On Saturday we made our first-ever visit to Heaven Hill Farm in Lake Placid, where the Adirondack Center for Writing Publishing Conference was held. My wife and business partner Jill Jones served with me on the panel of self-publishers that included Gary VanRiper and Jamie Sheffield. We shared different experiences and answered a variety of questions. Hopefully it was helpful to some of the attendees. After the panel’s portion ended, we visited with some of the authors and answered more questions.
On a personal note, it was great to meet Mike Coffey, former managing editor of Publishers Weekly. Mike did a magazine piece on our company, Bloated Toe Publishing, several years ago that certainly helped elevate our profile. The angle of coverage in that story was how we were becoming successful through unorthodox sales methods, some of which we discussed at Saturday’s conference.
I wish we could have been on hand for more of the presentations and discussions, but a very busy current schedule meant we had to get back on the job. However, the time we were there was well spent and educational.
If you’re considering publishing a book (including self-publishing), there was much to learn from both Gary and Jamie. The VanRipers created the most successful series ever produced in the region (Adirondack Kids, with more than 120,000 books sold), and did so mostly on their own. Gary had plenty of good information and great advice to share. I suspect he’d be happy to share further with anyone who asks. Rather than reinventing the wheel, save some grief by learning from someone who knows the ins and outs completely.
The same is true for Jamie, but from a different perspective. Our books and Gary’s are in printed format, but Jamie has been successfully exploring the world of digital publishing. There may be others, but he’s the only author I know of in the region who has sold thousands of e-books. Through online promotion using social media and other methods, he has generated substantial sales, which may well continue to expand as he discovers methods of reaching even more customers.
He’s an outgoing, friendly guy who loves what he’s doing, gave some great advice, and is breaking new ground for regional authors. I’m not a big fan of some things Amazon does, particularly certain practices that negatively affect self-published authors, but through their services, Jamie has found a way to make it work. While printed books still comprise about 75 percent of overall sales, e-books offer a massive market of almost unlimited potential, especially in the category of fiction. If that’s your genre, it wouldn’t hurt to look in on what Jamie has done … and he may be just getting started.
One thing the four self-publishing panelists all agreed on: you must start with a good product. Be comfortable that it’s attractively packaged, well written, and thoroughly edited. With those factors in place, word-of-mouth sales, so critical to the process, are much more likely to happen.
And finally, another tip of the hat to the ACW’s Nathalie Thill for organizing the conference. She may be tiring of the praise from attendees and participants at so many writing, reading, and publishing events, but if she keeps up the great work, she’ll just have to get used to it.