrepreneur. You are the business manager of the content you create. You can choose the goals you want to achieve with your writing, then build a team that can help you meet those goals. Ideally, your primary goal will be something you are passionate about – not just the number of books you think you can sell.
Traditional publishers still are the best (and only way) to get your printed book into traditional bookstores beyond your local market. Because shelf space is limited, bookstores seek certain genres/sub-genres of books they are confident they can sell. The big publishers have well-established sales relationships with the bookstores.
Small, independent presses can be a good option for debut and mid-list authors. Amidst all of the turbulence in the publishing business, debut and midlist authors often get very little personalized attention from the big, consolidated publishing companies.
If you choose to self-publish, your local bookstore may opt to sell printed copies of your book. But you can increase your chances of getting your book in the store by becoming a regular customer, getting to know the store employees, and promoting events that will help bring other people into the bookstore.
Self-publishing is the best path if you want to write about whatever topic you choose (regardless of “trends” in the market, or whether the manuscript has commercial potential). The global market for books that can be read on mobile devices is so vast that you can be confident that your self-published books will appeal to some people.
To find readers for your self-published books, you need to plan how you will produce, distribute, price, protect, and promote your books. Start with a clear vision of how you define success.
The avenues for bringing your work to market are multiplying. Amazon is still the dominant online seller of books, but new platforms are emerging to promote curated collections of self-published books. Organizations such as NetGalley, Chanticleer, and Foreword Reviews can help you connect with people who will review your books.
Author events are still great places to meet face-to-face with readers and other audiences. But if you want to expand your reach, you must use social media and online marketing to reach the biggest audiences with the least amount of effort.
Don’t overlook legal issues such a copyright, libel, privacy rights, permissions, and partnership agreements. Consider buying media liability insurance, because even if you do everything right, you can still get sued. If copies of your book are sold overseas, you can get sued in a country with libel laws different from those in the U.S.
Keynote: Taking Your Author Business to the Next Level
In her keynote PubSense Summit presentation on authors as entrepreneurs, Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn blog, emphasized the publishing revolution has greatly empowered authors. She suggests that writers think about the many different ways they can turn a single manuscript into multiple products that can be sold on multiple platforms to generate multiple revenue streams. Unlike traditionally published books that may only get a short burst of publicity after publication, self published authors can create a book once and keep selling it forever.
You can start with a Kindle e-book, said Penn, then make it available as a hard-copy, print-on-demand book, and convert it into an audio book using Amazon’s new www.acx.com service. Plus, you can sell your book through platforms such as Nook and reach a global audience through Kobo.
Here are some other takeaways from Joanna Penn’s presentation:
Don’t be afraid to try new platforms or to start small. At first, your income streams will be trickles. But they will grow over time if you keep promoting your book and distributing your work in new forms. Eventually, many small streams of revenue can turn into a larger cash flow.
When you produce and distribute e-books, hard-copy books, and audio books, you are creating assets that can put money in your pockets for years to come. Because the copyrights won’t expire until 70 years after your death, these assets can provide income for your children as well. By exploiting different formats, you can expand your customer base and reach different groups of readers.
Be consistent in identifying yourself as an author on social media. All of your social profiles should start with the same first few words.
Think global, mobile, and digital. Having a website is still important because social media platforms keep changing how they operate. You can control the look and content of your website, and use it to build an email list for direct marketing to your fans. Make sure your website can be viewed on mobile devices.
Pay attention to technology trends and cultural shifts that will change how and where we read and buy books. For example, people who start reading e-books on their tablets and smartphones will soon be able to pick up where they left off when they listen to audio version of the book in their cars. The trend toward living in smaller spaces and owning fewer things will accelerate the migration to e-books. The transformation in brick-and-mortar retailing may lead to easy-to-browse virtual bookstores. .
The importance of design can’t be overstated. As readers spend more time viewing content online, we expect everything we read to meet certain basic standards of quality and design.
Develop a fan base. Collect e-mail addresses of your biggest fans and send them a newsletter to keep them informed about the progress of your next book.
Be a Great Writer!
Although the number of books published each year is rising, one of the literary agents at PubSense panel reassured attendees that it is indeed possible to build a thriving career as an author. The agent emphasized that the best way to get noticed is to be a great writer: “If you’re a strong author, you’ll be fine.”
Additional details about the PubSense Summit speakers and their can be found in blog posts on the 2015 PubSense Summit website. Dates for the 2016 PubSense Summit have not yet been announced.