Author Leona DeRosa Bodie attended the PubSmart conference, held mid-April 2014 at the Francis Marion Hotel in Charleston. She generously agreed to share her experience with us. Welcome, Leona!
I could go on about the many returns on my PubSmart investment, but I’ll focus on this: what did the conference creators accomplish? They leveled the playing field. They dared to introduce a new authorpreneurship conference model, one never done before, that shouted to the rooftops self-publishing is just as legitimate a route to success as is traditional.
With a professional, collaborative approach and a little bit of cash, an indie or small press author can match or exceed the production standards of New York. Kudos for their vision, for their hard work, and for the sacrifices they made to make 2014 PubSmart possible for the rest of us. I count myself lucky to have been there reaping the benefits, all the while certain the payoffs will be ongoing. I’m grateful for the new resources I gained, and I’m still in awe of having met so many amazing people. Now, here’s a bit of what I learned:
When the publishing goalposts move, move with them
What I wanted from PubSmart, as a bevy of authors converged in South Carolina, was something more than craft workshops and a nerve-racking ten-minute pitch session. Absolutely not another “been-there-done-that-before” conference! Instead, amidst the grand Francis Marion Hotel halls, I encountered Charleston’s cohesive writing community and journeyed from interested author to avid fan.
Meeting industry professionals
The “Fabulous Five,” better known as conference creators Shari Stauch, Jacqueline Gum, Kathy Meis, Brenda McClain, and Kendra Haskins, promised attendees a different experience with unlimited access to an elite international faculty, bestselling celebrity authors, A-List agents and publishers, and mega trending industry giants. In a world that’s increasing virtual, exchanging handshakes with Amazon/Create Space, IngramSpark/Lightning Source, Kobo, and Nook executives and spending quality time together, conversing in a relaxed setting is unheard of. Hugh Howey, CJ Lyons, and Jane Friedman added even more sizzle. The workshop tracks navigated business/distribution, finance/contracts, editors/agents, and branding/PR/marketing. That, co-mingled with today’s hottest tools and emerging avenues, rocked the promises made.
My dream of sitting down and having a two-hour brunch with Brenda Copeland, the Executive Editor of St. Martin’s Press, was realized. She was the genuine article. Thanks to her mastery of “ice-breaking,” everyone at our table connected and exchanged cards. Both generous and gracious, Brenda listened to our pitches and readily shared her discoverability and social media tips. Her poignant words on our ever-evolving industry still ring in my ears, “It’s not about right or wrong, but what’s right, right now!” Another comment that struck a chord, “If you like my book, please post a review on Amazon. If you don’t, tell me.” I’m pleased to say, Brenda is now a Facebook friend. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with my first workshop.
The “Know Your Rights” Master Class
Literary agent Jeff Kleinman and Anne Dalton, Senior Attorney for Radio Music Hall and the Business Affairs Attorney for ABC’s News Magazine 20/20, facilitated the “Know Your Rights” Master Class. Our discussions ranged from invasion of privacy issues and trademarks to copyright law and contracts. It offered legal and practical real world advice. I took away five important things:
- Always act as a good person and let that divining rod drive your decisions and behavior.
- Use a publishing attorney to negotiate. Never enter into a contract without reading and fully understanding the fine print.
- When you start bringing in significant earnings from your blog and books, consider error and omissions insurance coverage, which protects writers from liability and frivolous lawsuits.
- Under copyright law, the creator of original work is its author. Infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.
- Sometimes the legal arm of the law grinds too slowly for quick relief. Such is the case when pirated copies of your hardcopy books and original ebooks appear on free ebook sites throughout the Internet. What can you do? Immediately send a Take Down Letter or Notice to the Internet Service Provider, not the website host. In effect you’re saying, “I own this; this website stole it, and you need to take it down or as Internet Provider you’re liable.” Larger websites will have a form with all necessary components to complete. If you don’t know who the Internet Service Provider is, go to whoishostingthis.com.
Effectively marketing new work to agents and publishers
PubSmart also covered marketing new work while making a positive impression on agents, acquisition editors, and publishers. Rachelle Gardner offered great tips about the perfect pitch. I’ll walk you through them, using my co-authored novel as an example.
- The meet and greet: “Great to meet you! I’m Leona Bodie.”
- Identify your reader. (Cite books similar to yours.)“Fans of The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom, World Without End By Ken Follett and Caribbean by James A. Michener will enjoy Glimpse of Sunlight.”
- Identify your genre: “I write historical and Caribbean thrillers set in the 21st and 16th centuries.”
- Summarize the story:“Glimpse of Sunlight sweeps readers off to the islands, bringing to life Jamaica’s allure and turbulent history. From the bloody slave revolt, to the exploitation of indentured servants as cheap labor, to the upsurge of piracy to Port Royal’s notoriety, to the killer disaster with no advance warning, Glimpse of Sunlight packs four hundred dramatic years into a tale teeming with rebellion and romance, colorful characters and enduring legacies.”
- End by tossing it back to your listener: “Does that sound like something that interests you?” This question – or any question – signals you’re done and helps avoid missteps or awkward pauses or trailing off.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo – know them all!
My next master class, “Distribution Deep Dive,” explained what every author needs to know to be the engine behind distribution. While passive, the key is content, of course. If the book is good, it will be discovered. Of the four main independent booksellers, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and Kobo, the one I walked in knowing the least about and gleaned a much better understanding of was Kobo. Their ebook sales are growing overseas, particularly in Canada, India, and Europe. A word of advice: publish your book everywhere!
About Leona: While sailing 1,700 miles in the Bahamian Out Islands, Leona DeRosa Bodie wrote her first Amazon bestselling novel, Shadow Cay. Since her debut on the thriller-suspense scene in 2010 and winning six literary awards, she has been praised for her ability to create action and intrigue in her novels. Feel free to stop by and visit her Website, Twitter, and Facebook page!
Readers, do you have questions for Leona about the conference? Leave a comment and ask!
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