In ALLi Out and About posts, members of the AskALLi team and Alliance of Independent Authors members share the lessons they've learnt from attending book fairs, conferences or other industry events. Today we hear from Sacha Black, who attended the 20Booksto50kVegas 2023 conference.
If you've attended a book fair, conference, or another event, either in person or online, that you think members would benefit from hearing about, please get in touch with ALLi Blog Editor, Holly: [email protected].
Sacha Black is an indie author and ALLi's content strategist; this is her report from 20Booksto50kVegas.
20Booksto50kVegas 2023 Conference
The 20books conferences have been running for a number of years. This year, though, marked the last with the current leadership: Craig Martelle and Michael Anderle. Next year, Joe Solari will be taking over, and the event will be called Author Nation.
The conference is hosted in central Las Vegas, situated in The Horseshoe hotel on the strip opposite the Bellagio. As far as I'm aware, it's the largest indie author conference in the world hosting in excess of 1,800 authors. The conference is spread over five days (Monday-Friday) in early November.
Monday is the vendor day, where companies that provide services to authors have stalls. This year there were over 70, including the big five distributors. Tuesday-Thursday are three days of jam-packed sessions (180) across half a dozen tracks and rooms. Then Friday is the RAVE author signing event.
To say it's packed is an understatement.
I've been to three 20books events across Europe but never to the Vegas event. I've previously attended Runnymede, Edinburgh, and Seville and all of those were incredible, but considerably smaller than Vegas, with just a couple of hundred of attendees.
Knowing that it was the last event in this format, I was completely honoured to be asked to speak. Not only speak, but deliver the keynote!
I taught two classes: Prose in the Market, Unlikable Characters and the keynote titled: Risk and Rebellion the Keys to Creative Winning
My Take Aways From 20Booksto50kVegas 2023
I'm usually pretty naughty at these events; I tend not to sit in the classes, preferring to network instead. That was the case for this conference too. I only managed to sit in a couple of sessions—part of this was anxiety about delivering my own sessions, and partly because I learn best in different ways. Don't worry though, I've already started watching the replays (I do actually do the learning).
That said, I did take a huge amount from Vegas.
For me, next year's phrase of the year is “Niche and Nurture”. This was solidified in Vegas, where the importance of standing out, being your unique self, and not focusing on spewing out content came through.
AI is something that isn't going away. For me, it's about finding out how I can work with it but also maintain my humanity, especially when you can no longer compete on speed of publishing.
This means that being more me, spending time with my audience will be key next year. It means creating more personalised, premium quality content is vital for me.
Business Models are Changing
And on that note, nothing lasts forever, including the business models that did work. The KU model, while working for some, is not as easy to capitalise on. With AI able to spit out books daily, and KU working primarily on rapid releasing, many of us will need to look at different models going forward.
What I saw at 20books was a splintering of the community (in a good way). Previously, there were two popular models, KU and wide. That's just not the case anymore. We have direct sales, crowdfunding, people kicking ass at in-person events, and many more methods.
I see so much opportunity right now. So much flexibility. And that supports the notion that we can and should be doubling down on what makes us unique—including our unique/preferred business models.
I came away super positive about the future and all the opportunities it's bringing.
One fear I had with Craig and Michael leaving was that we would lose the community aspect. But with a new brand of Author Nation, that doesn't seem to be the case at all.
The other thing that was really driven home was the need for me to keep control of as much of my IP as possible. From selling direct, to owning your own mailing list, to keeping rights (or licensing selectively). What's important is our ability to pivot when needed. I've been selling direct for a while, but after a printing snafu just before I left for Vegas, that has really been driven home, especially with the impetus on selling direct at the con.
Introverts Can Win at Peopling
I'm an introvert through and through. I usually come away from conferences drained and exhausted. But despite the intense jet lag resulting in scarcely more than five hours sleep a night (and just two one night), I came away from the conference tired, but restored. Here's what I did differently this year at 20Booksto50kVegas 2023:
- I took an hour to myself in the morning, mid-day and in the evening. Those touch points really helped restore my pennies.
- I looked after my physical health, prioritising vitamins, sleeping where I could, taking a humidifier, eating as healthy as I could, and resting when needed.
- I prioritised one-to-one time or small group time rather than major groups. This one-to-one time gave me just the right amount of friendship time boost without draining me too much.
- I look my loop ear plugs, which help reduce the roar of crowd noise, and used them frequently during the times when I was in big groups/crowds.
- I took two days off after coming home before starting work. I specifically avoided zoom, had no coffee dates, and tried not to see anyone save the school run. This alone time and decompression really helped top up the tank back to normal.
What I'm Going to Do Differently
Three things I'm changing based on the 20Booksto50kVegas 2023 conference:
- I've got a direct store for my nonfiction already, but I'll be pushing to set one up for fiction ASAP.
- I'll be hosting webinars and more live events.
- I'll be consolidating what I'm doing and replan 2024 entirely!
Vegas is a wild ride if you've never visited. Depending on where you live, there's a few things you need to be aware of. First up, Vegas is super dry. I'm from the UK, where the humidity ranges from 70% to high 90s. In Vegas the humidity is between 17% and 40%. This was a real shock to the system. I was dehydrating faster, my lips were sore, my skin dry and itchy. Thankfully, I bought a humidifier for my room, but it's something to note if you're not used to desert weather.
Next up is the smoke. It's still legal to smoke indoors and, believe me, they certainly did in the casinos. If you have lung issues or asthma it's one to be aware of.
Those things aside, there's so much fun to be had in Vegas. They say New York never sleeps; I'd argue that it's Vegas that's permanently up. I was so jet lagged that I often woke at 4am. I took to the strip and walked up and down getting the chance to see it (and all the lights) in all its glory without all the people.
There's a mini Venice in the Venetian hotel equipped with indoor canals and gondolas. There are ceilings painted like baby blue skies and fluffy clouds. Many of the hotels are connected so you can walk several kilometres without going outside. When you do have to go outside, you're often moving up and down escalators and bridges, which then connect to the hotels anyway. I joked that it would be the perfect setting for an apocalypse because of how far you could go indoors.
There's so many restaurants and malls in each of the hotels, and there are fountains and spas, zip wires, and even a giant Ferris wheel called the High Roller which gave me stunning views of the city. The noise and music tends to run 24/7 and the lights never turn off. So, whether you're a snoozer or not, you can always find something to do.
My personal highlights were the cake vending machine (yes, I have a sweet tooth) and the sphere which liked to be an aggressive smiley face on occasion, then the moon at night, and sometimes a lizard eye.
All in all, Vegas is a little over stimulating for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed the visit. The conference was incredible, I made new friends, deepened old relationships, and had a week I'll never forget.
Find Out More
You can hear more from Sacha on her monthly ALLi Member Q&A Podcast. Find out all about ALLi's regular podcasts here.