I’m just home from #BEA12 (Book Expo America 2012) in New York City and I’d like to share with you a few insights and observations (beside the fact that their WiFi sucked):
1. WHY INDIES MATTER was the first panel discussion I attended, hosted by author and veteran TV reporter Lynn Sherr with guest Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls. Silly me, thinking this would have anything at all to do with indie writers.
Russo immediately launched into why Amazon is evil, should be shut down by the Justice Department for monopolistic practices, and why nobody should make or buy eBooks….ever.
‘How will new writers ever be discovered if not for independent bookstores?’
Um, what again?
I like the dude’s writing skills. He’s a talented, skilled writer. His point is that indie booksellers (one of which includes his daughter), are losing their ability to make a buck solely because of Amazon, eBooks, and Kindle. It’s all Amazon’s fault. He admits to being a dinosaur when it comes to social media and asked Lynn to Facebook his new book, made for print (and sold on Amazon, I might add).
Whatever. I became so frustrated with the Amazon bashing, I left the talk wondering if he still buys vinyl.
2. BOOK PROMOTION by Lori Culwell. Terrific talk, this woman knows what she’s talking about. Several YA bestsellers, an SEO and marketing expert, Lori was full of great practical info. I asked lots of questions in the SRO room and I can honestly say, I got the most out of her talk than any other. Her site is great and offers many insights for authors regarding social media, keywords, and other marketing tips. Do check it/her out. She rocks.
Next year, BEA, give this woman a bigger room, dammit.
3. FUTURE OF PUBLISHING I attended on the last day (it was the last panel), with a panel consisting of four young publishing interns (three young women and one young man, all intelligent and well spoken…with the exception of ‘like’ and ‘ya know’ peppering every other word. Ah, youth.), completing their Master’s degrees in publishing. Most interesting to note: while they are all digital, and still occasionally read books in print, their primary source of information comes from social media word of mouth – meaning blogs, online reviews, and Twitter.
They all use Twitter as a source of discovery (the current publishing buzzword) as opposed to Facebook, which they use for family and friends. They are looking for authors who are authentic, who engage, who are not spamming links constantly. They will block those authors and not return. (They also all use an ad blocker on every site.)
With regard to self-publishing, they look at indie bestsellers as ‘the slush pile,’ which is interesting to me. I raised my hand. “So, I’m an Amazon #1 Bestseller with two books, one of which made the Top 100 Paid list. That makes me a slush pile candidate?” to which they, to a one, said yes.
Instead of embracing my inner snark, I took it for what it is. Meaning, they cruise the Top 100 lists. They look at rankings. You never know who’s watching.
They also mentioned the Rule of Three: if they see a title or author name in three places, it sticks. A review, a social media mention, an interview. What does that tell you? If you’re only on Facebook right now, you are missing out.
These people are our future. They are children of traditional publishing mixed with digital. And I’m okay with that.
It’s up to US to keep up with them.
4. AMAZON KDP had a great booth and I had a long discussion with one of their very friendly nerdy marketing dudes who was very helpful when it came to discussing KDP Select and not so helpful when it came to discussing the impact of downloads on rankings. The precious algorithm. Aw well, I tried.
Tip: He did suggest that the best use of KDP Select is to stagger your free books. So, for example, I would run MANCODE: EXPOSED free by itself, and then a few weeks to a month later, run A WALK IN THE SNARK. Why? The whole point of Select is to gain exposure for your books. If people enjoy one book, chances are they’ll purchase your backlist.
What if you don’t have a backlist? Create a virtual backlist with another writer or writers in your genre. On IndieBookPromo.com we offer a free spreadsheet where you can see which authors will be taking their books free so you can hook up and promote each other.
5. EXHIBITION HALL As I walked through the hundreds of booths, I was still a little shell-shocked at the number of people struggling to balance all the books they were picking up. One gal had an entire suitcase filled with books. Many had sore backs from carrying bags full of books. It was a good week for FedEx (who also had a booth).
Wait a darn minute. Isn’t this the freakin’ digital age? Why can’t I scan those free books into my Kindle or iPhone or iPad? Is BEA that behind the times? Er, don’t answer that.
- AUTOGRAPHY: Tom Waters, cofounder of Autography, is the coolest dude ever. We had a wonderful chat about his product and how authors can now eSign their digital books using their app. They can also take pictures with fans and sign that. So many terrific applications. Virtual signings via Skype or Spreecast. This is the future, my friends. Go, already.
6. BUZZWORDS at the conference were discovery and authenticity. By discovery, they mean, how will people find you? Never has your author platform been more important. You need to have a branded presence across all channels. How will you be discovered?
Social media, interviews, blogging, visual display networks (YouTube for example), panel discussions, guest blogging, even comments on someone else’s blog, Twitter chats…the list goes on.
(Several people came up to me and said, “You’re BadRedhead!” – sure, this color is hard to miss. So is the snark. But what you see is what you get.)
Which leads me to authenticity. I won’t beat the anti-spam, anti-link dead horse again, but those who read me know: those who use social media as a toxic spam wasteland for their broadcast-only medium to hawk only their own books are being inauthentic and it shows.
Share authentic content. I suggest keywords as a way to brand yourself simply as a way to give focus to your content. For example, on my author platform RachelintheOC (across all channels—site, blog, books, Twitter, etc.), I’m a humor, nonfiction author who writes about men, women, relationships, love, loss, sex, snark, and okay, chocolate. So my keywords are:
People are afraid of branding but as you see above, this is exactly who I am, this is what I write about, and you know what to expect when you come hang out with RachelintheOC (@BadRedheadMedia is branded differently since it’s my business stream; though some tell me the snark still comes through. Imagine that.).
Okay, I had six lessons. Oh well. You learned more.
There’s lots more to tell but these are my initial highlights. A shout out and I encourage you to follow @SwiftInkEditor (my fabulousamazingwonderful editor), @MelissaHuie (talented author and sweet soul), @LorcaDamon (lunatic, published author, and reporter), and @LK_Editorial (copywriter, creator of media kits, and hot chick), all of whom I hung with and couldn’t be more grateful to know IRL. You want these awesome chicks in your corner.
Especially when getting a tattoo in the East Village. But that’s another story…