Alright, so at the start of February, I visited Dublin and the Author Sustainability Conference. I have to say, just having a chance to go to Ireland and Dublin City itself and some of hte surroundings was a ton of fun. I wish I had more time to actually explore Ireland properly, just grab a car and drive around but with only a few days free; I chose to make the most of it in the city itself before doing the conference.

One of the things I did get to see? The Trinity College old library, which are amazing. Also, rather sad because the college library is no longer in use anymore. For something so beautiful not to be in use, it feels a little sacrilegious. I guess that’s the difference though, where you debate whether something should be preserved or used; because there’s value in both.

Maybe something to be explored in a story….

Anyway, Dublin city is great. Go see it if you can. I’ll try to attach a few photos here…

Malahide

So, the conference itself was held just outside of Dublin in the city of Malahide. Town? Probably town. Either way, easy to get to via public transit and taxi – though that’s likely around 50 or 60 Euro. Public transit only cost me a few Euros, and was relatively comfortable. So, you know, transit into Dublin and then take the train down. Easy.

The town itself was pretty, had an interesting castle including some huge gardens. The castle itself wasn’t particularly amazing (if you’ve seen as many castles as I have, you probably would agree) but it was fascinating to see how it was built upon itself, so that it was constantly lived in till the late 20th century. The gardens were fun, including seeing a wall that was used to heat the plants, similar to how the greenhouses mentioned in A Thousand Li use fires in the banked earth to warm the buildings.

Also, the chicken yard and the bird tower. Yeah, that’ll show up.

Anyway, spent a day wandering around the castle and the water and the town itself (which was very small) before the conference started.

The Author Sustainability Conference

Let’s start with a few things. The ASC’s focus, in my view, is really for mid-to-late stage authors. I almost feel it should embrace that even more, with seminars more focused on that. For example, the Facebook and AMS ads side was focused more on the mechanics of it, rather than how it fits into sustainability a little more. How do you make use of these tools, with minimal cost to yourself, etc.

Obviously, in its first year; I figure it’s going to take a bit for both the speakers and organisers to work things out. I know I missed that to a certain extent, and might have gone a little too advanced in my own talk. Ah well, something to play with.

I do think that the overall idea and need for the conference is great though. For many genres, we’re exiting the gold rush stage or have been out of it for a while. Most genres are in the mature stage, maybe even moving into the decline stage. And, of course, I’m talking like everyone knows what the product life cycle is – and I wonder if a seminar should be done just on that.

Probably.

Anyway.

There was only one room at this time (again, inaugural conference); and they did something interesting by giving some speakers twenty minutes to speak and then throwing all the same speakers onto a panel. I actually think that works quite well, since then you can look at it as a block (advertising, other income methods, etc.) rather than individually. Definitely something that helps stick people together faster.

There were talks about other income methods which I mostly skipped since I’d heard most of those talks already or know what I’m doing. I focused more on the discussions on burnout, figuring out your lane, etc. The sustainability side, basically and overall, those weren’t bad.

I certainly picked up a few things I think will help, or at least adjust my thinking about stuff. Of course, in some ways, I don’t need the conference as much as many others. Not because I’m smarter than people, but because I was, as usual, super advanced and burnt out a long time ago. Multiple times.

I am however, just about smart enough, that two years ago when I realised I was on the usual course to burning out, I took action to stop it. Which, you know, is an improvement.

Still, it’s a good reminder; especially when I see other people doing better, when I see people managing to do what I want to do (sort of, but not really, because the costs for me are so high); that I did make whatever decisions I made on purpose.

If anything, I think this is where the ASC might need more focus on. Not so much the intent, but doing more workshops, more specific ‘these are the tools to take it easy and keep working’; or ‘here’s a schedule that I know a lot of people use’ or ‘here’s how to create a schedule, even though you might be somewhat not used to it’ and ‘here are pain points when creating such things, here’s a few tools to overcome them’.

Stuff like that, where the focus is managing the career, the burnout, working around things and maybe even refocusing on pathways that work best for you. If you figure your goal is to write, perhaps it’s not best to self-publish; but to find a digital first publisher who could and will take your book which comes out once a year. And then you can expand on the IP if it does well into the various other licensing options.

Or, how to make use of various licensing options when you have a lot of IP but not a lot of time. Or ability to write.

Or figuring out outsourcing, how to do it and why you’d do it and at what levels.

Or working out P&Ls, and sustainable expenses and incomes. Which, by the way, can be quite different.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think they did anything wrong in the topics or seminars. This was very much the first con and people were getting a handle on what was going on, and some seminars were pretty damn good. I just think that more could be done now that we’ve had the conference to dial in what it does and differentiate the conference from others.

Because really, the topic does need to be explored.

Even in olden times, when tradpub ruled the roost, not that many authors managed to keep writing. Even when midlist writers were a viable thing, when they were earning money from all their old books and got advances that allowed them to live – even if they had to write a few books a year – it was never that easy.

Life got in the way. Burnout happened – and not just from writing, but from events outside your control in your real life. You had friends, family, children and just only so much time.

And really, if we keep saying this career is a marathon not a sprint; perhaps we should be teaching people to train for marathons not sprints. Because most of the way we teach people, the things we train, are for sprints.

Rapid release? That’s great, if you can write 3 books in a decent time frame. But if you only write a book a year, then that’s three years before you release a book and another year at least before book 4 comes out again. How do you promote or keep interest in a book alive, if you only can do 1 a year.

How do you sustain a career, when you’re still losing money and at what point do you call it quits? Do you call it quits, if the goal was never to actually make money but to see your work out there? And if so, what other perspectives or methods do you need when your goal is so different from the $$$ goals of everyone else.

This post has stopped being about the ASC somewhere along the way and become a rant / commentary on the industry a bit I guess.

Anyway, overall, I enjoyed the conference. I think it’s doing good work, and I hope they continue for the next little while. I think they need to be a little larger, but obviously; there’s an upper limit that would make it viable and worthwhile; but I know the organisers are looking into it.

One last thing about the conference. I love the LitRPG crowd, they’re great people. I just think we shouldn’t have so many of us on the speaker section; because so many LitRPG authors are quite junior overall. Yes, we’ve been at this for say 5-7 years; but we are still in our gold rush stage (growth). We’re unicorns, and using a herd of unicorns; no matter how large, doesn’t work.

Fewer LitRPG authors, more others – and more others who have a wider variety of experience.

Anyway. My thoughts. Feel free to drop questions.


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