I was at the London Book Fair this week and I have to tell you that it was a life changing experience. I was there last year and it give me an insight into how the industry works. However, if I could describe my experience this year in one word, it would be INSPIRED. A major part of this was due to the Self-publishing superstars who attended and not only gave their time by answering questions at various seminars and workshops but were also available at their stand to give away and sign free books, take pictures and answer more questions. There was a camaraderie amongst these authors, who all make quite juicy sums from their self-publishing business that I think we all need to emulate.
These Indie self-publishers included Stephanie Bond, Bella Andre, Lilliana Hart, Jacinda Wilder, Barbara Freethy and Hugh Howey. I actually had a photo opp with Hugh with our arms across each other like best buddies and then gues what? My phone‘s battery died. Anyways, Hugh was so gracious to sign my journal and I’m hopeful I’ll get that picture with him at some point in the future.
I attended most of the seminars and workshops with C.K. Omillin who is a fellow author from Belgium in my Facebook Group and it was a delight to share the experience with a friend. Ok, I hope you have your favourite beverage in hand and are all cozied up as I’m about to share the best bits from the London Book Fair 2014.
Book Discovery for Authors
On the panel for this seminar was Mark Coker who is the founder of Smashwords, Joanna Penn who is a UK author and international speaker and Andrew Rhomberg, the founder of Jellybooks.
Mark said something quite profound in that every book we write ought to take the reader to an emotionally satisfying extreme.
We were encouraged to connect with fellow authors as you never know which of your author friends could become a global mega star tomorrow. Joanna said something she does in all her books is to ask for people to join her mailing list at the end. If what you’ve written is good, the reader will be more willing to give you their name and email. Doing your keyword research is strongly related to book discovery. Joanna gave the example of how when she changed the title of a book on finding a new job to ‘Career Change,’ it started flying off the shelves.
Also have your social profile links at the end of your book so readers can connect with you. Andrew warned against always pitching your book on Twitter as it made you sound like a used car salesman. I have to admit that I see this a lot on Twitter and it is indeed a turn off.
Mark brought our attention to the pre-order feature which I see some authors using on Amazon. The beauty about the pre-order feature is that all the sales you make prior to the day your book is published are credited on that first day it’s published and that’s how and why some folks get into the New York times best seller list.
Everything you do is marketing. Marketing is sharing what you love with people who are interested. What this means is that people who follow you on Facebook or Twitter like you and are interested in what you’re up to, so sharing a bit about your life draws them closer into your brand and makes them more open to buy your stuff.
One thing I heard over and over again at the various seminars I attended by different authors and speakers is that we need to have one of our books FREE. This perma-free book serves to remove the barrier of entry, and allow people to try out your writing and then if they like it, they are more likely to buy your other paid books. I have to admit that I tried this half-heartedly and priced the first book in my Billy and Monster series at 99c and did get a few sales on different platforms. I was a bit discouraged by the amount of sales and took it off the other platforms and put it back on the Amazon KDP select program. Once my 3-month Select period is over, I’m taking it off and having it PERMANENTLY FREE on Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Amazon and any other distribution platform out there. I think this whole free business was one of the big takeaways from LBF for me.
I believe it was Joanna who advised us to join the alliance of Indie authors where you can discover what’s new and exchange ideas with fellow authors. We need to grow our email lists to facilitate book discoverability. Once you earn their trust, you can then ask for their email. Mark said there are 2 things you get from a sale and that is royalties and a reader. However, a reader has the potential to become a fan and a fan has the potential to become a super fan.
Some interesting news which was shared and I verified at the Amazon Kindle stand is that UK resident authors can now convert their books to audio using acx.com. This an Amazon service that allows you to convert your books into audio. I called this company sometime last year and they said that there were plans to cater to the UK market but it wasn’t ready. Well, it’s now ready and I’ll be converting some of my non-fiction titles using this service. The whole idea to have your book on different platforms and formats is to aid your book being discovered.
In the afternoon on Tuesday I attended a seminar titled ‘The Power of Series Fiction‘ This seminar was chaired by John Dougherty who is a children’s book writer and the panellists were Annie Finnis (Deputy Fiction Director at Usborne) and Chris Snowden (the managing director at working partners). This seminar was catered more to children’s book authors but I believe authors from other genres can apply some of the wisdom shared.
A standalone story is a contained story with an obvious end while a series fiction is seen from the outset as continuous. You create a world you hope your readers will want to belong to. Your readers want to be part of that world. You need to publish books in your series in quick successions. It is good to have a self-contained story within a series. Your books (in the series) have to be fun and enjoyable. Read other books that are in a series in your local bookshop or library to see what’s working.
Who are your readers? If your core reader is 10, then make your protagonist 12. Publishers sometimes move in herds and want to replicate the last series that was successful. Sometimes (I’m really tempted to say most times), the next big hit does not come from copying yesterday’s hit but something that’s new or an innovation of the old. It’s good to bear in mind that publishers go for a series for a younger age group as it encourages them to read.
Q&A with authors who have sold more than 15 million books!
I think the beauty of coming to the London Book Fair or any industry gathering for that matter is that you get to see live and in the flesh some of your heroes who you may have heard about, read about or seen on the television.
The Q&A session on Tuesday afternoon in the Authors HQ was with Bella Andre (who has sold more than 3 million books), Lilliana Hart (who has hit the New York bestselling charts on multiple occasions), Jacinda Wilder (who makes like 6 figures every month) and Candice Hern (who has sold close to a million books).
What linked these authors together was the fact that they are Indie publishers. It was refreshing and inspiring to listen to their stories and how they’ve all gotten to where they are. Bella said how her best advance while she was with a traditional publisher was $33,000. Today she makes 7 figures a year. Jacinda (who writes with her husband and has 5 children) talked about how their big breakthrough came when they published book number 28! Lilianna talked about how she started from ground zero and is today one of the most celebrated Indie authors on the planet. Candice talked about how she has stayed in her lane writing historical romance and today dominates that category on Amazon.
Someone asked about a breakdown of their income across the different retail channels and I would say the average breakdown from the four ladies was about 35-40% on Amazon and then Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Smashwords and then other platforms. It was really encouraging to know that authors who are not exclusively on the Amazon KDP program are still making a mint. I have to say here that you really have to find what works for you. I met Stephanie Bond who is also another superstar Indie author with 6 million books in circulation and she said how she’s kept most of her books on the Amazon KDP program as her monthly figures reveal the income she gets from borrows is equal to and sometimes exceeds paid purchases.
Yet again in this Q&A session, we were encouraged to give our books away for FREE. Consider what happens at a supermarket. You’re sometimes given a free sample to taste and invariably it leads the taster, if they like the stuff to become a buyer. Make the first book in your series free. Every time you publish a new book, you sell more books.
Bella stressed on how your cover art was a major part of your marketing and great attention and care and investment should be put into making this right. Know the keywords in your genre as that is what people use to find books. Include these keywords in your blurb and author profile.
Another major point that was mooted in the Q&A was to translate our books into foreign languages. Many foreign markets are starving for books in your genre, so you could very well be taking over those markets if you have your books translated.
The most important thing to remember is the Book. Everything is secondary to writing. By the way, guess who was running the mic for this session?… Hugh Howey! He ended the session by advising us to commit to writing 1-2 hours every day. Don’t miss a day.
After the Q&A session, I went to the Indie author booth and had a very good chat with Stephanie Bond. She writes Mystery thrillers and Romance. She shared with me how she gets the inspiration for her books, things you can do for research like speaking to the PR person at the local police station, watching certain TV programs for ideas on what to do and what not to do. I’ve always admired mystery writers but felt an absence of a law/criminal enforcement background would be a hindrance to writing a mystery. Stephanie assured me that that shouldn’t be a hindrance and that it all starts with the story. If you ever see a mystery thriller book with my name penned as the author, you know who sowed the seeds.
So that was it for Day One. I was truly inspired and couldn’t wait for Day 2. I’d be interested to know your thoughts or questions on my first day at the London Book Fair.
Click to read Day 2 ====> My London Book Fair 2014 Experience Day 2