20Books Vegas 2019 Is a Wrap! Here's What You Missed...

The PublishDrive team is back from 20Books Vegas 2019, and we’re excited to tell you all about it!

This annual self-publishing conference is one of our favorites. Every year, the event brings together some of the best and brightest in the self-publishing community, and this year was no exception.

If you didn’t have a chance to attend this year’s 20Books conference in Las Vegas, this recap will bring you up to speed!

What is 20books Vegas and Who Is It For?

20Books Vegas is an annual self-publishing conference aimed at driving indie authors toward success. It started from a Facebook group called 20booksto50k, where authors and publishers gather online and share their knowledge about how to run a successful indie author business.

With 1,000 authors and industry professionals attending the conference this year, 20books Vegas is a hot spot to gain valuable insights on nearly every aspect of the industry. (Btw - to see what our team experienced last year in 2018, read our recap here.)

Why Attend 20books Vegas?

If you’re interested in self-publishing, or you’re already self-published, 20books Vegas is the place to be. It’s great for writers in all stages of their publishing career.

You can find many sessions about craft and starting your author business. The conference also has invaluable information for pros who want to streamline their business, venture out to new markets, or build their author empire through collaboration and international rights.

Also, genre-wise, you can find specific sessions dedicated to your category. In between the official sessions, there are tons of unofficial meetups organized around different genres to share tips, network, and have fun!

What You'll Gain from Attending 20Books Vegas

In one word: Knowledge. From my perspective, even just talking to over a hundred authors made me realize what new problems authors are facing and how they’re overcoming them currently.

Sharing knowledge is extremely important if you are starting out, or if you want to reach the next level in your publishing career. Another huge benefit of attending 20Books Vegas is that you can get together with like-minded people, network, and have fun: whether it’s chatting over breakfast, having dinner, singing karaoke, zip-lining or any other fun experience - this is how some of the most important networking happens. Plus, writers are the most fun to hang out with! 😊

Takeaways and Highlights

The show started with an absolute WOW experience with Craig Martelle and Michael Anderle on stage. They are the visionaries behind the 20booksto50k community, and their effort towards helping indie authors is priceless.

Authors in the 20booksto50k community have been heavily relying on Kindle Unlimited to maximize earnings on Amazon. This works for many authors, but as the pond is getting more crowded, new waves appear and authors are shifting their strategies to avoid keeping all of their eggs in one basket.

Michael Anderle gave a talk about how his publishing company LMBPN started to go wide (meaning publishing outside of the Amazon world as well). They provided a white paper about their experience going wide, and plan to share their insights continuously with updates on the topic.

Also, they showed a super cool trailer for their Opus X series, and I could see that all authors were amazed by the quality and awesomeness in one short trailer! See for yourself here:

Michael Anderle also moderated a panel about “going wide” where I was representing PublishDrive, the self-publishing platform for indie success with the widest ebook distribution, promotional tools and the co-author royalty splitting tool, Abacus.

I personally liked the fact that we had to avoid self-promotion in our answers, so we could focus on clear value-creation for the community. You can imagine, for most of us on the panel, it was not an easy job, but I was proud to see that we all could contribute to the knowledge of the community without heavy promotions of our services.

My favorite panels and talks were mostly related to author business topics:

  1. High-Powered authors with Lindsay Buroker, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mal Cooper, Alex Lidell and Rebecca Moesta. They shared their writing routines, their personal stories, and struggles. Also, one of the most powerful sentences I heard at the conference came from Mal Cooper on this panel: "Testosterone makes you feel invincible. Estrogen...not so much."
  2. Dave Chesson shared his tips on how to boost sales on Amazon by choosing keywords your readers are actually searching for. He also showed the importance of healthy metadata including reviews, pricing, book cover, title and book descriptions to make sure you get the most out of your book on Amazon and other markets.
  3. Bryan Cohen is a master of Amazon Ads and blurbs. He made sure that authors understood how Amazon Ads can work for them and also, why your ads might not convert well - change your blurbs!  
  4. Brian Meeks was one of the most enthusiastic speakers and showcased how to master your descriptions. I love how he thinks in a data-driven way even when it comes to blurbs: make sure you check your analytics before you change anything!
  5. “From Author to Empire” panel with Chrishaun Keller-Hanna, Michael Anderle, James Hunter, Chris Kennedy: Newbie authors learned that CPAs are super important even if they might cost money. But as with any business, investments like these will make your life easier and you’ll be more successful in the long run.

As the icing on the cake, the Future of Publishing was super interesting for our indie author community. Yudhanjaya Wijeratne was not just delivering a great presentation but also showing the next trend in the industry: co-publishing and collaboration, which allows authors to use IPs in a more effective way, create more content faster, and serve our readers in the best way.

Keynote Speech

Mark Dawson is a hero in indie publishing, as he came from the world of traditional publishing and realized the indie route is a much better deal for authors! Like everything else in life, from relationships to being an expert in your area, becoming a full-time author also takes some time.

But I loved the way how he crunched the numbers, which shocked the audience: traditional publishers takes 88% of revenue (if you are lucky) and most of them do not support authors in marketing or other ways. Mark is brilliant in public speaking, so I encourage you to watch his presentation where he shares the top eight mistakes he’s made along the way:

Fun Moments!

The indie author community is so vibrant and creative, that you can always expect something weird at 20Books Vegas - but for me, it is just the right amount of awesomeness! 😁

While Mark Dawson was wrapping up his speech, a dinosaur walked onto the stage - it was Craig Martelle!

Another fun moment involved me: when I was onstage talking about PublishDrive, I brought an abacus with me to showcase our co-author royalty splitting tool used by Michael Anderle and other big authors in the industry. I didn’t expect the audience to call me  "Abacus Lady" after that, but I guess, everyone needs a nickname! :D

So What’s New in the Self-Publishing Industry?

There is a lot happening with audiobooks, and I was happy to see that there are ongoing industry improvements related to this. Audiobooks are now available on Kobo (and in beta with PublishDrive as well! 😊), and Findaway Voices has improved the Author Direct service to sell audiobooks directly to listeners.

Bookbub also introduced Chirp this year to promote audiobooks with their email marketing service, and Dreamscape provided lots of insight on audiobook production.

Google’s attendance at the conference reflected another great trend toward the industry moving forward. They seem to be offering more services to readers via Google Play Books to get in the ring with Amazon and Apple Books (the second biggest ebook retailer on the US market). I found it fascinating to meet all industry people in one place - many of them were already familiar faces, but it is always refreshing to meet again.

How to Prepare for 20Books Vegas 2020

1. Engage with the 20BooksTo50k FB group

If you haven't yet, join the 20booksto50k group on Facebook. They have great resources and a vibrant community of authors. If you are in need of more hands-on experience with the conference, join PublishDrive’s Facebook group where we might share some photos, and also tips and tricks on how to prepare for a huge conference like this.

2. Identify your pain points and find sessions for solving them

To make the most of 20Books Vegas 2020, you should do a little prep work. Take a look at your current publishing journey: What are your biggest pain points or hurdles?

Once you’ve identified these, see which sessions might be interesting for you. Also, don’t be afraid to do a little internet stalking (I do this for every conference 😁). Get a list of people in your mind who you definitely want to meet in person. This will help you fully optimize your networking time!

3. Try to get in touch with speakers and industry people

If you frequently attend writer retreats or conferences, then you probably know that different people attend from the industry. Many of the industry people still visit the big trade fairs like London Book Fair, Frankfurt Book Fair or Book Expo America. So, whenever you have a chance to get in touch with industry people, go for it, as they might be able to share helpful information about industry trends or updates about their services.

Speakers are likewise a great source of knowledge, and many of them already have a vast amount of experience in the industry.

TIP: there’s no better moment than right after their talk to ask questions, or in the coffee shop if you see them.

4. Go out for dinners, cocktails and generally have fun!

Even though food choices are limited at the conference’s venue, Sam’s Town, (especially if you are on any special diet, like me), it’s better to take a chance and look for opportunities to go out for dinner with your tribe (even if it’s McDonalds!). Also, many of the people just hang out at the Atrium Bar, so don’t be shy - go out and mingle!

This is one of the best parts of the conference, and for some of the more introverted writers, it’s also the most difficult part. But I promise it’s not as scary as you think, and as long you have an open mind, you’ll find your people. The crowd at 20Books Vegas is one of the most supportive in the industry, so don’t worry: we’ve got your back. :)

Final Thoughts

20booksto50k is an amazing community of indie authors, and 20books Vegas is the right place to be if you are serious about your author business. You will for sure gain valuable knowledge, but most importantly, you’ll have a bigger network of like-minded author friends to lean on during your journey.

Also, whenever I get back from a conference like this, I am so motivated that I can’t stop thinking about writing my own book or maybe co-authoring one.

I hope to see you at 20Books Vegas 2020! And if you see our team in between sessions, don’t be shy! We always love meeting authors. 😁  

A Note From PublishDrive: We hope you enjoyed this recap of 20Books Vegas 2019! As you've probably learned from our recap, there's no better time be a self-published author, and PublishDrive can help you get started! We offer free ebook conversion, ebook distribution to 400+ online stores, promo tools, royalty splitting for co-authors, and so much more.

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