Top 5 Takeaways From PubSmart 2014

We’ve got more great information from another onsite attendee of the PubSmart 2014 Conference, held this April in Charleston: Author Patricia Sands is here to share her insights. Welcome, Patricia!

3. PUBSMART logoThere were many reasons why the premise for this writers’ conference sounded different and intriguing, but this statement definitely got my attention: “PubSmart is about introducing new models that lead to smart decisions about how to seize opportunities in today’s transformed book marketplace.”

Christine Nolfi, a friend and talented author who lives in Charleston, SC, was the first person to mention the conference to me. The event was being held in her beautiful hometown and she was excited. The next thing I thing knew, several good friends also decided to attend and the anticipation mounted. Bonus! It would be a great opportunity to connect with writing friends I normally see only online, so I signed up!

Here are my Top Five Takeaways from PubSmart …

5. Relaxed, professional, unhurried atmosphere

L-R: Author Steena Homes, ALLi founder Orna Ross, Patricia Sands

L-R: Author Steena Holmes, ALLi founder Orna Ross, Author Patricia Sands

I enjoyed the professional setup of the marketplace and unhurried opportunities to interact with trade representatives who shared the latest news about publishing opportunities. As well as disseminating information on a business level, several relaxed social events provided time for casual mingling. This kind of networking reinforced the value of establishing personal connections that can only enhance business relationships. For a complete list of the schedule, faculty and sponsors we were so fortunate to have share their expertise with us, link here.  The handouts were generous and I have enough valuable material to read and process to keep me from writing for the next month!

4. The “Books I Love” free app
Check it out at This is the one tangible I brought home after downloading it immediately, right there in the marketplace. I love it! This smart, well-designed and easy to use app allows readers “to create and share thoughtful book recommendations with friends.” I was blown away by this clever idea and see it as an enormous benefit to readers and authors. I’ve been using it non-stop! I love sharing books I enjoy with others but constantly forget to do so. Nevermore!

3. The faculty and sessions
Angela Bole, Executive Director of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), kicked off the conference for me with an in-depth two-hour deep dive master class, “Publishing Smart in the Modern Age.” We were guided through the fundamentals of today’s publishing environment and were pushed to consider our personal niche, editorial strategy, pricing, and sales channels. The “great democratization of content” was discussed and the importance of the editorial, operational, and marketing phases of our work was stressed and analyzed.

  • PubSmart GROUPshot

    Top L-R: Kathleen Hall Varn, Patricia Sands, Bottom L-R: Terri Ann Leidich (Pres., BQB Publishing), Jackie Madden Haugh, Joanne Cohen

    Metadata. The mystery of and essential need for metadata was addressed in detail, including the value of keywords, SEO, and enhanced metadata. My “aha moment” was the reinforcement of the importance of a sub-title for each published work, and the recommendation that we “pick the 5 most important words to create a sub-title.” Enhanced metadata was explained with a reference to the list of 32 details for best practices found in this link. The vital role of Bowker was highlighted in relation to tracking metadata, advising all platforms and the necessity that all changes must go through their channels. BISAC codes were discussed with a reminder to never use “Fiction/literary” or “Fiction/general.” An important, simple tip and yet not known to many.

  • Email lists. Newsletter lists and the powerful benefits of involving readers in your storytelling and engaging socially were emphasized. “Don’t be afraid to pimp your ride and send traffic back to your site,” mega-author CJ Lyons advised. She asked her fans to “help me make my dream come true” with her new releases. “Reward and delight your fans,” she urged.
  • Copyright issues. Important reminders about copyright and issues with photography were discussed. Your website should have a simple copyright notice, which should be updated yearly: © date, your name, all rights reserved. Recommended sites for free photos (with credit given to source) were: Wikimedia Commons, Library of Congress and Getty Images. Note from Molly: More about copyrighted images here.
Patricia And Hugh Howey

Patricia And Hugh Howey

With panels of experts in every area of the publishing spectrum, including Jane Friedman, CJ Lyons, and Hugh Howey, we heard from the best of the best when it came to communication, branding, marketing, working with agents and publicists and the many support options available today. No stone was left unturned. There were informative and energizing sessions, such as Social Savvy & Media Mastery that offered fresh ideas and strategies. “Amplification” of brands was a hot topic as well as the crucial roles of reviewers, bloggers, book clubs, and nurturing relationships with key influencers.

2. Small is BIG!
With attendance limited to around 200 – as specifically set by the planners – the intimacy and collegiality of the conference was something I heard mentioned many times over. I could go on about the number of new friendships established and authentic connections forged. Beyond the sessions and Master Classes, there were opportunities to speak with top agents, editors, and publicists, as well as the industry stars from the marketplace and, of course, our peers.

Which leads me to the three “celebrity A-list” speakers who blended with everyone else throughout the entire conference. Often they sat in sessions with the rest of us, sharing their experience and asking questions. Other times they were on the stage as part of panel discussions or holding us in thrall with their keynote presentations.

As if that were not enough, they also simply hung out, mingling at meals and cocktail parties and joining in casual conversations. Jane Friedman, CJ Lyons, and Hugh Howey were not only generous with their experience and expertise, they were also open, approachable and great fun.

CJ and Hugh in particular wanted us to know that their story could be anyone’s. They made the dream real and offered tremendous credibility to self-publishing as an equally viable choice in today’s publishing world.

1.  Kudos to the PubSmart Team!
Five women had a vision and offered an unforgettable experience to everyone attending PubSmart 2014: Jacqueline Gum, Kendra Haskins, Bren McClain, Kathy Meis, and Shari Stauch. You promised a unique experience with a new approach and you made it happen beyond all expectations. It all occurred, to quote this clever team in their original poem, “in a grand hall, in the grandest city of all, during grandest month of 2014.”

Readers, Author Leona DeRosa Bodie wrote an accompanying post about these three special days at the elegant Francis Marion Hotel. Be sure to read it!

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Patricia Sands lives in Toronto, Canada, when she isn’t somewhere else. An admitted travel fanatic, she can pack a bag in a flash and be ready to go anywhere … particularly the south of France. With a focus on travel, women’s issues and ageing, her stories celebrate the feminine spirit and the power of friendship. Her award-winning debut novel The Bridge Club was published in 2010 and her second novel, The Promise of Provence, in April 2013, and her next is due in July 2014. Find out more at Patricia’s Amazon Author Page or her blog, where there are links to her books, social media, and monthly newsletter. She would love to hear from you!

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11 Responses to Top 5 Takeaways From PubSmart 2014

  1. Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) May 15, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

    Thanks so much Patricia! But I humbly propose that it was the attendees who made this conference so very special. We are so grateful for your support 🙂 And that includes you too, Molly, for hosting these posts. We hope you’ll join us next year…we’re already working on it

    • Molly Greene May 15, 2014 at 5:03 pm #

      Yaaaaay! My pleasure Jacquie, and I do so hope to be there!

    • Patricia Sands May 18, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

      Jacqueline, we might have to arm wrestle over who made the conference so special! The bottom line is that it was first class from beginning to end and the calibre of information shared was exceptional. See you next year!

  2. Shari Stauch May 15, 2014 at 5:59 pm #

    Lovely, Patricia – Thank you so much for all the kind words! I echo J’s sentiments – y’all were a GREAT group — and so many faculty agreed. And Molly, we’ll have a drink waiting for you

    • Molly Greene May 15, 2014 at 6:41 pm #

      Made me laugh! Make mine a martini, and you’re on. Kudos to you all for putting on a great show – and Leona and Patricia, for sharing it!

  3. Bren McClain May 15, 2014 at 8:01 pm #

    Wow, Patricia….just WOW. Thank you SO MUCH. But Jacquie said it best — you attendees knocked this thing out of the park. We hope you’ll return next year with your bat, because we’re working hard to pitch you a good one!

  4. Patricia Sands May 16, 2014 at 9:51 am #

    Molly, thanks so much for inviting me to talk about my PubSmart experience! I am still processing so much of the valuable information shared and am already looking forward to next year’s conference!

    • Molly Greene May 16, 2014 at 10:39 am #

      My pleasure Patricia! Thanks for letting me know about Orna, I updated the photo – I actually should have recognized her, accck!

  5. Kate Tilton May 21, 2014 at 7:17 am #

    PubSmart was such an amazing conference. I’m so glad I was able to be there and meet fabulous people like Patricia! 🙂

    • Molly Greene May 21, 2014 at 7:35 am #

      Hi Kate! Thanks so much for stopping by. All the attendees are raving about the experience, so it might be wise for the rest of us to buy 2015 tickets early!

  6. Deb Mangolt May 22, 2014 at 6:22 am #

    Great post and I totally agree. The conference went above and beyond and can’t wait until next year!