My Self-Publishing Journey: Do Public Appearances Work?

I have several opportunities to speak in public this year and I’ve accepted a few. First, I’m talking with other romance writers on a panel at Tucson’s Himmel branch library on February 9th. Then a month later I’ll be speaking twice at the Tucson Festival of Books. I’ll be talking again in November at TusCon, Tucson’s local science-fiction convention.

I also have several other conventions available for me to attend to network with readers and other authors. There’s the Romantic Times Convention, the Romance Writers of America national conference, and Jimmy Thomas’s Romance Novel Convention. 

All of these events will be a lot of fun to attend. But which of them will do my career the most good?

J.A. Konrath (a suspence/thriller author successful in both traditional and indie publishing) busted his butt to promote his first seven traditionally published books. He traveled all over the country doing signings and personal appearances. Now that his indie career is well established he’s not doing that anymore.  Author Dean Wesley Smith and his author wife Kristine Kathryn Rusch  believe that writing is a better use of their time than promoting–but they still go to the occasional science-fiction convention.  I’m still in the very early stages of my career, still building word of mouth about my books and going to conferences is a fun way to break out of the solitary existence of writing. But is attending conventions the best use of my time and money?

I think for most authors it comes down to the budget. Does the event require travel and an overnight stay? If so, how much does transportation and lodging cost? Is the benefit worth the expense? For many authors who are looking for a traditional publishing contract, the larger conferences give them a chance to talk to editors. There is a direct benefit. For indie authors the reward is less immediate. You may sell some books at the convention, but probably not enough to cover your expenses. The rewards are less obvious: connections and friendships that will enrich your life in unexpected ways. New readers who may not have heard of you otherwise. It may be only a few, but they may be bloggers who eagerly share the news about an author they just met.

These benefits can’t be measured on a balance sheet. But as business people, we do still have to keep track of the money. How do we decide to spend it? Which event is worth interrupting our writing schedule to attend?

Share with me how you choose.


Filed under Publishing

6 responses to “My Self-Publishing Journey: Do Public Appearances Work?

  1. I would think a the most important factor is who attends the conference? I found several new authors I want to read at TusCon but being an author and having a huge TBR list means that it can take months before I get around to reading anything. However if you are at a fan based event maybe the purchase- read- review- recommend cycle would be much shorter.

  2. booklaurie

    I’ve found that people are a lot more likely to buy if they came specifically to hear me speak — if they came for the conference in general and just wandered into my speech, the odds aren’t as good.

    So it seems like the trick to converting Audience Members to Readers would be promoting the heck out of your appearance BEFORE the event…that way people who might be interested in checking you out can do that & get swept up in the enthusiasm of having met the author!

  3. rozfox

    Frankie, As a writer who doesn’t like public speaking, this is a question I’ve wrestled with often. I do think events like the books festival may net a speaker readers. And library talks, we may not know if they net new readers. Many who go to libraries only get their books from there. If a person is a speaker at a huge conference, and attendees like the workshop, I know that sells books. I just have never worked up nerve to speak at such a large venue. And I don’t know about social media. Some people swear by twitter following, and blogging. I think promotion is like going after flies with a scatter gun. You may hit some, if you’re lucky. But this is a great question and would make an interesting chapter discussion.

    • Thanks for your insight, Roz. I think you may be right about the library talks. As for the big conferences, I know I’ve bought books by authors after I heard them speak at science-fiction conventions. As for social media, that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. It would be a good topic for the chapter!

  4. Pingback: Odds and Ends | Frankie's Soapbox

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