Dear Fellow Writers-
Last week, Colleen, Amanda, and I went to The PubSense Summit, a writing conference geared to the business end of writing and not the craft itself. I’d never attended a writing conference before and I felt intimidated. I didn’t know what to expect and I think my ignorance served me well. I went in as a blank slate with the purpose of gathering as much information as I possibly could, and when I left, I had enough information to start making some sound choices about my writing life.
The most important piece of information I took from this conference is whether or not I self publish or am traditionally published by a small house, the ISBNs need to be listed with IngramSpark. I’d heard about this company before, but I had no idea how important they were, nor how influential. IngramSpark is the only publishing platform that distributes its titles to over 39,000 different booksellers, online retailers, and libraries…around the world. It is only $49 to list your e-book and print book on their site, and without this, getting your book into a store, library, school, university, etc, is damn near impossible. Everyone within the industry uses their catalogue to find titles. Everyone.
Also, it was stressed multiple times by multiple people in multiple parts of the industry (yes, I’m stressing multiple) to buy your own ISBNs. Many people use ISBNs assigned by other companies because it’s cheaper, however those come with limitations. Before you accept an ISBN from a distributor, make sure you read the fine print. The takeaway from this conference was to buy your own so that no other corporation has their name attached to your work. When service providers provide you with an ISBN, you are accepting their company name will be attached to your work and they will be listed as the publisher. This may not seem like a big deal, but do your research. This has far reaching implications. All forms of publishing: print, e-book, audio, different languages, all need their own separate ISBN. You can purchase your own ISBNs at Bowker.com.
If you self-pub but are hoping to be picked up by an agent, the magic number is 30,000. A writer needs to sell 30,000 copies of her self-pubbed book before an agent will consider picking her up. That number made me quirk my eyebrows. If I sell 30,000 copies of the book on my own, do I need an agent?
On that same note, platform, platform, platform! EVERYONE at the conference could not stress the importance of a writer’s platform as well as the tone of their on-line social media presence. Join groups that cater to your interests. If you write fantasy, join on-line groups that cater to those who love fantasy, in all forms. Engage with the group, become an active member, and once they know you, then begin to talk about your work. Join writing groups, preferably local, but also on-line. Interact with other writers. Have your work read and critiqued. Develop a thick skin. Blog! They love blogs, especially if you’re blogging about the subject matter you write about. They also stress to start local. Talk to your local librarians, your Rotary Club, local independent bookstores, and interact. Do not do a dump and run. Interact with your potential market and become a productive member of the local groups. Whether you sell 10,000 copies in your immediate vicinity, or 10,000 copies worldwide, you’ve sold 10,000 copies and local people typically like to support local talent.
Do NOT skimp on editing services, cover art, or your personal website. Agents and publishers alike stressed presentation is everything. If an author does not have enough confidence or faith in her work to invest in it and make it the best it can be, agents and publishers are not interested in taking you on. They also pointed out that as more and more people begin to self-publish, the standards are on the rise. As I listened to these professionals harp on these items, I began to feel overwhelmed. There are so many details to pay attention to, so many different ways to market, so many people out there willing to take your money who have little or no expertise. Well, the conference also had a plethora of services represented to help the self-pub author make their book a success. Companies like Reedsy, and my personal favorite, Wise Ink, offer the services a self-publisher needs to find success in the marketplace.
Finally, I saved this for last because up until this conference I thought this practice suspect. As an author, pay to have your book reviewed by a reputable company. Chaunticleer Book Reviews and Writing Contests was well-presented at the PubSense Summit and everyone from publisher to agent spoke about the importance of these kinds of reviews. The fees are nominal, typically around $50 per book, and the reviews do not sugar coat anything. I had been suspect because I mistakenly believed all of the reviews would be positive. NOT SO! Reputable companies do not give something five stars if it does not deserve it. As a courtesy, these companies give the author a two week preview of the review and the author can choose to use it or not. These reviews have become important because with millions of self-published books presented to the market each year, they separate the wheat from the chaff. Invest in a review, but before that, invest in a proper edit.
I cannot wait for next year’s conference. As the industry changes, this conference brings in the big hitters and breaks down the industry so even newbies like me can understand the shifting tide. The best news from the conference was that within the industry, self-pubbing no longer has a stigma, as long as the product is good.
Write on my fellow writers and I hope to see many of you at next year’s Pubsense Summit.
To read more of our letters, please click on The Path!