Report from the BEA DIY Authors Conference
Posted 23 May 2011 - 09:49 AM
The Saturday "DIY" seminars preceded the Book America Expo, a week-long event beginning Monday in Manhattan. I suspect our little seminar was called "DIY" because the phrase "self publish" can't be popular with the mainstream publishers who are the main BEA sponsors. So while the crews set up for the big show, we "DIYers" attended our seminar in the far lower corner of the Javits Convention Center on the banks of the Hudson River.
The morning began with a keynote address by veteran industry insider, Alan Rinzler, who spoke on "Why the DIY Revolution has Made it the Best Time Ever to be a Writer." He said that traditional book marketing no longer works. Book tours are expensive and ineffective. Books reviews in newspapers and magazines have largely disappeared. What does sell books these days is "buzz," which is to say word of mouth, which is largely spread by social networking. Increasingly, traditional publishers are requiring their authors to do their own marketing through websites, blogs and social networking. Authors are becoming the key players in selling their books, which is resulting in a shift in the balance of power between authors and publishers. Authors are now dealing directly with their readers, essentially cutting out the publishing intermediary. Self published authors are also receiving higher royalties rather than being happy to let the publishers take their 90% cut.
The flip side to this is that self published authors have to put out high quality professional work to succeed. He suggested that the claim that self-publishing is "easy" is a myth. It is as hard or harder as traditional publishing. Rinzler highly recommended hiring a developmental editor to help shape a writers manuscript. He mentioned Hemingway's editor, Max Perkins and half a dozen other notable writers who use editors, and so on. Rinzler also happens to be a free lance editor who handed out his cards at the end of his talk. Overall it was a fascinating talk.
One downside of the seminar is that there were often two or three simultaneous breakout sessions. While "Advance Your Career with DIY Publishing: Tips for Success from Authors Who Have Gone Before You" presented by Amazon and "Building Community Before Your Book is Published" presented by Dan Blank, were being held, I attended "Priced to Sell" with Tim Wright P&L Director with Lulu. Wright discussed the pricing and royalty structures at Amazon, B&N and Apple for ebooks and looked at how the pricing elasticity of demand impacted sales volumes and resulting revenues at various hypothetical elasticities. Based on proprietary data, he suggested, with lots of caveats, that mass market books had highly elastic demand so that lower prices can result in higher revenue. It was a fascinating presentation even if it lacked much hard data. It certainly suggested that pricing a book about vampires at $0.99 was not necessarily a bad idea. For more niche markets that may or may not be the case.
Husband and wife book doctors, Arielle Eckstut, and David Steery, spoke at lunchtime, presenting "How to Sell 5,000 or More Copies of Your Book in One Year – And Get Noticed by Publishers." Their talk was less focussed on self publishing per se. Their primary themes were knowing your audience, perfecting your craft and never giving up. "Don't quit five minutes before the miracle," was one of my favorite lines from their talk.
After lunch I attended "Independent Publishing at Amazon: The Nuts and Bolts." Five representatives for CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing, Author Central Author Pages gave a quick and rather impressive overview of the services Amazon provides to self publishing authors. They were young, enthusiastic and seemed sincerely interested in making life as easy and as profitable for self publishing authors as possible. Because I was in the Amazon session I missed the "Landing Book Reviews for DIY Published Titles: How to Look for Love in all the Right Places" and "Web-based Author Tools: What Works?"
Following the Amazon program, I attended "DIY Marketing for the DIY Author" with Julia Coblentz, Senior Marketing Manager for PubIt! by Barnes & Noble. After attending the Amazon program I left impressed by the wide range of programs and tools Amazon is providing to sell self published books. After listening to Ms. Coblentz, I was of the view that B&N's Publit was also functional and worth a look if I should self-publish.
The last presentation of the day that I attended was 'Facebook for DIY Authors" presented by Kathleen Matthews. It was well done and informative and reminded my why I really don't like Facebook. In retrospect I probably should have gone to "Emerging DIY Opportunities & Models: A Discussion with Richard Nash." Nevertheless I left the Facebook presentation with good and useful information.
While the various seminars were taking place, just outside was the 'DIY Marketplace," a row of tables featuring vendors offering services to self-publishers. The first three tables were various Amazon services - Create Space, Kindle Direct Publishing and Amazon Author Services. The Amazon tables where well staffed and constantly busy. When I asked about Create Space I was immediately given two things, a Create Space tote bag filled with lots of goodies including a sample black and white and a color print Create Space book. I was also given an honest answer to my question about ordering Create Space books from book stores, which was "It can be difficult." The Amazon rep then gave me a detailed summary of the problems they face and how they are trying to resolve them.
The rest of the vendors ranged from interesting to slightly off-putting. Book Baby was there and seemed reasonable and interesting. I found it revealing that they charge extra for Adobe InDesign files, suggesting to me that maybe InDesign isn't the end-all be-all program for book design that some claim it to be. Additionally there were a few editors, publicists, printers and book packagers. At least one of the latter impressed me by their pricing (not in a good way.) I found it interesting that Ingram/Lighting Source, while exhibiting at BEA, chose not to have a table at the DIY sessions. The same could be said for Lulu and B&N.
I left with better understanding of the self publishing process. I was neither dissuaded in my interest in self publishing nor struck down on the road to Damascus. Overall it was a worthwhile day.
Posted 23 May 2011 - 10:48 AM
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