Authors: are you ready to join the creator economy? Writing and self-publishing tips from #SelfPubCon2022
In the very early hours of this morning, I drank in a four-hour fountain of wisdom, ideas and inspiration live from the London Book Fair thanks to the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and their 10th Anniversary Celebration Self Pub Mini Con 2022. Taking in the conference made me proud to be the Australian Ambassador for ALLi.
ALLi was founded by Orna Ross and her husband and co-director Philip Lynch at the London Book Fair 10 years ago. It and its author members have pioneered information sharing and a sense of community for writers the world over and have been key to navigating my own writing and publishing enterprise.
I’ve summarised some of my favourite highlights from the conference below, but if you get in super quick (by AEST 7am Easter Monday 18th April 2022 or 10pm Sunday 17th April UK time) you can register and watch the sessions free.
Or, if you want to watch and replay at your leisure (and get access to previous #SelfPubCons) you can join ALLi and get free access for six months.
Anyway, here are some of the ideas and quotes that hit home for me, kicking off with the fabulous Joanna Penn’s discussion about the ‘creator economy’ where she urged us to expand our view of ourselves as writers, authors and self-publishers, and to take ownership of our place in the creator economy.
NB: Please excuse my paraphrasing, but the conference was on 3am-7pm Sydney time so I might have been a wee bit slow and didn’t have transcription ready to go!
On the business of being a creator
‘The creator economy is a build your own adventure. You can traditionally publish and self-publish. It’s a more empowered mindset: I am a creator, my work is of value…how do I get it out into the world?’ Joanna Penn, author (& so much more if you ask me! Inspirational teacher…futurist…marketer…)
‘Don’t worry about how to do it, there are lots of people who can help. It’s a very supportive community. It’s more of a mindset shift, about becoming a director of your creative business.’ Joanna Penn
‘There was a time when it was the publisher who was in business, and writers were just at home making words…but now you’re not just writing a book, you’re creating the IP and as an indie author you own the rights to it.’ Orna Ross
On breaking into writing
‘Every writer gets in a rut, but there is always something new that people want to read. Do a new take. What is out there that you love? No one owns the market; anyone can break into it. Be yourself and find what it is.’ Michael Anderlé
‘I focussed more on the reader than on me, and that’s when things took off. I thought about 1) What I enjoyed reading. 2) What readers enjoy and what they will buy. 3) What I’m good at. My strength is writing suspense & short chapters that hook. Crime was a genre that hit all those spots.’ Rachel McClean
‘Professionalism runs through everything I do. I use editors and proofreaders. The manuscript needs to be as clean as possible. Nothing is going to work if the book isn’t top quality.’ Mark Dawson
On author websites
‘Authors need to have a transactional website.’ Orna Ross
On the power of self-publishing for writers
‘Authors are the brand. Readers don’t buy the publisher, they buy the writer: the author.’ Orna Ross
‘The future for those who are accomplished in our profession is wide open.’ Michael Anderlé
‘We have lost so much writing talent over the years, a whole community was ground down by rejection, rejection, rejection. There was a lack of author confidence but after 15 years of digital self-publishing we own the rights, we own the IP, we know what it means to be independent creators.’ Orna Ross
‘What’s great about being an indie author right now is the ability to put your books out anywhere and any time and have them being sold in hours. Ability to get cover designers, editors, artists from anywhere in the world.’ Michael Anderlé
On traditional publishing
‘Even if you are just starting out with your first book, you may make a friend out of your agent and publisher, but essentially, they want to make money from you. It’s a business arrangement.’ Orna Ross
‘People get very emotional about getting (traditionally) published: their life as writer seems validated. In the creator economy though, you get your validation from readers and from building your business.’ Orna Ross
‘I fully expect nearly all print books within a decade to be print on demand, it’s just the way the tech is going. There won’t be a need to warehouse books.’ Kris Austin. Draft2Digital CEO
On the writing life
‘Making things and putting them out in the world can be scary. But we can get over the creative anxiety, harness it and there is no better feeling in the world to grow as an author and build your business step by step.’ Orna Ross
On the writing community
‘Writing used to be the loneliest job in the world, now it’s the most social.’ Orna Ross referring to online and supportive writer communities
On learning the business of writing and publishing
‘Making mistakes is good. I had no money to spend and no experience of self-publishing. It was overwhelming. But you don’t have to learn everything at the same time. I had no money for marketing so had to get creative. The more you do, the more you pick up as you go along.’ JD Kirk
On book marketing and author platforms
‘I’m not a natural marketer, but the key for me was when I realised that marketing is just another communication with the reader. You take the passion and fire that saw you write the book…and that very same passion can drive your marketing. Marketing is really just another form of content creation.’ Orna Ross
‘Find the social media that you’re good at and focus on one.’ Michael Anderlé
‘An author platform is really just how you are going to and do talk to your customers and fans.’ Michael Anderlé
‘The best time to sell your print book is when your ebook is popular and vice versa. There’s a reason for having multiple formats on release, audio books too. Release all three formats at the same time to capitalise.’ Draft2Digital CEO Kris Austin
‘Join groups to widen your reach. Word of mouth helps get the ball rolling. I did a book launch in a local pub. Start at the bottom. It’s about persistence over resistance. I just didn’t stop talking about my books.’ Nicola May, bestselling author of romantic comedy
‘My biggest tip to authors is to get a mailing list.’ Mark Dawson
On writing crime fiction
‘What differentiates successful crime books are the characters and the location.’ Rachel McClean
‘American readers are more likely to read Scottish crime than British crime. I found that out by researching the charts. I watched the crime charts like a hawk. I knew what was in the top 10, which authors were consistently selling, what books were coming out. In particular, I looked at indie authors who were doing well and who were having solid, consistent sales over months and months. Just like any other industry you need to do market research. I’m obsessed with the crime charts.’ Rachel McClean
And the final word
‘Everyone said that I couldn’t make money with words. They were wrong.’ Mark Dawson
FYI: If you’re working on the marketing plan for your book, there’s a particularly useful presentation worth watching by Joshua Schwartz, CEO of PubVendo about how to use free and low-cost tools to identify and target ideal readers and convert cold audiences into readers and followers.
So…that’s a wrap from ALLi’s #SelfPubMiniCon2022. A massive thanks to Orna Ross, the ALLi team including Kayleigh Brindley, Luutsche Ozinga and all the behind-the-scenes folks. And of course, the generous and thoughtful presenters who shared their knowledge of the creator economy.
*Note: I wholeheartedly believe in the value ALLi brings to self-publishing authors so am in their member affiliate program which you can read more about in my affiliate disclosure.