Well, that’s a wrap. I went to the last 20booksto50k last week, and while the conference will go on, it has been renamed as Authors Nation and has a different group running it. It won’t be Craig Martelle’s baby, which will change it. Hopefully for the better, including some aspects like having a more robust organisational chart and code of conduct outlines. We’ll see, but this discussion is about the old 20booksto50k.

Smoking and Vegas

Let me start with my biggest complaint about 20booksto50k and that’s the constant, just constant, smoking. In-doors, in the casino. Because the Horseshoe (the hotel the conference is held within) is an older hotel, it’s smoky. Bad enough that my eyes stung after a while because of the smoke.

I hate it. It’s one of the reasons I only go every few years, and frankly, why I might skip next year’s Author Nation or the one after that. I don’t like the way it makes my eyes hurt, I don’t like the idea of getting cancer because of second hand smoke. So, yeah, my perception of the entire conference is colored by my general dislike of Vegas and smoking.

And yes, it’s Vegas and on the strip, so it’s a little expensive too; but expenses I can manage. Constant in-door smoking? Not much I can do sadly.

Alright, whining over. Moving on to the conference.

Sessions

20booksto50k was geared mostly towards newbies. There were a FEW Advanced Courses available, but frankly, some of the Advanced Courses I’d visited – or glanced through the powerpoints – weren’t what I would consider advanced. Then again, I’m struggling with the idea of what an advanced course in terms of a seminar would look like for the Toronto Indie Author Conference myself. So, I won’t throw too many stones there.

It’s funny, because while I know ‘advance’ means more than just ‘this is how you set up this program, this is what you use it for and why it is important’, I’m not entirely sure what else an Advanced Course would consist of. Tips and tricks that make the most of out of a system, I guess, would be the best option. Like how to negotiate lower rates with billboard and radio ads, where you could find cheaper options. But that’s not really that useful for the majority of people, and for many of us, ‘Advanced’ is just on a gradiation of complexity of what we have done.

I’ll have to play with that idea further, and try to figure out how a definition of ‘Advanced’ works for our own conference; but in any case, the majority of sessions weren’t that useful for me. Again, worth noting I’ve been at this for 6.5 years now and I have a background in online marketing and business. What isn’t useful for me might be very useful for others.

Things I did pick up (from seminars)

  • a new interesting way to do do Facebook ad creatives and the need to be much more explicit in even the images of what they’re promoting.
  • a way of potentially increasing tension and showcasing characters during fight scenes (splitting POVs between ‘thought’ and ‘action’ to showcase the action through various viewpoints).
  • more and more people are making use of the sales funnel as a teaching tactic for marketing strategy (good!)

Outside of that, I spent most of my time not in seminars or sessions at all. I was out talking to suppliers/vendors or networking in general.

Vendor Hall & Meetings

On Monday, 20booksto50k had a vendor hall. It basically consisted of a variety of industry vendors getting together to speak about their various services. There was everything from the usual suspects of author services (social media promo, formatting, book delivery and author newsletter services) to audiobook narrators and audiobook production companies to the big distributors (Google Play, ACX, KDP), book printers and miscellaneous groups who help make publishing easier. Even a few publishers, though not many of them.

I’d really be curious to see more publishers next time, as this might be an interesting place to not only sell books but also for authors to talk to them, which could potentially be combined.

I like/liked how the vendor hall is growing. I think, over time, this could become a very powerful and important part of the conference. I’d love to see more publishers, more licensing or other IP expanding options. Sure, we have audiobooks and book production covered, but how about toys? Games? Comics? Why don’t we have publishers coming over? Or for that matter, an agent or two (yes, it’s an indie author conference, but foreign rights is a major area and, frankly, hybrid isn’t a bad idea either in some specific places).

While I knew the vast majority of vendors there, and had little (current) use for many of the services (often because I already had them or an equivalent service I was happy with); there were a few opportunities that I found including PocketFM. Certainly, if this continues to expand, I could see the cost of the entire convention being paid off via a single, good, submission.

Vendor meetings on the other hand, often via appointments outside of this, was quite useful. If nothing else, just to put a face to some of the people I worked with and that I wanted to do business with or are already doing business with. While I (personally) don’t put a huge percentage on some of these connections (especially bigger companies which rotate employees constantly); it’s always nice to know the individuals. And the occasional meeting won’t hurt. 🙂

Again, not much came about in terms of income generation there or opportunities immediate, but that might change in the near future.

Networking

For the most part, I spent most of the convention doing what is colloquially known as barcon. Lots of time just sitting around tables or standing up at the bar or various parties, chatting with people. In some cases, I was the one dispensing advice, at other times (a lot) we were just blathering. You know, talking to friends you hadn’t seen in a bit.

I’m not sure I got a huge amount from the networking this time in terms of business. It didn’t help that I was at NinC, so a lot of things we wanted to do we were in the midst of still finishing up after the show. Other than a small amendment to how we wanted to do Facebook ads (testing $0.99 boxsets); there wasn’t a lot of new business information or new amendments to the business. It’s one of those things though, where I just don’t know if there’s a lot more to be done.

Was good to meet some people I knew and even better to catch up or have a chance to speak with some people that I had met before, but never really got into deeper conversations. That’s the thing about networking at these events, you never know what might come out of it. I do know I sent a few people off with some good information or put them into contact with others who could help them.

This year, I didn’t manage to make it to much of the informal networking events. I should have, but I just never got around to it and there wasn’t much of a LitRPG one this year which was kinda sad. There was one informal one, but it was via a sit-down dinner which just isn’t as useful for networking. I just ended up talking to people I knew.

Ah well.

If I have one complaint, it’s that there aren’t enough seats and a bar that is a bit less smoky and large. The Horseshoe basically isn’t really well set-up for large groups, so it ended being scattered across 3-4 different bars. Not the end of the world, but I hope next year there’s more seating and places just set-up for us to hang out and talk; even if it’s in the old ballrooms or the like.

Food & Costs

Saw a post by someone about their cost for the convention. He came up to around $4k US or around CAD$5.3. That was a little more expensive than my own, I think overall, I spent around US$2.5k. US$500 tickets, CAD$700 for flights, US$700 or so for hotel (which should be split since I had a roommate); US$300 or so for food (I had a lot of free food and only ate 2 meals (at most) a day) and about US$100 for transportation. Which I could have gone cheaper if I’d split taxi fares.

Not horrendous, but expensive enough that going to so many conventions this year started adding up. Nevermind in mental and physical energy.

RAVE (Readers and Authors of Vegas)

This happened on the Friday. I didn’t do a signing though I had a great fan come by with books, which was all kinds of fun. I enjoyed showing up to the event, seeing what books were being signed and sold and even managed to get out with only buying 1 book. I have a few I’ll be picking up on ebook later too.

As an author, I’m not sure it’s currently worth going and doing, beyond as a chance to showcase yourself. They need more headline authors showing up, to just push the attendance. Also a lot more marketing of the event to general readers. It can’t just be authors pushing their readers to turn up, it has to have outside marketing.

Still, I hear they did around $48k worth of sales, which is not an inconsiderable amount. Then again, there were like 300+ authors, so that works out to be around $160 of sales per author on average. And there’s definitely some authors who did a lot better than others.

Concluding Thoughts

20booksto50k was the first writer conference I ever went to as a published author. That was in Edinburgh, and was a great introduction to the world of publishing. Over the years, I’ve found myself getting less from the seminars, though the actual conferences themselves and the networking is, of course, still extremely useful.

It’s a little sad to see the end of the conference in its current incarnation, but with the sheer size the Vegas conference has grown to, it’s a necessary change I think. I expect a lot from the upcoming Author Nation, though I doubt I’ll turn up myself unless I’m asked to do so (and probably paid to come); because I hate the smoke of Vegas that much.


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