Sell More Books Show Summit 2019 Takeaways

Now that I’ve written about the summit in a couple different ways, let’s recap the thing, shall we?

By the way, as much as I love what seems to be conference season for me, my head was clearly not screwed on right when I left this one. I ended up forgetting my suitcase at the front desk of the hotel before driving two hours home. It’s not quite as dumb as it sounds, but still. It’s not great. Since then, my suitcase and I have been reunited.

Pass the coffee, s’il vous plait! Onto the recap!

Podcast Night

Among the three podcasts recorded that night, my biggest takeaway came from something Bryan Cohen asked at the end of the Sell More Books Show episode, which ended up being the theme of the summit.

What is the life you want to lead with your books, and what changes are you going to have to make to accomplish that?

Bryan Cohen, Sell More Books Show, Episode 266

And that’s the question I was and am still struggling to answer. But it’s a valid one. What choices am I going to make in order for that life to happen?

Everybody Starts at Zero

Jim Kukral only spoke for about ten minutes, but I bet everyone in the room would’ve listened to him for hours on end. No surprise then that I got a nugget of a takeaway even from his short speech:

You start to become successful when you believe the impossible is possible.

Story Levels: From Idea to First Draft

The guys gave us TONS of information, and you’ll have to check out the book from J. Thorn and Zach Bohannon once it’s released, but here are a few key points I wrote down.

  • For every story idea you think of, start with a pitch and logline and list the five global commandments (from Story Grid methodology). Then use the rest of the story levels when you’re ready to turn one of the ideas into a story.
  • The theme of the story should answer the questions, “What is the story really about? Why do you as the author have to tell this story?” It should say something about the human condition and be timeless.
  • If you’re writing a series, plan for success. Make sure your story is planned out as far as you intend on taking it (six books, nine books, and so on). That way, when you have fans clamoring for the next one, you’ll have cohesive stories to satisfy them.

Turning Writing Craft into Cash Panel

  • Write strong characters that readers will connect with emotionally.
  • Learn from the initial batch of reviews and watch for themes.
  • You can write the best book, and there’s still no guarantee. However, if you don’t have a good book, you have no chance.
  • Stalk people in the same genre and keep track of what they do.
  • If your books aren’t selling, find someone who can be blunt, and “embrace the suck.”
  • Decide to never give up.

Playing to Your Strengths to Build a Brand

I may do a separate post about tweaking my own brand. When I was listening to Cecelia Mecca speak, I actually got a little emotional when I wrote down my brand idea. To be continued.

  • What are you coming to the table with that is different?
  • There are so many paths. Someone else’s path is hard to replicate.
  • If you don’t know your brand, readers won’t know what you stand for.
  • People buy emotion, not product.
  • Build a community of like-minded people.
  • Design the life you want to live.

Writing to Market in 2019: How to Craft a Survival Plan for the New Landscape

I took a ton of notes during Chris Fox‘s session. Holy moly, this guy knows his stuff (which, of course, I knew, but it was even cooler to hear him live). I’ll try to pare it down to just a handful of takeaways.

  • The thumbnail of a book cover is the most important part of marketing.
  • Understand your audience and what they are looking to feel when they read (emotional resonance).
  • Synthesize a new market by combining genres in a new way (for example, space fantasy, the one Chris writes in), but do not break genre rules!
  • Think of a unique way to communicate with your audience that’s unique to your brand. For example, romance, create a burn burn à la Mean Girls.
  • Find out where your audience hangs out and be part of that community.

Consistent Author Marketing: Mailing Lists & Loving Your Readers Panel

  • Find an aspect of your personality that makes you unique, and write emails in your author voice.
  • Sign up for other authors’ newsletters.
  • Resend newsletter to unopens.
  • Ask for scene ideas from your readers to engage them.
  • If you do something wild (like give away an experience with you to your readers), take pictures and share it.
  • Play with slightly hostile subject lines to get people’s attention, if it fits your brand.

Spending Your Money Wisely Panel

  • Vellum for Windows is not coming, as awesome as that would be. Brad and Brad are only a team of two, but they seem awesome, so I can’t be too upset.
  • When deciding where to spend money, prioritize editing and cover design first.
  • Check Reedsy to build your team.

How I Earned Six-Figures From Three Books: The Slow (and Smart) Publishing Choice

I think this session from Jami Albright really resonated with a lot of us, and it helped that she’s so funny and personable. This is a path we don’t hear about very often in the self-publishing arena. You can write slower, but you still have to be smart and strategic about it. And be willing to spend some money.

  • Post an excerpt on BookFunnel or Prolific Works to get the exact right readers on your list.
  • Newsletter swaps are key once you’ve built up your list. (The number she mentioned to me conversationally was 1,000 subscribers.)
  • Remember to update your back matter.
  • Stay in your lane. Don’t compare. This is supposed to be fun.
  • Fight for the life you want.
  • Learn to advertise. People can’t buy what they can’t see.

The Amazon Advertising Gauntlet: Live Ad Campaign Critiques

Admittedly, I didn’t take notes during this session, but it was interesting and amusing to see Bryan Cohen and Brian Meeks do their thing. If you want more information, follow either of them. Get ready for lots of math.

Going Wide & Getting Smart

  • Consider putting one entire series wide to diversify (not just one book in the series).
  • Consider publishing a multi-author box set on PublishDrive to split royalties or BookFunnel to sell direct to readers. (I kind of want to move our fantasy box set to PublishDrive now!)
  • Most mid-tier authors will have audiobooks. Audible locks you in for seven years, so consider that before you commit.

How to Define Your Own Author Success

Elise Kova is another one of those people you just want to be friends with. She’s so down-to-earth, naturally funny, and someone who really deserves any success she gets. Oh, and she has gorgeous hair.

  • Define your goal. There’s no wrong answer. Maybe making money isn’t it.
  • A good goal is measurable, reasonable, and written down.
  • Follow the right people—people who are aligned with your goals and who are transparent about their successes and failures.
  • Try and test things.

Closing Thoughts with Bryan, Jim, J., and Zach

  • Unskippable people create joyful experiences.
  • What are one to three things you can remove from your life to be kinder to yourself?
  • I hesitate to mention this because I don’t want it to sell out before I can hit Buy, but next year’s summit (rebranded to The Career Author Summit) will be held in Nashville and is on sale now!

I’m not done yet! I have one more Summit-related post about branding for next week. Then, I’ll stop talking about it for awhile…