5 Things I Learned from PW’s BookLife Indie Author Forum

5 Things I Learned from PW's BookLife Indie Author Forum

Last weekend, P&C co-sponsored the inaugural BookLife Indie Author Forum by Publisher’s Weekly, a virtual conference for indie authors, publishers, and book experts from all around the world. The forum featured expert-packed panels discussing every aspect of the book world! The day was packed with workshops and information sessions (as well as networking!) devoted to helping indie authors find the support and expert guidance they need to publish their books. As a digital marketer for books and authors, here are five takeaways I learned from PW’s BookLife Indie Author Forum.

1. Metadata is everything.

When it comes to getting your book out there, panelists agreed that spreading the metadata of your book is a key factor for awareness. Metadata is all of the information the internet has about your book. Your Amazon book description is a good example of metadata. Without accurate and detailed metadata, readers will be less likely to discover your book while browsing the web. Another important aspect of metadata is employing the right meta keywords for search engine optimization (SEO). Finally, by having your book metadata information on as many sites as possible in as many formats as possible (ebook, print, audio, etc.), you’re able to spread your reach as far as possible.

2. Know your genre, know your audience.

Knowing your target is more than just knowing your audience. It’s also knowing your genre, your book comps, and keeping up with trends. Panelists and book cover designers Michelle Argyle and Amy M. Carlin suggested watching what other successful authors in your genre are doing and following suit. For example, if you write historical fiction, you’ll want to look at historical fiction best-sellers and take note of what works on those covers. Ask yourself, what colors and fonts are most popular? What themes and images are illustrated?

3. Be weary of expensive book awards and contests.

While panelists agreed that winning awards and contests can help your book stand out, they cautioned choosing where to submit your book. Romance author and panelist Kilby Blades said while she loved winning “a big shiny seal” she can put on a book cover, recognizability of the award is just as important. Ideally, you want an award that readers will actually recognize. Some “awards” are not even awards at all. Panelist and librarian Sarah Hawkins said the main red flags to look for are excessive entry fees, vague judging guidelines and/or contest terms, and prizes that are incommensurate with the entry fees collected. Check out the Alliance of Independent Authors for a list of peer-reviewed awards and contests. 

4. The stigma around self-publishing is changing.

In the past, self-publishing was looked down upon by traditional publishers, authors, readers, and the media. Self-published books were stereotyped as being poorly written, low-quality, or “not good enough” for traditional publishers. While this outdated sentiment still exists in some places in the publishing world, the tides are turning! Since 2006, the number of self-published books has grown by 287 percent, especially with the Print On Demand revolution. Authors who self-publish can now find themselves at the top of bestseller lists and featured in mainstream media! With all of the tools and help available to self-publishers now, there’s no telling what indie authors can accomplish.

5. A bad review isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it can help your book!

As an author, you hope everyone will love your book, but unfortunately, that’s not realistic. Although it seems like a bad review will ruin your reputation, it’s been shown that readers actually prefer books with a lower rating and more reviews (i.e. 4.3 stars and 23 reviews), than books that have all 5-star reviews and fewer reviews (i.e. 5 stars and 4 reviews). If you’re worried that bad reviews will keep your book out of book stores or libraries, you’ll be happy to hear that panelists agreed they will not. However, be careful when reacting to negative reviews. While it’s normal to want to reply to bad reviews and defend yourself and your work, it may end up leading to more negative reviews from that reader later on. So in most cases, it’s best to stay quiet.

Thanks to PW for inviting P&C to be a co-sponsor of the event! We’re looking forward to next year’s forum, and we hope to see you there! If you need help getting your book out there, check out our PR and digital marketing services or contact us to set up an informational call!

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