Frank Sinatra famously advised us to "start spreading the news" in his song about the Big Apple. I'm here to do just that by keying you in on happenings from last week's Book Expo America (BEA) in New York City.
BEA is North America's largest book industry event. It gathers publishing professionals, retailers, and authors from all corners of the industry in one place for three days to talk the business of books. CreateSpace has exhibited at BEA for several years running, but the 2012 show was buzzing with more excitement and change than ever.
CreateSpace managing director Libby Johnson McKee gives one of several in-booth presentations during the show.
Here are a few topics that set tongues wagging:
Indie Publishing is Top of the List. Did you catch Bowker's annual report on the publishing industry? The report states print book output grew 6% last year, "driven almost exclusively by a strong self-publishing market." At the pre-BEA uPublishU indie event, Bowker's Kelly Gallagher also reported a 263% increase in self-publishing over the past 5 years and said more than 211,000 indie titles were published in 2011.
Authors Succeed Independently. Authors are increasingly taking control of their publishing destinies. Theresa Ragan has sold more than 300,000 books on her own. Previously published authors are also strapping on vagabond shoes and straying from traditional routes. One such author, James Altucher, recently wrote a thought-provoking article about "choosing yourself." The authors we talked to at BEA echoed these sentiments; many were savvy entrepreneurs aware of the publishing opportunities available to them, and they came prepared with goals to build their brands.
Books Are Alive and Well. According to Publishers Weekly, BEA attendance was up 5% in 2012, and experts in sessions I attended reported industry growth. People are definitely still reading! In fact, the convenience and affordability of eBooks are resulting in people reading more. Also, print media is still the go-to format to reach the largest and most diverse set of readers. In one session, young publishing professionals expressed ambivalence about the eBook vs. print book debate; they just want the ability to choose whatever format they want when they read.
So, if New York is the city that never sleeps, it makes sense that everyone - indie and traditional publishers, retailers, service providers, etc. - is working tirelessly to succeed in the industry. But who will end up king of the hill in this ever-changing landscape? My money's on the authors!
Our team at the CreateSpace & Kindle Direct Publishing booth. We love authors!
Thanks for reading! Watch for my next post with a few takeaways from the industry and educational sessions!
Amanda is the editor of CreateSpace's educational resources and social media channels.
The last day of BEA is always a little bittersweet. The energy at the show is charged about the week's excitement and success, but many conversations are sprinkled with goodbyes and laments about the show's end. My feeling about our final BEA Recap mirrors those bittersweet sentiments! To round out our week, I attended a final session about how authors can develop business models to achieve greater success. Below are the key takeaways from our final session on the last day of BEA.
Tapping Technology to Build a Digital Enterprise
Jonathan Fields, a well-known book marketing expert, shared his tips about how authors should build business models for themselves and their books. The below takeaways include suggested tools to develop your brand and pointers to extend your marketing beyond the book.
Some authors only want to do what they love: write. They have faith in the market and want to rely on others to sell their work. Others believe in the effectiveness of building an enterprise in which they create a business and their own marketing engine. These authors take control and own their success.
Fun quote from hip-hop artist Jay-Z: "I'm not a businessman; I'm a business, man."
Enterprising authors typically use one of two business models: focus on book sales or multiple streams. With the book sales focus, you write a really good book and intend make money only off the sales of your book. You're willing to build a community to accomplish this goal. If your model focuses on multiple streams, you plan to simultaneously use several areas to build your brand (blogs, websites, speaking, consulting, etc.). Writing is not your only channel of income and the book is just one piece of the puzzle.
To build out your business model, start with doing things to gain attention in the marketplace and engage your audience through active communication.
"For an enterprising author, a blog is essential. It will make you more powerful, as it's where you establish leadership, trust, and credibility. You build the content around your subject matter, which positions you as an expert."
It's also important to have a Twitter page. It can be difficult to establish thought-leadership in 140 characters, so focus on conversation, sharing content with others, and building relationships.
Create a Facebook fan page, where you can have threaded conversations. The fan page doesn't have a cap on the number of "likes" you can get, it's public, and it's easily searchable. The more people engage, the more your content is shared out into others' communities.
Find a content-relevant hub. For business-related topics, this will normally be a LinkedIn page. Get engaged in a group about the content of your book. If you write fiction, there are online communities out there for just about every genre.
To capture the attention of your audience, try these things: host webinars full of useful information people will want to share with others (just be sure it's not a sales pitch). Also, people will provide email addresses to register, which will allow you to reach them later. Consider bringing other products to market or writing a manifesto. Manifestos must be provocative, identify a deep problem, and offer intelligent solutions and ideas. If it is provocative enough, it can drive attention to you and your book.
Ask yourself, are you selling the book or is the book an entry point for a much bigger X? What experience can you create beyond the book? Position the book as one element of an irresistible offer. If you buy a book for $10 and get access to something that has value far beyond that, customers will be more compelled to buy. Build buzz around the bigger thing, and let the book ride along. "In the world of social media, talking about the big ideas that are part of your book tends to work better than just pushing the book. You're not selling the book, but engaging people in an idea. When they get excited about the idea, the purchase will follow naturally."
This brings us to the end of our educational adventure at BEA. To all the authors and publishing professionals we met this week, we enjoyed spending time with you; thanks for making this a great show! I hope some of the information in these recaps has armed you with tools you can apply to achieve greater publishing and marketing success. Thanks for going with me on this journey. It's been a pleasure, and I hope you've learned as much as I have! I wish you great success with all of your publishing endeavors.
Welcome to the first of several blog posts all about Book Expo America. We're attending some of the most interesting sessions on behalf of you, our authors, and passing along some of their most valuable insights. I hope you'll join me on this journey and sound off in the comments about what you agree with, what you don't, and your overall experience navigating indie publishing.
Our week in New York kicked off today with the DIY Authors Conference and Marketplace. BEA officially embraced DIY in 2010 by instituting a special event dedicated to indie publishing, and most of the industry leaders we met showed a wonderful enthusiasm for our industry. The echoing sentiment at each and every seminar we attended? Independent publishing is more than a smart way for authors to get their books to market, it's the future. Below are some key takeaways from each session (lots to cover today, so fair warning: this will be a long one!).
Why the DIY Revolution Has Made It the Best Time Ever to Be an Author
Alan Rinzler, whose resume include such credits as executive editor at Simon & Schuster and John Wiley & Sons, started the day with the keynote address. An early advocate and champion of independent publishing, Alan proclaimed that DIY is "the cutting edge of a brave new world of literary art and commerce." Some highlights:
There has been a shift in the balance of power that makes now the best time ever to be a writer; the power has shifted to the author.
People are most definitely still reading! Their choices for how to read have changed, but the reasons they read have remained the same. "Digital publishing and the spontaneous democratic ground-up practice of social networking has revolutionized the book industry."
What sells books now is buzz. Buzz is when people are talking about and recommending your book to others. Readers don't care who published a book, they just want it to be good and come recommended from their network and community.
Publishers these days don't create buzz, because readers want to hear from the author directly. For the first time, authors can reach their market without an intermediary. Book bloggers, websites, Facebook, YouTube and other social networking channels all sell books, no matter what the genre. Traditional publishers are now expecting the author to do this kind of self-marketing..."If publishers rely on marketers to sell their own work, then who needs publishers?"
"Self-publishing has become the most powerful and effective device for test marketing your book. If you can sell a book on your own, it proves you know your market, that there is a market and that you know how to reach it. More publishers are actively acquiring self-published books."
To succeed, authors need to write and rewrite their books many times with the support of a developmental editor (not just proofreading) and need to devote much time to marketing, being authentic and passionate.
Advance Your Career with DIY Publishing: Tips for Success from Authors Who Have Gone Before You
In this session, featured authors B.V. Larson and Ray Sabini talked about their experiences with independent publishing via Kindle and CreateSpace. Some highlights:
Ray, an author of humor books for young readers, talked about the importance of establishing a fanbase via Facebook and Twitter. He also advised authors to reach out to bloggers to ask for reviews, as they're always looking for good content.
One novel idea Ray discussed was author video conference visits. He often conferences in to a classroom via Skype, which allows him to connect directly with readers everywhere without being there physically.
B.V. Larson, a very successful Kindle author, stressed the importance of having good content first and foremost. Then, he feels the next 5 things to get absolutely right to be successful are your book's price, cover, title, description, and categories. One marketing method that has worked for him? Each time he released a new book, he'd post chapters online to entice readers to read more.
Building Community Before Your Book is Published
Dan Blank, founder of We Grow Media, works with publishers and writers to help them build their communities online. Some highlights:
"It's not enough to just write a great book, but you should have the right topic, the right time, the right support network and the right marketing savvy. Don't place a bet on just ONE of these things."
Start a blog as soon as possible. Many well-known authors were blogging and engaging with people years before their books came out and they "hit it big."
For social media, it's not about the quantity of connections, but the quality. Bring in the right people and build a relationship with them instead of focusing on your number of followers.
Benefits of building a community pre-publication: Get ready for a successful launch, extend relationship with audience, understand your audience/market, and have levels your can pull (blog, social media, newsletter)
Set long-term career goals beyond just selling your book. Develop milestones to gauge the size of your audience and how well you are engaging them.
Authors and Twitter/Facebook: A Roadmap to Success
Kathleen Schmidt is a public relations and social media consultant whose background includes stints in the publicity departments of Penguin and Atria Books. She hosted a session on using Twitter followed by a seminar on Facebook. First, key takeaways for mastering those 140 characters:
Before you begin, observe the Twitter feeds of other authors. Ask yourself: Why are you using Twitter? What do you hope to accomplish? Making connections is the primary reason to use Twitter. Just keep in mind that Twitter is a public space, so you should be mindful of your "online legacy."
For your Twitter profile, use your own photo as your avatar and get creative with your background. Include the URL to your website, and make your bio witty, avoiding words like guru, expert, etc. since everybody is using those these days. Don't protect your tweets, which makes them private, as this defeats the purpose of making Twitter connections. Also, you don't have to disclose your exact geographical location if you'd prefer not to. Saying something like "NYC Area" is just fine.
For the actual tweets, your tone should be polite, useful, and unique, but most importantly, your voice should come across in every tweet. Take the extra time to check spelling and grammar, then make sure your links work. Always credit another tweeter if you use a link they posted. With this simple step, people will do the same with you. Twitter is a real community, so be a part of the conversation.
Follow people who have similar interests. Both Mashable and Mediabistro have great Twitter lists for authors, agents, and publicists. When choosing who to follow, take a look at their past tweets to see what they're like.
Here are some highlights from Kathleen's talk on Facebook:
Your Facebook fan page should be an extension of your online identity as an author. It's better to create an author page for yourself rather than for each individual title. You can always edit your page to include more titles but build your audience in one place.
Some logistics: Administrators for fan pages must have a personal Facebook account. Use the link http://www.facebook.com/pages/create/php to start, and choose a category for your page ("Author" is located in the "Artist, Band or Public Figure" category). Add your bio, favorite books and website URL, and be sure to add book titles and include a profile picture of yourself.
For photos, make a photo album of your book jackets. Post photos of book events or things relevant to your book. Think about the sequence of photos that will appear on your page, and if you use other people's photos, be sure to credit them.
You can build customized areas of your page ("tabs") that are linked to the left on your fan page. Generally, you must use a 3rd party application to create and publish content for tabs. Consider adding a "Books" tab to feature your book covers and links to buy copies, and an "Events" tab to list tour information.
Tell people about your fan page via other social networks, and cherry pick "likes" to add to your page (only select relevant pages). Posts should be interesting and invite engagement - the more you post, the more you will hear from people. Don't constantly self-promote, and look at other author fan pages to get an idea of what you'd like to do.
Landing Book Reviews for DIY Authors: How to Look For Love in All the Right Places
Patti Thorn, managing partner of BlueInk Reviews used her background as a journalist and book editor to provide advice for obtaining book reviews. Some highlights:
Try to reach niche audiences. Consider newsletters, alumni magazines, community newspapers, trade publications, and blogs that reach your audience. Use the blogroll on your favorite blogs to compile list of bloggers to contact for possible reviews.
When contacting an editor, keep in mind they're really busy and require special handling. Don't chit chat, and don't send long emails. Journalists get a lot of emails, and delete quickly if their attention is not held, so keep the most important stuff at the top of the message and have an interesting subject line. Know about the editor and the publication. Figure out why that particular editor would be interested in your book, and go with that. Be persistent, but never demanding or annoying. Try flattery; let them know that you enjoyed a column or review they wrote, but be genuine. Also, if you offer a review copy, go ahead and send the book so the reviewer has it on hand.
Where do you use the reviews? Book cover (both front and back), press releases, advertisements, your website, postcards, bookmarks and announcements.
Well, that wraps up a busy and inspiring Day 1 at BEA. Our team greatly enjoyed meeting all the talented authors who stopped by our table today; thank you! Don't forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for tidbits from BEA, and come back tomorrow for our take on the IBPA Annual Publishing University.