The Top Writing Conferences You Don’t Want to Miss as an Indie Author or Publisher

Networking at conferences is an essential part of an author’s career. It allows you to learn from other authors, build marketing campaigns together, and strategize co-author partnerships.

I personally love going to conferences; it gives me the opportunity to meet face-to-face with inspiring people and build meaningful partnerships. However, time is the most expensive resource we all have: whether you are a writer, an authorpreneur, or a business owner, you need to plan your time carefully.

In the beginning of 2019, I attended three conferences: San Francisco Writers Conference, Smarter Artist Summit in Austin, and the London Book Fair. Based on my experiences, I’ll give you an overview so you can plan your conference schedule going forward and give your author career the boost it needs.

(It’s important to note that any of these conferences will give you value, whether you’re a new indie author or a publishing pro).

Debut Authors

As a debut writer, you usually have your first book in the works. Your goal is to find the best way to publish and market your book. At this stage, you may be overwhelmed with the options publishing can give you. You might be hesitating between traditional publishing and self-publishing and then you realize – you can even be a hybrid publisher and then your options are limitless.

Carla King and Kinga Jentetics at Publishing Options Panel at SFWC

San Francisco Writers Conference (SFWC)gave the best answers to these questions for authors who were still at the beginning of their career. There were panel sessions about publishing options with self-publishing and traditional publishing professionals, such as Dawn Michelle Frederick from Red Sofa Literary.

However, all of us in the panel agreed: whatever route you choose, you definitely have to work on your marketing and author branding a lot – this is the work you cannot skip.

SFWC is a yearly conference held in February celebrating craft, commerce and community of writers and the publishing industry since 2014. Laurie McLean, Barbara Santos and Carla King put enormous effort into organizing the conference – which draws over 600 attendees – to help writers find the best journey for their books.

I loved the fact that there were a lot of traditional authors, editors, designers, and agents who attended the conference and who we all could learn from. I think anyone involved in self-publishing can learn from the traditional industry. And the reverse is true: I can see that more and more traditional publishing professionals want to learn from indie publishing. Indies can react to market trends faster; their fast production time, co-authoring strategies, and relationship to readers amazes everyone in the traditional industry. In my personal opinion, what makes indies different is that they are willing to experiment with new marketing and writing activities, so they can drive a better reader experience.

I genuinely enjoyed the real-time editing feedback from one pagers with Alex White and Beth Barany, which was not just informative, but a lot of fun also! I also listened to the amazing tips Anne Janzer gave during her presentation about non-fiction writing and I was inspired listening to Jane Friedman talk about her journey.

The venue was at the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero in San Francisco – the hotel lies close to Pier 39, so you can take a short walk to check out the sea lions with your author friends, but more importantly, you can hang out in downtown San Francisco with the best community.

Part-Time Writers with More Books Published

Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant and Dave Wright presenting at Smarter Artist Summit

If you are a part-time writer, you probably have more books published. Your main goal is to become a full-time writer and you are searching for the best options to leverage the power of your books. Smarter Artist Summit was an excellent choice for authors at this level.

I loved the vibe of Smarter Artist Summit because you could definitely feel that these people know what they are doing, and many of the attendees were in the process of learning from them to become full-time writers. Smarter Artist Summit (SAS) is a self-publishing conference of about 100-150 people in Austin organized by Sterling and Stone (Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant and Dave Wright) who are great writers with Write.Publish.Repeat.

SAS has a very strong network and community building effect. The organizers announced that StoryShop, a co-writing platform helping authors build universes together, will be taking over the conference starting next year, and I am sure that Tom Patchin, David Brown and Austin Van Camp will keep the community together and will even bring some new life to it!

It was great to see at SAS how authors were learning about the career-boosting effects of market research, excellent cover design, and email lists. Authors like Bonnie Johnston were also sharing knowledge about how to write better stories faster.

I enjoyed hanging out in the lobby or in the neighbourhood with other authors, and meeting some industry people, such as Chrissy from Kobo or Damon from Bookfunnel. Since SAS was smaller and more casual, it gave people enough time and opportunity to network in breakout sessions – that’s the best part of all conferences!

Prolific Writers or Indie Publishers

If you are a prolific writer with a wide backlist or even a publisher who represents other authors, you can easily have more than 20 books published. Your main goal is to figure out the next big tweak, action, or partnership to increase your overall business, so your eyes and ears are always open for new and exciting ventures. London Book Fair was a great conference for those with more experience looking to level up.

London Book Fair has been one of the biggest book fairs in Europe since 1971, when it was founded. The fair comes from a very traditional background, so when you enter, you’ll see all the big 5 publishers crowding in the Main Hall of Olympia. However, there is a corner in the back of the Children’s Section where you can find your tribe as an indie – Author HQ.

Joanna Penn and Kinga Jentetics at ALLi Stand at London Book Fair

You can find a lot of self-publishing services at the Author HQ within the Writer’s Block section, such as the amazing people from ALLi, and you’ll see many indie authors wandering around. Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) is run by Orna Ross, who not only has the passion to help other writers, but she is an amazing multi-genre writer herself.

I visited LBF in 2017 also, but this year my experience was totally different: indies do rock at LBF! As an author, you have the chance to meet the famous Joanna Penn or Self-Publishing Formula people like Mark Dawson and James Blatch, or the famous bestselling author, Michael Anderle.

But most of all, you can learn from others about how to publish wide and the most important steps you should take as an author. And the best is that it does not stop at the conference: you can attend networking events with SPF or ALLi to learn more during one-on-one conversations, and London can give you even more!

Closing Thoughts

I learned something new at each conference and made valuable connections. No matter which conference you choose from the above list, you will come home with new friendships, possible partnerships, and plenty of knowledge that you can use going forward in your publishing journey.

To summarize, these are the conferences I suggest you attend based on where you are in your author career:

  • Debut writers – San Francisco Writers Conference: You’ll learn how to publish and market your book, and you can connect with other newbie authors and more experienced vets who will point you in the right direction.
  • Part-time or intermediate authors – Smarter Artist Summit: You’ll learn what steps to take in order to become a full-time writer, and how to leverage the power of your books for a long-term career.
  • Prolific writers or indie publishers – London Book Fair: You’ll learn how to take your career to the next level and streamline your author business. LBF is also an excellent place to make high-level connections with others in the industry.

[Note: the 20Booksto50k Conference in Las Vegas is another top conference for indie authors and publishers of all levels. Check out our recap here and be sure to put this conference on your schedule!]

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