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Event Review – Breaking the Code: from published to best-selling author

Breaking the Code: from published to best-selling author

Last weekend, Les Zig and I were part of this two-day festival held at the Belgian Beer Café at Southbank in Melbourne. The venue was very apt for writerly activity and the program was jam-packed with great topics for anyone wanting to learn about writing and publishing.

Best-selling author is the thing we are all chasing. Or is it? Simply being published could be what many authors would be happy with and that was the topic of many of the discussions at Breaking the Code last weekend.

The brain-child of Mat Clarke and Suraya Dewing, Breaking the Code was a mammoth task. It’s hard to pull off a program like this for the first time. Of course, there were some teething problems and the venue wasn’t perfect (aside from the beer) but overall, I think it was a success.

Of course, our session From Writer to Reader was well received because we were giving an overview of the writing to publishing process. We always aim to educate people on the pitfalls, not because we want to depress people but because we want them to be well armed with knowledge to prevent wasted time and money. There were great questions from the audience and a real attitude for sharing ideas and knowledge in the room.

There were two standout sessions that I think really gave a great perspective on promoting your book. The first was a session with Clare Dea, author of The One Breast Goddess. Clare is a specialist in speaking, so this enhanced her presentation but her overarching message was to be authentic. Own your story. When you think about this in terms of your book you might be totally confused. ‘Of course, I’ll “own” my story because I wrote it!’ But this isn’t what she’s talking about. Clare means that when it comes to promoting your book, you are the brand. This means that you don’t offer your book out to the reader and think that it’s so great that the writing will do the work of getting the book to that elusive best-seller status.

A book isn’t a book until someone reads it. So while you MUST make sure it’s well written, and that the publishing produces a great product, that is only the start of the journey. You need to then become a person who is willing to get in front of people and “own” who you are and tell everyone about your book.

The other stand out for me was Ander Louis from Up and Up Media. Andrew liked to compare the music industry to publishing. There were two things that Andrew said that really resonated with me. One was that it’s cool to call yourself an indie publisher rather than self-publisher (just like in the music industry, it’s cool to call yourself an indie musician).  And just like in the music industry, as an indie artist, it takes time to gather a following. You have to do the local pubs before you make it to bigger venues. Translating this to books is helpful in looking at ways to get in front of readers.

There was a wealth of knowledge in the room at Breaking the Code and I came away with some new things to try. I hope they run it again next year. Like anything, it takes a few years to get a following and this format is no exception.

Blaise the book chick.

The Business of Writing

The creative output of writing is very satisfying. It might be fraught with challenges but once completed, the writing project has substance to it that can then be shared with the world. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a poem, novel, memoir or self-help book, there will be a place for it to live.

What many don’t realise is that this is just the start of the book journey. Once the thing is written, it’s time for the writer to take off the creative coat and put on the business coat. There’s no way to avoid it no matter which way you publish. Even if you’re lucky enough to land a traditional publishing deal, you will still have to be involved in the promotion and marketing of the book.

The Art of Self-promotion – and how to teach it to your authors with Karen Andrews, Angela Meyer & Blaise van Hecke (photo by Les Zigomanis).

Last week I attended the Independent Publishing Conference at the Wheeler Centre and immersed myself in all things books and publishing. It doesn’t matter how many years I’ve been doing this, there’s always something new to learn and the industry is changing constantly due to changes in technology. I was also part of a panel called ‘The art of self-promotion – and how to teach it to your authors.’ I don’t pretend to know everything about promotion but I know more than some. I also learned a lot from the many other sessions throughout the two days.

Here are my top three take-aways:

  1. Metadata is king – make sure that your book has as much data attached to it as possible. This starts with your ISBN registration and can be added to through TitlePage (you need to be a member of the Australian Publishers Association) and the data required if you are using print on demand. Ensure that you add as much information as possible including a cover image, author bio and reviews if you have any.

Why is data important? It helps with discoverability online as well as by bookstores and libraries if a customer asks about your book.

  1. Audio books are popular – thanks to platforms like Audible they are becoming more accessible and consumers love them. This has created another income stream for the book. Many traditional publishers are starting to include them in the contract of a book along with the print book and ebook. Companies such as Bolinda create audiobooks but at this stage they are not cheap to produce. This won’t stay like this for long as people realise that this is a gap in the market and solutions are created.
  2. Marketing is tricky – this remains the hardest part of the book journey (just like marketing any business is hard) but thanks to social media, there are many new opportunities out there. There is a definite gap in the market here, which is a great opportunity for people to fill. The best way to get your book out there is by word of mouth and book reviews are vital for this. Check out bookbloggersaustralia.com.au for opportunities to have your book reviewed, and check out Goodreads to set up your own author page and ask people to review your book.

There were of course many more great things that I learned at the conference but these three things are really important to have in place for the success of a book. I highly recommend you attend the conference next year to learn more.

As a writer, you may not like the business of writing. But you know what? If you don’t get down to working on it, your book will not get into the hands of your readers and it may as well sit in a box in obscurity.

Blaise the bookchick