I went into the Jacob Javits Center in New York City yesterday to attend the Power Readers day, the final day, of Book Expo America. I like to read, there’s no doubt about that, but I also like to write, as you know.
I hauled a rolling carry on suitcase, the smallest size, filled with copies and advance copies of my books, with the hope of finding a small publishing house who might be interested in taking me on. Not surprisingly there are not many who will take a look at your work unless you have a literary agent.
I also attended the BEA to see how self-published authors were faring, as BEA allowed them to rent tables, at a cost of $1,000, to advertise their wares to the public and hopefully get picked up by the big players, Simon and Schuster, Penguin and others, who were there in full force. By full force I mean they took up large amounts of space that required many, many “tables” and therefore thousands of dollars to register for this space.
I also attended because for the first time ever BEA allowed 2,000 non-trade people to buy a Power readers entrance ticket and they also featured Upublishu, which I did attend, and learned some very important things about self-publishing. What I walked away with was self-processed, filtered information, that another author might have interpreted differently.
So here’s what I learned.
1. If you want to sell massive volumes of your book, you must get reviews, and press releases. This can be very costly. One company that I spoke with, and I spoke with many, said that 1 review cost almost $400 and then your review is sent to 110 different publications, whether or not they choose to run it is their decision.
2. Entire industries have spawned out of the self-publishing industry. Reviews for a price, press-releases for a price, cover art for a price, interior formatting for a price, consulting for the best cover to catch attention for a price, …are you following the pattern here…..for a price?
3. The biggest thing I learned from attending BEA’s Upublishu conference is that you could spend thousands, and I mean thousands to get your book out there, and at the end of the day nothing may come of it. So if you are self publishing, the choice is yours. I write because I love to write, if it turns into something bigger, great. If not, I can live with that too.
Here’s an example of a self-published author at BEA on the main floor who has rented space to publicize his children’s books.
Steve Buckley, author of the adventures of Blackbear the Pirate books, set up his eye-catching display with his books, incredibly illustrated and with a 3D app to read the story to children, on the end of one of the many rows of displays. Buckley was very honest with me when I asked him if he did well and would he do BEA again. He hadn’t sold one book and would never do BEA again.
Buckley’s fine display of boats decorated with sea-faring objects and his books was eye-catching, but got lost among the HUGE displays of the bigger publishing houses. I offered to buy a book, remember it comes with a free first of a kind apps that makes the characters pop out of the page and reads the books to the children, and he has sold 15,000 copies of 1 book, he gave it to me for free. You have to be your own publicist, a “weekend warrior,” Buckley said, and attend literary festivals, book signings at bookstores, and really get out there and do the leg work yourself.
Trudy Peters, co-author of Andre’s Choice in the Land of Opportunity was also another very generous writer. She gave me a copy of her book, signed it and also asked me for a copy of my book The Foundling and asked me to sign it. Then I told her I was interested in writing a children’s book and she said she would love to see it and told me to contact her when it was done.
She was lovely to talk to and told stories of her experiences with children who wanted her autograph and she then would ask for their autograph on her arm, resulting in a tattooed arm of autographs!
Eavesdropping is a very valuable part of attending BEA for self-published authors. In one conversation I heard the authors say that they would not attend again. So, rude though it might be, I listened. And here’s what I came away from BEA with:
1. Unless you have money to burn as a self-published author, don’t rent space there, you’ll be lost among the big players. Space costs money, displays that draw attention cost money, and reviews and press-releases cost money. The big players will rent five to ten times the amount of space that self-published authors rent and build massive display booths. Steve Buckley was absolutely right, you will get lost among the big players.
2. Talk, talk, talk to the small publishing houses. Bring a business card and some copies of your books. Cedar House did take a copy of Mona, the body in the bog and The Foundling from me. Another UK Publishing House took my business card, and there were about three others who did also.
3. Listen, listen and listen to what people who rented space are saying about their experiences.
4. Ask lots of questions about what services the vendors offer to self-Published authors.
5. Bring a big empty suitcase because you will haul away a massive amount of books, canvas bags, and literature.
6. Write because you love it, not because you want to make money from it. There are many would be authors out there, I am a small fish in a BIG pond. Hope for the best and expect the worst, and even the worst, remaining self-published, isn’t the worst after all.
7. BEA’s Power Readers day, when the public can attend, is really for readers. A self-published author can make connections and pick up some valuable information, but I will not be renting a space there for next years BEA.