The Australian Society of Authors E-Exchange Day

I had a great day on Saturday (18 February 2012) presenting at The Australian Society of Authors E-Exchange Sydney day. For writers interested in finding out about their digital options this gave a great overview from a variety of presenters, giving first-hand knowledge and was also a lovely networking opportunity.

First up we heard from Steven Lewis who shared in good depth his experience of what 14 months as a self-publisher on the Kindle has taught him. For those who are interested in finding out more about Kindle publishing you’ll find that Steven has available a number of guides on his website that may be helpful.

Steven is a great presenter and made a number of good points. He emphasised that you need to develop a fairly thick skin when it comes to reviews you may receive. Steven said, “You don’t need a license to write a book to sell online, they don’t need a license to review.” Steven has received great reviews, but now and again he, and anyone publishing, will come across lousy reviews. And please, don’t give yourself 5-star reviews! Amazon will probably work it out and remove them! He talked us through the different royalty rates on the Kindle and what they involve and recommended not setting your selling price too high if you’re an unknown.

Very helpful was sharing different pricing strategies with authors and how he has experimented with these over time, plus giving away content for a period of time on his site in order to build up the number of reviews on Amazon. Other sensible advice was that on the Kindle you get the first 10% of the book as a sample (or preview) so don’t waste this space by “thanking your Mum…”. Get into the content and grab them right away.

The day then moved on to the ‘Innovators’ Showcase.

Karen Robertson talked us through how she turned her Kids Book Treasure Kai and the Lost Gold of Shark Island into an award winning book app. Karen told us why she had created an app from her interactive illustrated book and how to avoid some pitfalls of creating an app. She also explained for newbies the differences between an ebook and an App. I loved her description – “An App is an ebook on steroids!”. I’m not sure I agree, but I still like it! Of great interest was Karen’s discussion about different business models to creating an app and the benefits of each and well as what kind of content is good to create an app. Karen sells a guide to book apps on her site and is also presenting the ASA Workshop Creating and Marketing an App held in various capitals in Australia.

Author Felicity Pulman talked us through her experience creating two  books via CreateSpace, some of which we covered in my blog post here. Felicity says that she is a Luddite and she’d “..rather eat blackberries than use one!”  Her talk was really useful in talking authors through how much she paid for her option with CreateSpace and why. What I appreciated from many of the speakers including Felicity was their openness in sharing what they had paid for various services and different approaches.

Kim Powell is a journalist currently doing a doctorate on online-only newsrooms and runs a blog about news and sexism called The News with Nipples. And if you think that’s an ‘interesting’ name then you should read what Kim writes about and I hope you’ll realise how important it is that we have a voice out there like this. Kim gets consistently high page views on her blog and yes, some people do arrive there via weird search terms which she details here (caution: if you have delicate sensibilities versus a sense of humour then DON’T read it). Kim shared some great information about blogging, tweeting and how to build audience. I loved what she said about Twitter, “It’s a time waster but I love it!” So true Kim, I have to turn off Twitter when I’m working hard and then I get ‘Twitter-panic’ about what I may have missed.

When it came to my turn I talked through how and why you should maximise your backlist and how to start your digital journey. What are some of the possibilities and what are some of the challenges? What opportunities are there for local and international distribution for your ebooks or printed books?

Lucie Stevens, the ASA Program Manager was helpful in explaining information that authors need to understand. What is an Agency Model and what sort of royalties should you expect to receive from traditional or digital-first publishers.

We then had Chris Burgess from the Apple iBookstore and since we were told we couldn’t tweet or film I had high anticipation! That seemed however to be more the Apple policy and as someone reasonably well-informed I didn’t hear anything TOO exciting. It was a useful session in outlining to writers the different kinds of formats including straight ebooks, fixed layout, fixed layout with interactive and the Multi-Touch book using iAuthor. Chris neglected to mention that you can only sell these via the iBookstore although someone managed to highlight that.

Sadly I had to leave before hearing Gemene Heffernan-Smith from Harper Collins Australia talking about eTailing and marketing. I also missed Nerida Fearnley from Lightning Source speak although I hope to have a chat with her soon.

I think it’s really important for writers to hear first-hand from people like Felicity and Steven and Karen to help them through the process the first-time. I imagine it could seem a bit overwhelming to some so knowing that Felicity can do it – who was, she said, “dragged kicking and screaming through the whole process” –  must make it more achievable to others.If you live in other capital cities then you can attend The E-Exchange and details are on the ASA website here.  Felicity Pulman also has a write-up of the day available on her blog.

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