This past weekend, I attended Book Expo America, the largest publishing event in North America, in New York City.  Specifically, I went to the uPublishu Conference for self-published authors and as a Power Reader, a public pass for access to the Exhibit Floor.  I came away with a couple totebags full of books (a good number for the kids) and pages of notes and useful tips from the industry experts leading the conference sessions.

FFatBEAFor authors or aspiring authors who are considering self-publishing (a growing number, these days), I would suggest that you arm yourself with industry information.  Not necessarily a conference in New York City, but check in your local area for workshops, read websites and blogs and books about the business side of self-publishing, in addition to honing your writing skills. Self-publishing is, afterall, a business, not merely an extension of writing your book.

Self-publishing business vendors had information booths at the Conference. Companies that will help you with your editing, marketing, printing – everything you need to get your book on paper and out into the world. “I’m self-publishing – what do I need all those folks for?” you might be thinking. Here’s the point – you are an aspiring author; you’re not an aspiring copyeditor or illustrator or PR professional. One thing I’ve decided in my own venture is that I can’t do it all – I don’t have the skills nor the time, and it’s a better investment to pay a professional for a job-well done, than to save the money and do an amateur-ish job myself.  Of course, each person has to inventory their own skills, time, money and figure out what they can do for themselves and what they need to hire someone to do.

I attended workshops on consumer demographics (did you know women account for 60% of physical book purchases, about the same for e-books), social media, and niche marketing.  Guy Kawasaki, author of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, was the luncheon keynote speaker – a great speaker and a lot of useful information jam-packed into lunch.  My husband has seen him speak at tech-folk conferences, too, and agrees that he’s a really good speaker. Check him out if you get the chance, in the meantime, you can read the book.

You know a workshop session was good when you can’t wait to put something you learned into practice.  I’ve already tried out two or three tips from the conference.  Here’s a few notes that you might also find useful.  (Note, I’m a blogger, too – so I think some – all? – of these are useful in that arena, as well.)

  • Know your audience. This was a workshop itself in which they reviewed industry data, but the message is pretty much right there – who are you targeting? Other than perhaps a dictionary, most books are not for “everyone.” What is the profile of your reader – male/female, age, income, buying habits, eBooks/paper books?  Your marketing plans will be determined by this information.
  • Engage in social media. It’s not just about having a Facebook page or opening a Twitter account, but using those media as effective marketing tools.  Cindy Ratzlaff is a digital brand marketing expert and lead a wonderful session about enhancing your Facebook page, maximizing your 144 characters, and interesting author uses for sites such as YouTube and Pinterest.  Speaking of which, you can check out my Pinterest page – follow along, pin to my boards, or share some of your own pins.  From her session alone, I have a long list of homework; you can take advantage of some of her Twitter Tips available on her website.
  • Be your authentic self. As a writer, as a blogger, in your presentation on social media – be yourself.
  • Be creative in marketing your book, be willing to try out a new idea (that fits with your audience profile).  Something a little out of the box?  Author Maria Murnane, one of the workshop presenters, has a Facebook page for her main character, Waverly Bryson.  It’s a different way to interact with her readers and potential readers.  It might not work for everyone, but it does for her character.  Consider your book, your characters, and figure out what marketing tactics work for you.
  • Do not become an author to make money or become famous, do it because that’s what you want to do. Guy Kawasaki gave this advice as one his “Top 10 Tips” for self-publishing, but I think you could replace “author” with any other thing – doctor, actor, ditch-digger – because the bottom line is, all of these things take a lot of work and you may or may not become rich and famous doing those things, so you are better off doing something you really enjoy and if the riches and fame come along eventually – wonderful!

One of the other ideas I picked up?  Using Animoto to make video collages of your photos.  Here’s the one I made this morning from my Spades Night and Book Launch for Life in Spades. (Note – there is music, so lower the volume if you are at work or in the library or in the Quiet Car on the train.)

Make a video of your own at Animoto.