Welcome back to our new 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: The Self-Publishing Show Live!
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 [email protected].
Melissa Addey, ALLi Campaigns manager and Shanaya Wagh, ALLi volunteer intern, attended the Self-Publishing Show Live conference, and this is their report.
The Self-Publishing Show Live! Conference
Hosted over two days on the banks of the river Thames in London’s Southbank Centre, the Self-Publishing Show Live! (SPS) is the largest gathering of indie authors in this part of the world. This was the conference’s third year, and it welcomed around 800 indie authors. For me, Shanaya, it was only the second writers' conference (at an international scale) that I’ve ever attended. Being at the ALLi stand helped me meet more indies than I would have otherwise. It was nice to chat with other ALLi members, discuss the indie publishing space, and share ALLi's author income survey results that had a few jaws dropping! A slightly different reaction to the one at London Book Fair where, for many authors, self-publishing was still a faux pas.
Previously, I was too far away geographically to attend conferences—I lived in India. So I never understood the benefits of attending a conference in person. However, this time, being in the same room as 800 others who’ve chosen the same path as I have to publication (and are proud of it!) was a surreal experience—we indies love business and the craft, so our conversations are very different from authors published by third party publishers. And these conversations are so uplifting!
The line up of events at SPS were a testament to the various facets of being an indie. SPS hosted sessions on craft (story structure), creating connections with our readers, expanding the business and having a success mindset. Not what you’d expect at a typical author’s conference.
This has been my (Melissa's) third time at SPS Live and it still remains one of my favourite indie events. The first time I attended it was my very first indie conference and suddenly having the feeling of being surrounded by what I like to call ‘the tribe' (of self-published authors) was a revelation: meeting people online is all very well most of the time, but actually being in the room with so many other indie authors was and remains a wonderfully inclusive feeling. This time I realised just how many more authors I'd been in touch with via ALLi; meeting not only my own contacts but also speakers, publishing services, ALLi members and Ambassadors, which made it even more special.
Our Takeaways from London
As indie authors, we are curating a creative business. It’s hard work, it pulls us in all possible (and impossible!) directions at once, but it’s born from us and reaches people around the world. And most importantly: there’s not one tried-and-true path for indie authors. We are each different, and each book (and genre) has an audience.
Britt Andrews spoke about her difficult journey that led her to self-publish, and her tremendous success since she began in 2020. Bella Andrea was candid about her first failed attempt at translations back in 2013, and her decade-long journey into indie publishing.
The one presentation that truly spoke to me was Craig Martelle’s The Perfection Paradox. Martelle said re-writing the first book twenty times won't make anyone a better writer. Despite having published several books myself, it felt like he was speaking to me and my indecisiveness about whether I should rewrite my own books! And I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Several people later told me about how perfection gets in their way of publishing their books, too.
Martelle believes that we indie authors receive direct feedback for our books from our readers in the form of reviews and the amount of books we sell. Each new book is an opportunity to do better. He also wondered whether as authors we can tap into the same enthusiasm and naivety we had back when we were writing our very first book if we decide to rewrite them now. I don’t think I can. What do you think?
One of my personal favourites was Marc Reklau's speech about seeing the positive. I've since bought and am halfway through The Happiness Advantage, a book which proves that people actually do better by many measures of success when they are happy. I think this is an important message for indie authors: to stay happy in what you are doing. Don't get dragged into feeling you haven't done enough, learnt enough, written enough, sold enough.
Instead, take joy in the creative work and let that happiness infuse all your writing and publishing work so you will be more successful. And of course it was quite a special moment to see Orna Ross present ALLi's new data from our Indie Author Income Survey and showcase the Big Indie Author Data Drop: these items have been a huge part of my work for ALLi over the past year and seeing them come to fruition and the interest the audience had in all the facts and figures we have now created/collated was very fulfilling.
What We're Going to Do Differently
I’m not going to lie: my head is still ringing from all that I learned in those two days. I’ve yet to digest the information and pick it apart so that I can use it for myself. Being on a hiatus from publishing at the moment, this conference helped me reflect on what I have done, what I can do in the future and what my plans are for myself.
I miss publishing and connecting with my readers, and being told, ‘hope you get back out there soon!’ from a fellow indie was very encouraging.
However, this time around, I’m going to take my book publishing seriously. While before I would do what others suggested I do and stick with ebooks and POD, I am now inspired by other authors I've met and am thinking more creatively about my future plans for writing, marketing, and publishing.
I spent most of my teens reading on Wattpad before I jumped to ebooks. I rarely read print, and I devour an author’s books when I find someone who writes in my favourite genre: romantic mysteries. Romantic mysteries are hard to find, and serialised fiction for indies isn’t as common as ebooks.
In this conference, I learned that being an indie author requires self-confidence and self-belief. The constant need for other's approval through perfection is an unattainable goal, and waiting to gain confidence in my books after I have a certain number of readers, a perfect five star rating and no negative comments is a battle no one can win.
At the end of the day, our author-businesses are based on one element alone: us. If we approach it with a ‘I can do it’ mindset, paths will open and things will fall into place.
The one thing I wish I did more of was reaching out to more people on the other stands at the conference. I spent most of my day at the ALLi stand and was star-struck at seeing people who’ve helped me on my self-publishing journey in person. It didn’t help that I’m an introvert. I’m giving myself grace and hope to do better next time!
For me this year it's about accepting reality with good grace. Using the new data to help make strategic decisions. Understanding some things will be with you always (hello, marketing) and therefore making them work for you long term. Knowing that ‘life admin' is a fact of my life and therefore building a slot for it into my to do list (with time allocated to it) instead of resentfully trying to shoehorn it into an already full working day.
From ALLi’s stand at the Southbank Centre, I had a panoramic view of the bridges crossing over to the other side of the Thames, red buses queueing up on the bridges, and the tube as it rattled over the bridge. London is a busy city with a mishmash of architectural styles: the gothic Houses of Parliament and the London Eye opposite it, for example.
On my last day in London, I took a walk along the Thames, trying to sift through what I had learned from the conference and the people I met. If you don’t like crowds, I would advise walking away from tourist hubs like the Parliament Square. As the crowds thin out, you get a very different view of London.
The famous Walkie-Talkie, Cheese Grater and other glass buildings up ahead gave me a feeling of being in a sci-fi movie. All I needed to create a perfect scene were airplanes shuttling passengers from one building to the other and a lavender sky!
After I reached the slightly busy Blackfriars Bridge, I crossed over the Thames and found my way to Downing Street. I waded through the tourists and thought, ‘It's time to get back home.' But I am so glad I attended this conference in person.
Every time I attend the SPS show, I'm grateful again to Mark Dawson for the location he chose. Yes, London is handy for me because I live here. But it isn't that. It's that he chose to set the conference on the South Bank, in a prestigious and culturally important part of London, home to the National Theatre and many other arts institutions. If he wanted cost-effective, he could have chosen some warehouse down the back of beyond. Instead, he claimed a place for indies right in the heart of London's arts space and in so doing said, ‘self-published authors are important and we're here to stay.'