I'm sure that entrepreneurs who like to write business tactic books like What Color Is Your Parachute and Raving Fans would get value out of these seminars, and even some people who blog non-fiction may, as well. But I went into this as a fiction author, and as a fiction author, I can say to my fellow fictionistas and affictionados quite confidently and adamantly: Chandler Bolt's Self-Publishing Seminar is not worth your time, even without paying for any of it. That being said, here are the few people I thought had noteworthy things to say.
Joseph Michael: This webinar was the first that I took copious notes on. Joseph spent several hours learning the ins and outs of Scrivener, and now shares his knowledge by teaching online courses so that other authors do not need to do the same. For me, half the fun of new programs is usually taking the time to play with them and see what does what ... but when you're writing, you don't want to be distracted by settings and options and tabs and toolbars. What would have been an entire afternoon of mucking around was accomplished in about 40 minutes (subtracting the time he spent on his backstory and the time Chandler spent trying to play Mr. Popular). Personally, I came away with enough to do what I need, but his self-styled "Scrivener Coach" nickname is pretty well-earned... even if there's a major typo on his personal website. (I edit, okay? I can't help it.) He charges a pretty penny for the course, but to quote someone in one of the other seminars I enjoyed: "Either you're willing to put the time and the hard work in yourself to get it done, or you have to save your money and hire someone else to do it for you." If you're interested and willing to pay for the knowledge, his website is Learn Scrivener Fast.
John Tighe: Kindle sales direct from Amazon are John's self-proclaimed specialty. He spent a great deal of time padding his tips with stories about himself and his company, so I only took away a few basics, which are not really worth linking you to anything of his for. They're useful, but really common knowledge to a point:
- Have a bold cover
- Make sure that your thumbnail is legible
- Draw your readers in with your description
- Keep descriptive text short, or break it up into short bursts to accommodate what I like to call "Internet Attention Span". (John went so far as to say that readers "feel accomplished" when they read a long passage composed of shorter pieces. Seriously?!)
- Choose keywords wisely, so that readers will find you faster. (Hint: Amazon pulls keywords from your title and subtitle, but beyond that, you also get 7 "hidden" keywords you can choose to embed in the metadata.)
- Do trial searches before you set your keywords. The Kindle Store section of Amazon can show you what you'd be up against if you choose certain keywords. John also mentioned a tool called Google Keyword Planner which lets you see the same results in Google.
- Get certified reviews before you publish your book to Amazon. I'm not exactly sure how this works, and will have to look into it, but I do like the idea of having reviews there for readers to see... it's the online version of opening a book and seeing reviews of the author's previous works in the first few pages.
Nick Stephenson: Not only has this author earned himself accolade on my part for how much he shared about his mailing list process ... but he may have gained another reader, as well. As an aside: I went to get his website link for this blog post, and he lists "Homing Pigeons" as a method of contact, with a link to an eHow article. I can honestly say that he is the only webinar host I watched over the last week and a half who presented himself as a "real person", and not just a salesman or self-promoter. Thanks to Nick's advice, I'm going to be starting up a mailing list quite soon, and I hope you'll join me there. I've got a lot of fun things in store. But marketing tips weren't the only thing Nick dished out: he shared experience and advice, as well, and many of the things he said resonated with a lot that's been going through my head ever since I concretely decided to self-publish. He believes in getting to know his readers before he tries to sell them things, self-published his own novel before trying to teach others how to do it, and does not sugar-coat the fact that Just Writing Forever And Ever will not make you a successful author, unless you are willing to pay others to do the behind-the-scenes legwork for you. Writing is still a job, after all. I don't want to tell you everything, because here's the last thing that made him stand out from the pack: his video training is FREE, and you can find it here on his blog. Tell 'im Angela sent you.
So, that's my experience with the Self-Publishing Summit. Hopefully, some of you will find it useful, and the rest of you can imagine the amusing faces I made while listening to most of these people. See you next week!