The Biggest Networking Events for Indie Authors
Networking events dated after March 2020 look very different from the ones that came before them. No longer do authors sit together in huge seminars, wander through conference halls and celebrate in packed bars. We “meet” online, buy virtual tickets and get to know each other over social media. Event speakers record their sessions remotely and book trade professionals share drinks over Zoom. The global pandemic has had a huge change on the way we meet. But is this necessarily a bad thing?
After all, the challenges 2020 posed have supercharged innovation. Never before have we been so universally comfortable with video communication and working from home. Yes, we crave meeting our friends and colleagues in person. The hundreds of authors who attended the Self Publishing Show Live in March loved the panels and decadent afterparty, and would happily return. But as much as we miss the old ways, this new temporary normal will have a lasting positive effect on events after the pandemic.
In-person conferences will return, this time resplendent with multi-media tickets for those who can’t travel to the venue in person. They will be interactive, bigger, better, more diverse and more inclusive. The post-pandemic world will be a golden age for networking, helping more people than ever to meet like-minded professionals.
To have a fantastic experience yourself, it’s important that you network in a range of different circles. SPS Live is fantastic, but lots of authors also find value in other communities. This blog post will outline a few that are considered a good investment by lots of authors in the community. Depending on your goals and business model, they could help you to grow your social circle and business.
“Trad”, in this case, refers to anything that is associated with the world of traditional publishing. For example, The Bookseller, The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and Writer’s Digest all run author weekends. Sometimes they are small affairs, open to a dozen or so attendees. Other times, they are larger, attracting more than a thousand visitors. Countless events like these happen around the globe every year, usually organised by publishing executives who call upon their experience and traditional contracts to put on an interesting and informative itinerary.
Typically, these events are entry level, aimed at novice writers hoping to improve their craft and secure a traditional publishing contract. Attendees get taught the basics of commercial writing, query letters, editing, platform building and social media marketing. There are a few more intermediate sessions. As an experienced author or one who primarily plans to self-publish, however, you are unlikely to learn any advanced publishing or marketing tactics. That being said, retracing the basic principles does have its merits, and there is often more value to glean from the experts than what’s written on the official schedule. At the very least, these events are good places to start if you’re thinking of going hybrid.
20 Books Conferences
The premise of the 20Booksto50K movement is to write 20 books and use them to generate an annual income of $50,000. Not everyone’s numbers follow that exact trajectory, but many who commit to that strategy and write in a commercial genre do earn a healthy author salary. Originating as a Facebook group, 20Books has become a juggernaut in the world of indie author networking. As such, their conferences, previously hosted in Las Vegas, London and Edinburgh, are immensely popular, sometimes attracting a thousand like-minded writers to a single venue.
During each event, there are multiple speakers, many running publishing businesses that generate upwards of six figures a year. However, the sessions aren’t all geared towards growing and running a mammoth publishing empire. There are plenty of talks on writing, email marketing, paid advertising, quality control and other subjects that can be equally useful to newbies. Plus, there are lots of opportunities to chat with other authors and form the foundations for close working friendships. Whether you’re a newbie or a veteran author, you can probably fill a notepad with the information you can learn when visiting a 20Booksto50K conference.
The London Book Fair
Many of the biggest literary events on the planet cater for the reading public, but there are only a few large-scale trade fairs that primarily act as networking hubs for publishers. Major examples include the Hong Kong Book Fair, Frankfurt and Beijing. The best for authors is arguably the London Book Fair (LBF), however. Every year, executives and other decision-makers from the Big Five publishing houses, as well as hundreds of smaller industry players, gather at them all to share ideas, trade rights and have a good time. What makes LBF stand out is that it actively encourages self-publishing and also provides a dedicated space for authors to talk shop.
LBF provides a safe environment in which you can meet plenty of peers but also professionals from the wider book trade. During each of the three main event days, you can sit in on lectures and workshops geared around everything from writing craft to publishing operations and advancements in online advertising. Most authors come away with new friends, as well as contacts from trad publishing and the world of commercial licensing. Some even manage to nab agents and strike up distribution deals. You too should find some merit at the London Book Fair, no matter your genre and experience level.
Run by The Bookseller in London, FutureBook Live shines a light on cutting-edge publishing practices. It is a single-day event that markets itself as “the stand-out gathering for smart thinkers, creatives and innovators” in the book industry. Indeed, previous high-calibre speakers back up this claim, with notable names including top executives from the Big Five publishers as well as “Data Guy”, who founded the Author Earning Report, and James Daunt, the bookstore CEO who revolutionised Waterstones in the UK and has since been appointed to do the same for Barnes & Noble.
In all, this event leans heavily on the futurist aspects of publishing, with many speakers broaching subjects like big data, artificial intelligence and digital innovation. If you’ve mastered the basics and have a head for data analysis, the chances are you will find some benefit in this conference, providing you already have a few books and enough cashflow to put its lessons into practice. Given the growing digital-first nature of publishing, it is becoming an increasingly important gathering place to visit if you want to plan ahead and put your business in a position to capitalise on the changing habits of the reading public.
NINC is short for Novelists Inc., which hosts a four-day conference at a beach-front resort in Florida on an annual basis. As the organisers pride themselves on offering an experience that helps professional-level authors to learn and grow their incomes, its speakers present on intermediate and advanced topics that many new authors might struggle to understand. Thus, only authors who meet stringent criteria can attend, along with a publishing assistant if they have one. Requirements are different for traditional and self-published authors because of differences in their business models. However, both types of authors are welcome to attend, providing they hit the minimum benchmarks for success.
These commercial requirements filter attendees. As such, speakers aren’t bogged down with basic questions, so they can spend more time discussing advanced publishing subjects and strategies. As a result of the limits, not every author can attend NINC. If your sales meet the attendee criteria and you have lofty commercial ambitions, however, then NINC can be an effective place to meet like-minded authors and make powerful connections with executives from all corners of the publishing landscape.
The events listed in this post are generally regarded as some of the best by indie authors who value their time and look for a positive return of investment. However, there are lots of other good ones around the globe. Just because one author doesn’t find value in an event, that doesn’t mean you will have the same experience. As with every other aspect of the publishing industry, your decision will ride on subjective factors. Tastes differ, goalposts change, new organisers get involved, and technology revolutionises how things work. What worked last year might not work tomorrow. All the while, successful authors remain curious to stay on top of the best ways to write, market and network.
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