On Saturday, April 26th, I went to the annual Northern California Publisher's and Author's Conference in Sacramento, California at the Red Lion Inn. Excellent Conference! I learned more in that one day than I have at any other workshop or conference I've attended this far. With speakers like Dan Poynter, Stephanie Chandler, Micheal Larson and Elizabeth Pomoda, and Bud Gardner,how could I not?
The key note speaker was Dan Poynter, the man who wrote The Self Publisher's Manuel, which is the book that got Medusa's Muse started (as well as thousands of other presses). Not only is he THE expert on small presses, he is a lively and entertaining speaker. He talked about the future of publishing and how our society's love of portable devices and our hunger for information is creating a surge in e-book and audio book demand. If we want our books to survive in this market, we MUST make portable versions. With that in mind, I'll re tackle the audio book project and research the best way to develop an e-book version for sale on the Medusa's Muse Website. His talk also helped me realize just how competitive a small press can be. We are able to be far more responsive to the needs of the book market, which is something large presses are unable to manage. If we see a niche or need in the market, we can swoop in and fill that void within weeks, rather than the year plus it takes the large houses to develop a project. As Dan says, "It's the first book that counts." We small presses can create that first book before a large press can even get the cover designed.
The first workshop I attended was taught by Stephanie Chandler, called "Marketing Your Books Online." Very good, basic information and ideas about how to create sites and fill it with content that will get you noticed online. She also talked about effective blogging (which made me wonder if this blog is providing the kinds of information my readers need) and building your social network (you mean all that time I spend on MySpace and Tribe isn't a waste?). I bought her book, "From Entrepreneur to Infopreneur" to help me support my authors as they try to market their own books and set up speaking engagements. She's written several other books about running a small business and marketing which I intend to buy as well.
After that came lunch (which was actually quite good. Even this Gluten-Free person found enough to eat) and a presentation by Micheal Larsen and Elizabeth Pomoda, two respected and well known agents in the book industry. I was impressed that they took the time out to speak to us and learnign that agents are now looking at small press and self published books as a "testing ground" for potential new talent was heartening. It looks like the stigma against self-publishers is starting to change. They also provided excellent hand-outs packed with information on developing a manuscript, pitching a story, contacting agents, as well as one that helped us define our writing goals. How much money do you want to earn as a writer? Hmmm... I haven't thought about that. I mean, I'm happy with a hundred bucks, which I'm still hoping to make someday. But really, how much do you WANT to earn? That's an important question that will help you determine your writing focus.
After lunch I attended the workshop called "Behind the Shelves: What it takes to sell high volume through major retailers," led by Clint Greenleaf of Greenleaf Book Group, an Austin Tx. based book distributor. That one was eye opening! Did you know that to get "face-out" placement in the front of a large chain book store will cost you thousands of dollars? Not only do you have to work to get your book in there, you then have to pay to have it displayed in an area where a reader will actually find it. He also talked about returns. You should expect more than half of the books sold to be returned, and many of those returned books will not be in good condition. Also, a retailer can return the book TWO YEARS after purchase. It's crazy! I have definitely devoted my creative life to a bizarre, counter-intuitive industry.
The last workshop I attended was led by Karl Palachuk, called "Recorded Products and Other Non-Printed Spinoff Products." The best thing about this workshop was the information about specific programs, software, hardware, and technologies available to create audio and e-books. Karl is a tech guy by trade, whose written several books, including "Relax, Focus, Succeed," a book about focusing your energy to achieve your goals, rather than working so hard without a direction.
At the close of the event, a panel of the speakers talked about the future of the small press. There was a lot of talk about technology and how that is fostering the growth of the industry, while also creating monumental changes. Who really knows what the next five years will bring? The entire book industry is changing, and it is the small press which is better able to navigate that change.
I met some wonderful people, including Michele Avanti, NCPA board member and author of "Tales of Tamoor." She sat by me at lunch and we immediately started chatting. I was struck by how open and friendly everyone was. Dan Poynter said it best when he stated, "We (we the publishers) are not competitors, we're colleagues." Attending the NCPA conference showed me how true that is.