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BookLife Indie Author Forum–An Overview

Grace Allison Blair, author of the award-winning Einstein’s Compass, and I attended Publisher Weekly’s BookLife Indie Author Forum, a one-day virtual conference on many topics of importance to Indie authors (check out Grace’s review for topics). It is their first year for this particular conference, but I doubt the last. Attendees entered through the lobby, established a personal profile to share with other attendees, and could arrange in advance to have their books hosted in the Library. Before entering the auditorium (where presentations occurred), attendees could chat with others in the Networking Lounge (though it was hard to find particular people there). All the tech stuff went smoothly and the few glitches I encountered were on my part, not theirs.

I’ll start with Grace’s overview because hers is much more thorough than mine!

I took the Booklife Indie Author Forum to keep up to date with the current trends in publishing. BookLife a subsidiary of Publisher’s Weekly is a good place for indie authors to learn their trade. The cost of the one day on-line workshop was $129.00. A bargain to learn:

How Self-Publishing Can Work For You

Reading a Book By It’s Cover

Amazon’s Best Practices

Advice from Breakout Session 1: Beyond Amazon – How does format influence your distribution?

Perfect Pitch

Book Awards Are They Necessary?

How To Choose the Right Categories on Amazon

How To Get Into Libraries

The live workshops offered experts like Jane Friedman. I loved the chats where you could ask questions of the panel.

When I entered a chat I wrote my name and the name of my book and wrote my book and that it has won ten book awards including the BookLife Indie Author Project for Texas. In the chat people asked for my contact information to learn more of how I received the book awards.

As an author I was invited to post my book free in the BookLife bookstore. Since I had won the BookLife Indie Author Project for Texas [congratulations, Grace!] I was invited to post my book in the BookLife Premium listing, free. As an attendee my registration included the opportunity to have my book featured in a second place, BookLife Indie Author Forum’s New Title Showcase. Powered by Combined Book Exhibit, this special virtual exhibit will be highlighted during the conference in its own room and will be made available on both the BookLife and Combined Book Exhibit websites through 2022. I was able to download the BookLife Premium Listing of books.

There was a virtual free book totebag where the sponsors offered free stuff.

There was a virtual networking room. In the room you could see who was there and chat or use the Zoom feature to talk face to face. I tried to find Jacqui but we just missed each other.

There were workshops I could not attend because of a conflict where I was in another workshop. So I look forward to receiving the recording so I can go through all the workshops and glean more information.

This was BookLife’s first time they offered on-line seminar for indie authors. Next year will get even better.

There aren’t a lot of virtual events that focus on Indie authors. When I heard about this one from Grace, I immediately signed up. Here is some of the interesting tidbits I got from the presentations:

  • Indie authors write and publish to support their families. Yes, they love writing, but the driving force is to pay the bills, not be the somewhat apocryphal ‘starving artist’ image of a writer.
  • One presenter said (I’ll paraphrase) that no traditional publisher could offer her enough money or benefits to switch from Indie to trad publishing.
  • Indie covers may be better (more timely, more relevant) than trad because Indies publish quickly. Trad takes a year (or more). What is appealing in a cover changes dramatically for some genres in that period of time.
  • Your newsletter verbiage should match the voice of your genre. For example, if you write humorously, your newsletter should reflect that.
  • Great tips on creating book covers that include images and font and layout that fits your audience and genre. I love that they provided before-after examples.
  • One presenter covered the ABCs of how libraries purchase books. That was fascinating but with too many details to list. It was more involved than I thought (and included preferred locations to find books) so if you are interested in selling to libraries, I’d recommend finding a how-to on that before beginning.
  • They reviewed the pros and cons of paid reviews, ending with “Are they worth it?” I found this fascinating because I spent a lot of money with Kirkus early in my writing career on reviews and advertising and I’m not sure I got anything for it.
  • On your social media platforms: Don’t ask people to buy your book; tell a story that makes them want to.
  • Interestingly, no one talked about blogging. I think that was a miss. For me, it’s my predominant way to market/network.
  • The idea that Indie publishing is a stigma is an outdated view. Um, we Indie authors know that!
  • The conference was professionally delivered, via Zoom which most people have used so are comfortable with. The MC’s for each presentation were organized, energetic, and kept the conversation moving nicely.
  • The presentations covered a wide variety of topics, many I don’t see often in other events.

Overall, a fun event, each presentation chock full of information, and offered at an affordable price. I will definitely attend next year’s event if I can.

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also the author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Natural Selection, Spring 2022.


100 thoughts on “BookLife Indie Author Forum–An Overview

  1. Great to hear you got a lot out of the conference, Jacqui. I had contemplated attending but a bit difficult with the time difference and working. Though, I will consider going next year.

    Liked by 2 people

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  3. Sounds like an interesting online conference, Jacqui. Thank you for taking the time to offer us an overview. I’ve never paid for or attended anything like this, assuming that most – if not all – of the information can be found online. So, my question is “What did you learn that you didn’t know before?” Are paid reviews usually worth it? Are book awards helpful/necessary for sales?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think what I learned ‘bigly’ is how mainstreamed Indie has become. It’s a legitimate alternative to trad publishing, not what people who can’t make it use. And I loved one presenter’s image of Indie authors as doing it to pay the bills. I’ve often said that we Indie’s didn’t need to be breakout successes or publish blockbusters. We just needed to sell enough to pay our bills. This is the first time I’ve heard someone of authority say the same thing.

      Liked by 1 person

        • They did point out that the author should keep writing books, that when readers like their voice in the first book, they are more likely to buy the next and the next. I’ve seen that myself, with my books. If people like one of my books, they are more likely to pick up the rest in the series.

          I could see that for you, too, with all the different ways you wander the planet.

          Liked by 1 person

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  5. I’ve attended a lot of virtual meetings over the past two years, but none seem as inviting as this one, where you had a lobby and met folks before the program started (I normally sign up at the time the meeting starts). I’ve also tended lots of writing and book festivals, but they’ve all been in person. I have always enjoyed such events.

    Liked by 1 person

      • My favorite book festival is Calvin University Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapds, MI (and it’s broader than sounds, as they have even had atheists, Jewish, Hindu and Muslim authors–they just have to write about faith). The Savannah Book Festival is also good. For writing workshops, check out the Iowa’s Summer Writing Workshops in Iowa City–I’ve attended once and it was great.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you Jacqui for sharing my comments on the Indie Author BookLife Workshop. Lots of information for indie authors in one day. I am still watching some of the recorded classes. I think the blogging was left out as indie authors are so busy writing they are still struggling with marketing and how to reach their audience on the web. Your the best example of how blogging works.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did spend some research time a year ago digging around about the effectiveness of blogging. From what I found out, it’s still great, just a lot of work! I think SM is much easier.


  7. Excellent advice, Jacqui! I especially appreciated telling a story that makes people want to buy your book. Reading the Amazon sales pages of best-selling indie authors provides examples of what works. Using a tool like Publisher Rocket can help you discover marketing blurbs contributing to higher sales.

    Liked by 1 person

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