Jeremy Flagg, Trish Heinrich, Chrishaun Keller Hanna

It’s not always what you know, but who you know. This is a line that has stuck in my head since I started my publishing journey. I’m not so much an introvert, but I am a solitary person by nature and prefer my quiet space over interacting with others. The idea of going to conferences is both humbling and exhilarating. For the second year, I’ve gone to Chicago to be part of the Sell More Book Show Summit, a conference designed to focus on networking and marketing for indie authors. For the second year, I’ve walked away with my creative well overflowing and my work ethic realigned. I can not recommend a conference like this enough. You can expect to drop about a thousand dollars between airfare, hotels, registration and food. The focus of networking and bringing together indie authors along with industry big names has has made this conference well worth the expense. The ability to ask professionals questions that pertain to my personal author business is extremely beneficial, to the point where a simple dinner conversation turned marketing helped outline my release schedule for the rest of the year. Tidbits are more like juicy mouthfuls of information I’m still digesting days later. But I could rave all day, so instead, let me punch out what a conference like this can do for you:

  1. Shop Talk – We’re used to Facebook Groups and message boards, but being able to ask questions in a timely conversational manner is amazing. There’s no worry about being misread or hoping they caught the inflection of your email. Conversation jumps from how your revenue has been to what you hope to accomplish to paving a path to reach your goal. There is a candid factor to in person communication that online lacks. This may be partly from the permanence of online chatter, but also because it creates a more intimate affair.
  2. Favor Purchases – “Can I ask a favor,” is not only common, but not perceived as the dirty phrase it comes across online. Once I got the gumption to talk to a well known author (seriously, this happened at least a dozen times) we’d exchange favors. It could be me offering to share something of theirs to the group or with peers, or me asking if they’d read over a blurb. It was so fluid that you had to start writing them down. The benefit of a conference like this, successful authors attend and they’re more than happy to give back to their community. Respect and courtesy are used as currency and more often than not, pooled resources make for a better experience in the professional world.
  3. Synergy – Everybody at these conferences wants to succeed. It’s not about grand standing, throwing out credentials and comparing income from one author to the next. Even the most successful author will talk about their next step. It’s about helping everybody take whatever that next step is for them. It doesn’t matter if it’s publishing a first manuscript or attempting to make your first six-figure year. The energy builds as people realize there is hope, and with that hope comes a push to work harder. Since the conference, I’ve hardly slept, I’m too busy being excited and putting the information to work. Every time I share with the group a new success, it’s like a perpetual party urging to take it one step further.
  4. More than Writing – Sure, we talked everything from marketing to formatting to healthy sustainable habits. However, these conferences are where you can make some amazing connections. The first year, somebody told me, “How bad do you want it?” and when I commented on my day job she replied with, “Sounds like you’re making excuses.” I’ve taken that to heart for a year. Not only has it remained in the back of my head, it has helped fuel my motivation in life. I was able to speak with numerous talents and ask them personal questions about work/life balance, and even techniques to help ease the strain on my hands. Ultimately, I was able to ask half a dozen individuals if they’d be interested in a small conference in Maine (to which several said yes.) Because of this event, I’ve bought good will with large name companies and even had the ability to ask one for a personal favor (see #2.)
  5. Collaboration – I claim to be a hermit, but my best work has been at the pushing of others. This year I had the opportunity to meet my “book wife” for the first time in person. We’ve been collaborating for over a year now and she has been a driving force behind my superhero series. However, it took on a new life when we finally sat down together. From strolling through a freezing city, to mapping out our own series, to creating a consortium for authors, we didn’t have a moment of down time. Could we have gotten there digitally? Perhaps. But the infectious laughter, funny stories, and ultimately, our determination to push back a stampede in the industry left me better than when we started. Without the in person interaction, I’ll be frank, digital people don’t always appear real to me, I’m not sure I would be going so hard to achieve a dream.

Now for a bit of technical information that I think is important for people to consider. I highly suggest everybody attend a conference, but make sure it serves you. Here are some details for the Sell More Book Show that I had to consider:

  1. Cost – $400 Registration + $350 Flight + $200 Hotel + $25 Ubers + $20 Public Transit + $80 Food + $75 Logan Parking = $1,150.
    1. This is a tax write off and I claim it all.
    2. I had a great conversation with some Erotica authors who gave me a marketing suggestion that I believe will make me back the entire conference cost.
    3. Had it not been for my job, I’d stay for an extra day to enjoy the city.
  2. Timing – This is both literal and journey wise. I would promptly attend 20Booksto50K in Vegas each year, but my day job prevents it. Thankfully I’ll be attending 20Booksto50K in Scotland this summer. I also think you have to be realistic about where you are in your journey. I have a large enough back catalog to utilize many of these suggestions instantly. I can see a return on investment promptly. It could very well be useful to a new author, but the ROI might not be seen simply in $$$.
  3. Need a Game Plan – This is pretty simple. What do you want from the conference? It’s not up to the people at the conference to provide it. You’re an adult, go get it. I sat down and talked to half a dozen potential speakers for Convergence. It was part of my game plan to lock down a few names for 2020. I also needed help with a launch strategy I was struggling with. Over dinner, I laid out my plan and several authors picked it apart and helped me restructure into something much more cohesive. I knew what I needed, I reached out, I received. It was all part of my plan walking into this event.

Whatever your goal for a conference, make it happen. Not every author can afford the luxury and for some people it’s simply not part of their business model. There’s no harm in that, and I’m not suggestion you rework it for a conference. However, if there’s a chance a conference can help you step up and bring your A-Game. Then I absolutely would suggest it. For those interested, the Sell More Book Show Summit is becoming The Career Author Summit held in Nashville and you can now reserve your Early Bird Tickets.