Boost Your Self-Publishing Skills By Attending Events for Writers

Launch party for Sell Your Books!

Enjoying my own event for writers – the launch of “Sell Your Books!”, with the SilverWood Books team and some author friends

With the New Year just a week old, many self-published authors (or aspiring ones) are busy planning the best way to write better books and sell more copies. While there is plenty of information to be had online and in book form, make sure you add attending “real life” events for authors as part of your plan for 2014.

Attending book launches, writers’ workshops and seminars, literary talks and festivals adds something extra that solitary learning cannot achieve: it puts you in touch with real people. No matter how much time you spend online, you’ll never get the same buzz or inspiration as meeting and chatting to writers and trainers face-to-face.

Book Launches and Author Events

I’ve often written on this blog about book launches and post-launch talks, and how inspiring those can be. It’s always worth attending other authors’ launches if you can, (find out why in this post). So make a point this year of tracking down any that are near you, and go along. Don’t be shy – put yourself in the author’s shoes and you’ll realise they’ll be glad to see you!

Most book launches have the virtue of being free to attend, although you may feel morally obliged to buy a copy of the book that’s being launched. The disadvantage is that they tend to be a bit one-way, with you hearing the author speak, rather than entering into a discussion. A more interactive type of event is needed if you want to engage directly with authors and publishing experts.Therefore do keep an eye out for paid seminars and courses near you which will offer you a much more interactive learning opportunity.

Seminars & Workshops

A good starting point is to ask at your local library and bookshops, and to check the website of any author services companies in your area. The best companies will be doing their best to offer ongoing learning opportunities to their author clients and to potential new authors who seek information about the best way to write and sell their books. The hosts will be very glad to see you if you attend, so don’t hold back if you’d like to go for fear of being “sold” to. There will be no obligation to buy. Not only do such events offer you the opportunity to get inside information from indie publishing experts; they’ll also enable you to hook up with new writer friends, to your mutual benefit.

Recommended Events, Coming Soon

  • Bristol – with SilverWood Books

SilverWood Books on sale in Foyles, Bristol

Some of SilverWood’s authors’ books on display in Foyles, Bristol

Living within easy reach of Bristol, I’m looking forward to attending a series of three events to be held at Foyles’ Bookshop, Cabot Circus, by author services company SilverWood Books, based in the city centre but serving authors all over the world.

On Wednesday 15th January, Silverwood’s Publishing Director Helen Hart and the successful self-published novelist Sandy Osborne, policewoman and author of the bestselling Girl Cop, will be holding a small, personal event called Publish That Book! It’s perfect for aspiring writers to discuss the craft of writing and self-publishing a novel, with specific reference to their own work-in-progress.

On Saturday 25th January, SilverWood will hold an Writing and Publishing Open Day, offering a free talks by experts on all aspects of self-publishing, from writing to production to book promotion. You’ll have the chance to chat informally to the speakers and many successful indie authors who have published their books via SilverWood’s services. I’ll be one of the speakers, on the topic of “how to increase your discoverability online”, so if you come along to that one, do come and find me to say hello!

SilverWood’s third event will be on Thursday 13th March on the subject of Writing and Publishing Your Memoir or Autobiography, with successful ghost-writer Tom Henry. I’m particularly interested in that one, as I’m currently working on a travel memoir myself.

Places at all three events are free of charge, but advance booking is essential to secure a place, as space is limited. Click on the title of each event for more details.

(Incidentally, Helen Hart, director of SilverWood Books, commissioned my book promotion handbook, Sell Your Books!, and I’m currently writing a companion volume for them, The Author’s Guide to Blogging, I’ve made some really good friends among their authors, and I can highly recommend their services to any author seeking assistance with their self-publishing tasks.)

  • Norfolk – with Rethink Press

cover of How To Write Fiction Without The Fuss by Lucy McCarraher

Workshop leader Lucy McCarraher’s book

On the other side of the country, in East Anglia, author services company Rethink Press is staging a fiction writing day-course, led by my friend Lucy McCarraher, whose super book How To Write Fiction Without The Fuss I recently reviewed on my author website. An experienced novelist whose debut novel was shortlisted from 47,000 submissions to the Richard and Judy Book Club Award, Lucy McCarraher certainly knows her stuff! This course will take place on Tuesday 14th January and the original price per person was £89 – but tell her that you heard about the course from Debbie Young’s Off The Shelf blog and she’ll give you a specially reduced rate of £60 – and you’ll also get a free copy of her book! Read more about the course here.

Writers’ Retreats

Surely every writer’s dream course is a writer’s retreat – a writing-themed holiday which devotes a week or more to your development as a writer. Think of it as an investment in your career, as much as a holiday – although if you pick the right venue, it will also double up as an excellent alternative to your usual summer holiday. They are usually held at geographically remote, peaceful spots, to allow you to focus on your learning.

As with any specialist event, places on the best writers’ retreats will be limited, so book well in advance to avoid disappointment.

  • Greece
Photo copyright

Photo copyright

If our current awful wintry weather is making you hanker after a warmer climate, now’s the time to check out what has to be the most inviting Writers’ Retreat that I’ve ever come across – a week on the idyllic Greek island of Ithaca, . The Homeric Writers’ Retreat is so named because Ithaca was home to the mythical Odysseus and Penelope in Homer’s Odyssey. The retreat is run by my friend the novelist, poet, and musician Jessica Bell, also well known for her writing guides. (I reviewed Adverbs and Clichés In A Nutshell – great title! – here.) Just the thought of joining the retreat would surely motivate your writing through the dark days of winter…

Would you like to recommend a good writing event that you know of? If so, please feel free to add details in the comments section below. Whichever writers’ events you attend this year, have fun, and happy New Writing Year!


Festive Opportunities to Sell Your Books

Cover of The Romance of a Christmas Card (1916)

Cover of The Romance of a Christmas Card (1916) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Though I hate to fast forward to Christmas, today’s tip for how to sell more of your self-published books addresses the opportunity for you to take part in local Christmas  shopping events.

While most of us are still playing catch-up after our summer holidays, behind closed doors all over the country fundraising groups are planning festive fairs (or, more painfully, fayres) for November and December.

I’m not sure whether it’s a by-product of the recession, but these seasonal sales seem to have sprung up all over the place in the last few years. Our small village hosted three in the same week in last November, and all were well supported by local residents keen to deal with local producers and to keep their Christmas shopping close to home.

The Right Product For Shoppers 

This kind of event is usually keen to attract stallholders who:

  • offer items not usually available in shops
  • can provide a personalised service of some sort
  • fall into a modest price bracket of around £10 or less
  • can put on an appealing display of their products

Shoppers attending such events are generally keen to find at least one thing to buy, to show their support for whatever the chosen cause is (local church roof fund, PTA, hospital friends, etc). They come with money in their pocket, and they’re not afraid to spend it. They’re often offered a free drink on arrival to ease the process of parting with their cash!  In short, they are a sitting target for you to charm.

Affordable Experience

Unlike big craft fairs and trade exhibitions in city centres, small-scale events of this kind tend not to charge much for their stall. They’re more on the level of a car boot pitch than a commercial stand. You therefore don’t need to sell many copies to cover your costs. They don’t make great demands on your time, either, typically taking place in an evening or at a weekend, so they’re easy to fit in around your day-job, if you have one.

The Right Event For You

As an indie author with a stack of new, shiny, beautiful books to display, your product ticks all the right boxes:

  • your book is unlikely to be one that they’ve come across before in a big bookshop, so it will have novelty value
  • it can be easily personalised if you’re prepared to write a signature or personal dedication in the front of every copy you sell
  • it’s likelly to retail at an affordable price
  • it looks great stacked neatly on a table, maybe with a few relevant props as talking points for passers-by, and if you make it clear that you are the author of the book on display, you’re bound to intrigue browsers who will like to stop and talk to you about your achievement

Such events are also a great place to chat up other stallholders and get the low-down on other local events that they attend. You may even sell a book or two to fellow traders, to help them while away their evening!

Confidence Boosters

Even if, like me, you really don’t want to start thinking about the festive season until after we’ve got Halloween and Guy Fawkes’ Night out of the way, it’s worth keeping an eye open for Christmas shopping events near you. This is a great, low-stress way to build your local profile. It will also increase  your confidence in chatting to strangers about your book on safe, home territory. The experience will prepare you for larger scale events such as bookstore signings and trade fairs.

So good luck with seeking out an appropriate event near you – and, dare I say it, happy Christmas!

Do you have any tips to share from your experience of Christmas shopping evenings? If so, I’d love to hear from you – please leave a comment!