May 2018

Self-Publishing Conference, 2018: a review

At the end of April I attended the annual Self-Publishing Conference in Leicester for the first time. I had signed up to this as an information-gathering exercise, as well as an opportunity to speak to others in the field.

The positives first: I made a host of new friends (and my own Twitter following picked up about 50 people) and as a result of the presentations I have a clearer idea of the best way to work towards self-publishing a novel, should I want to take that route: the short answer is that I’m not going to do everything myself.

A key learning point for me was that in promoting your work it’s not just having it ‘out there’ and advertising it to buyers that matters, the distribution network of shops and warehouses is incredibly important, and there are ways to make sure your work is included.

And now for a bit of balance: the majority of the sessions were largely overviews, and not pitched at any particular level. Thus a session on marketing included an introduction to using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as mentioning the Nielson list and distribution networks; and a session about designing a cover for your book covered both visual design and also the physical materials you might choose.

As a result, in many of the sessions I found myself swinging from ‘I know this’ to ‘this is way above my level’; from ‘ah, I need to do that soon’ to ‘that’s about print-on-demand, which isn’t relevant to me yet’. There were also sessions on the craft of writing, which seemed a little out of place in a professional context focused on publishing, although I can understand they might be most necessary to someone just starting out.

I wonder if in future it might be useful in future to offer streams, where you can attend sessions on marketing, design, PR, writing, etc, at levels 1, 2 or 3. The sessions almost took this structure anyway, but I found myself reading between the lines and looking at the presenters’ job titles to work out what the focus would be, whereas a more explicit structure might be helpful.

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