Writing And Publishing Conference RoundUp With Dan Blank

There are a lot of conferences for writers and publishers at the beginning of the year that many of us can’t get to for different reasons. Dan Blank has been to Writer’s Digest, Digital BookWorld and Columbia University Social Media weekend during January 2012. In this interview, he shares some of the information, trends and opinions from the publishing industry.

Dan Blank is the founder of WeGrowMedia.com, which provides writers and publishers the strategy and tactics they need to impact their communities and build their legacies. He has worked with more than 500 writers, a wide range of publishers, and regularly speaks at conferences about branding, content strategy, social media, and marketing.

Here’s the audio if you prefer: DanBlankConferences.mp3

In the video, we discuss:

  • Writer’s Digest Conference. Last year platform was just coming into the scene. It was still a controversial topic. This year, because of the rise of self-publishing and ebooks, 50% of the conference was marketing focused and also business focused. This is based on the disruption in the publishing world and the success of indies that is being discussed openly.
  • Barry Eisler was the keynote and as a hybrid author, he openly shared his views around the responsibility of writers to take charge of their own career. It shows the shift that is happening. Dan did a session on author-entrepreneur – the author as a business which is critical.
  • It is hard to sell books – this was even demonstrated by the fact that the line for Barry’s book signing wasn’t that long. Engaging people and selling books is still difficult, even if you have a platform.
  • I used PixelOfInk.com for paid advertising for the Prophecy launch. It was used by Darcie Chan for The Mill River Recluse which sold over 400,000 copies. This targets Kindle readers specifically. Obviously Amazon have an amazing eco-system but it is a closed eco-system, so it’s important to be aware of this and be sure to collect email addresses of your fans. You do need to develop your own platform so if the rules change, you’re not dependent on one channel. Authors, build your list – read this to get started!
  • Pitch Slam at Writer’s Digest. It’s always popular and it’s very intense. Dan spoke to writers about this and preparing your book for this is challenging but also rewarding. There’s a  huge value in putting yourself out there and you can get over the emotional stuff. It starts the iteration process to improve your pitch. So definitely try it if you go to these conferences.
  • Digital Book World. A huge publishing conference aimed at the publishing industry. Writers are allowed but the price is often prohibitive. It’s business focused on the trends in publishing. We mention Barnes & Noble not stocking Amazon books but this isn’t so much the core of the publishing industry. There’s a lot of smart, passionate people in publishing with lots of ideas. They get the change is there but it’s trying to get the publishing industry to move. It’s not an agile market and it’s hard to know how to move the huge ship.
  • There was a great panel on what’s working with romance and how it can apply to others. Romance imprints have been particularly forward thinking and have been into ebooks and direct sales for years before everyone else. Also a great panel on self-publishing with Bob Mayer and Bella Andre which showed an author can be a business.
  • Columbia University Social Media weekend. A big focus on return on investment. Marketing teams don’t have any more resources so they have to look at scaling and what works. Looking at process and methodology which is the only way we can effectively scale if we have multiple books to sell, which is what publishing is trying to do.
  • With all these conferences, it’s interesting to gauge where people are and where the opportunity is. For example, the ‘apps are dead’ argument means there is clearly an opportunity for other companies. It hasn’t been an immediate hit but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. It’s a time of experimentation. What are the trends saying about the opportunities between the trends?
  • The supposed “slowdown” in the ebook space. The market is stabilizing. In the self-publishing market, 2011 was a boom time but now it’s stabilizing. The big jump in sales can’t be linked to anything specific, but there are forces at work that are bigger than individual authors. There will be a lot more shifts this year. Any market that changes fast will have difficult times. Just focus on building your platform and your market and weather the storm. You also have to experiment with different tactics as we just don’t know.
  • Has the stigma of self-publishing gone away yet? Quality is an issue throughout all publishing at this point. It depends on the type of career you are creating. Do you want ugly, cheap and lots of books sold to make money? Or do you want books that last over time? Increasing quality across the board is important. Investing the time in the process is important to create a great book. Barry Eisler talked about the freedom and control for his own career with the hybrid model. It’s up to the writers about the stigma of self-publishing. Do people really want traditional deals? These different types of deals will the future.

You can find Dan at his very useful site, WeGrowMedia.com and on twitter @DanBlank

Did you go to any of these, or other, conferences? Do you have any lessons to share from them?

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