Welcome back to our continuing series of articles ALLi Out and About. The Alliance of Independent Authors AskALLi team is asking members who attend book fairs, conferences or industry events (be they in-person or online) to share the lessons they've learned attending the events. This is ALLi Out and About: 20booksto50k Holland.
If you'd like to participate, and you've attended a book event, fair, conference or something else you think members would benefit from hearing about, please reach out to Sacha on sacha @ allianceindependentauthors.org.
The 20booksto50k Holland Conference
Michael Anderle founded the 20booksto50k group on Facebook when he realised that if he had 20 books and each one made roughly $7 a day (two sales) he would make 50,000 a year and be able to retire to Cabo. Roll on a few years, the Facebook group now has over 70,000 members and they run conferences all over the world. Vegas is the annual staple, but there have been conferences in Adelaide, Edinburgh, Holland, Madrid, Seville, and London.
The Holland conference was held on the southern outskirts of Amsterdam proper over the weekend of the 15 and 16 April 2023 and had an attendance of around 200. There were multiple breakout sessions, mostly in English, with a few craft-focused sessions in Dutch. The conference centre itself was housed inside an old planetarium set in a park which made for peaceful surroundings, and it still had the proper dome, though inside it was very modern, with lots of breakout rooms and endless supplies of teas and coffees, as well as healthful Kilner jars of freshly chopped up lemon and ginger which were a nice change from usual conference drinks.
My Takeaways from Holland
ALLi's great Dutch Ambassador Maria Staal ran a session on the many and varied online platforms in Holland, which are certainly complex for Dutch authors to navigate, having to take into account additional well-known local retailers in the country and how the logistics of print books work there, not to mention legal restrictions on how books are priced.
What struck me the most in her workshop was how much the indie community generously shares its knowledge, from ALLi members volunteering to be Ambassadors in their own regions and countries to the warmth of such conferences where new writers can feel inspired and connected to those already established.
A session run by cover designers G&S, based in the US, was interesting because they offer bespoke photo sessions for authors looking to invest in significant cover redesigns and again, I was impressed that indie authors can now command services that might once only have belonged to traditional publishing.
Now indie authors can commission their own photo shoots and character creations, look forward to easier and cheaper AI translations coming in the future and the additional international opportunities they will open up.
A far cry from the earliest days of current self-publishing when you might do a print run and keep it in your basement, trekking back and forth to the post office if an order came in, when now direct sales can be printed on demand from your own website at the click of a button. Watching new writers get excited about the self-publishing world both now and everything it may bring in the future was a real highlight for me.
There was a lot of talk about AI and the opportunities or threats it could bring for authors, as there is everywhere at the moment. But the Creator Economy information we're also hearing about reminds us that readers and other consumers enjoy direct contact with creatives. There's always a balance to be struck; when I returned to the UK, I met an author who had what he called a ‘knack' for generating AI images, which he was enjoying exploring.
I do believe that being able to ‘speak to' AI will become a creative skillset all of its own and one which some people will have a natural talent for, which others can hire in or learn, just as we have learnt so many other new skills in self-publishing. What I took away from what I heard in Holland was that each author will be able to choose how to use the many AI tools that will appear over the coming months and years, keeping what they love to do and letting AI help out with new opportunities, where their skills are weaker or they have less interest. There is always something new to learn and luckily creatives often enjoy learning and having their minds stretched!
What I’m Going to Do Differently
As a member of ALLi's team, it was lovely to spend time with our Dutch Ambassador Maria and Gijs, our website host who lives in Amsterdam and who took the time to pop in for a coffee and a chat about website ideas.
There were also lots of ALLi members in attendance and other contacts like Dan Woods from Draft2Digital who is contributing to our Big Indie Author Data Drop by sharing valuable industry insights from their own sales information.
It really is worth taking time to go to events where you can meet people you mainly interact with online ‘in real life' and building up those relationships, having time to brainstorm together and discuss what you're working on right now or hopes and plans for the future.
As an author, Steve Higgs' talk about writing 30 books in a year (which didn't involve AI but instead a lot of 5am starts and midnight finishes – yikes!) made me reflect on how much time in my working day I set aside for actual writing. It's so easy to open your emails first and be dragged this way and that by other people's demands, by marketing requirements, by the million and one other things an author does. But that often means the writing gets forgotten or the creative flow is harder to find.
So since coming back, I've set aside my first hour of the day to get my 1000 words in. I'm a slow writer (historical fiction requires a lot of research and I've never been a fan of either 5am or midnight), but I worked out I'd triple my yearly output just by protecting that writing time, so that seems worth doing to me.
Finally, everyone mentioned mindset, one way or another. Whether it was welcoming AI with open arms or admitting fearing it (and facing up to the changes it will bring anyway), remembering that any ‘overnight success' usually has years of care and work poured into it or the funny anecdote about stealing a famous author's pen from their conference goody bag and using it as a talisman and inspiration to reach a greater level of success, mindset was everywhere. Before any of us published a single book, we wanted to be authors. When we reach back to new writers and offer to share what we know in the hopes of seeing them join us, that too is mindset. Before you take on anything, get your mindset right.
Sadly, although mid-April is prime tulip-viewing season, I wasn't in the right part of the country to see them and had to make do with pictures from my uncle and aunt who were also coincidently visiting Holland, so here is a photo I received from them just for prettiness' sake.
The Dutch are very kind and helpful to travellers and speak spectacularly good English, which makes travelling easy, especially if you don't have long to settle in.
It's worth noting, for all authors, that apparently young people there read almost exclusively in English, which means that YA is a great genre to be pushing in Holland right now… and that a whole generation is growing up reading in English, so it's a good market to keep your eye on.
It seems silly to state the obvious, but it really is a super-flat country, so you can see why bikes are everywhere, even when I was setting off to the conference at 8am there were dozens of bikes with adults and children swishing past on their way to whatever they were doing of a weekend.
Our Ambassador Maria had brought her own bike with her so she could cycle in both days and if I'd been there a little longer to work up my courage, it would have been fun to rent a bike and use that for transport. And springtime is a lovely time to visit, with lots of pretty countryside as well as the wonderfully walkable Amsterdam itself to explore. Until next time…