A Recap of My Weekend at the Bay Area Book Festival – Part 1: Business of Publishing

By Stacy Jerger (@ApoideaEdits)

This past weekend, June 6th and 7th, I attended the Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley. Aside from the awesome events, the weather was sunny and breezy and beautiful. Surrounded by book people, and the warm breeze blowing, I felt like I was walking in a nice dream. This is one of the reasons why I love living in the Bay Area.

There were so many panels to choose from about writing, books, and publishing. I think it’s important to keep up with what people in this business are saying. Here’s a small recap of the discussions I attended on both days.

Saturday, June 6th

The Self-Made Author: New Frontiers in Publishing

Robin Cutler (Ingram Spark), Martha Conway, Sarah Drew, Azin Sametipour, moderated by Sam Barry (Book Passage's Path to Publishing program)

There should be no mistake about this: self-publishing is a small business.

When our book is finalized, one of the biggest challenges is how to get it out there. Uploading it on Amazon may not be enough. Many self-published authors need a better way of distribution.

While there was some shameless self-promotion for Ingram Spark, Robin Cutler brought up a lot of great ideas about how to let booksellers know our book exists.

There’s the Ingram catalog that sits next to other big publisher catalogs to give indie authors a fair chance to get noticed alongside traditionally published authors. This sounds like an amazing resource. Countless booksellers—big retailers to small stores—are looking at these catalogs to see what’s new.

We can also look into libraries. Getting our book in a library makes it that much more available to the public. Martha Conway had a good example about this. Her story takes place in Cleveland, Ohio, so she contacted local libraries in Cleveland, and they were happy to add her book.

Self-published authors can also look into organizations and groups that share similar interests to what their books are about.

But with these options, we can’t forget to do our research. Every title, edition, and format of a book requires separate ISBNs (trade, ebook, library, audiobook, etc.). You may end up purchasing ten ISBNs for one book.

Other ideas that were mentioned:

  • Kickstarter – use it to make money for publishing and as a marketing campaign.
  • Giveaways – give early copies away to thought leaders, bloggers, etc.
  • Social Media – last but not least, use your platform for announcements.

But in fact, the most unique tip I heard was CHAPBOOKS. It may not be 19th Century England, but chapbooks can be perfect to share with booksellers, bloggers, and readers.

Much like those excerpts at the end of books where authors give readers a taste of their next novel, chapbooks are printed samples you can physically pass around. It should be high quality and beautifully printed (like your book), contain the first chapter, and maybe back cover copy.

If you've tried any of these options, I'd love to hear about your experience!


The Business of Publishing: 2015 Edition

Ethan Nosowsky (editorial director, Graywolf Press), David Streitfeld (New York Times reporter covering digital technologies, and author), Mark Tauber (publisher, HarperOne), Steve Wasserman (editor-at-large, Yale University Press), moderated by Mark Ouimet (vice president, Ingram Publisher Services)

I knew I was going to be all over this panel. It was oversold, and I still squeezed my way through to stand at the back of the room (hence the terrible photo).

Honestly, I was engrossed by this discussion.

Everyone wants to know what publishing looks like now and what the future may bring.

Back to distribution, the old ways are breaking. With bookstores on the decline and closing, who is going to sell these books that publishers release?

One of the biggest issues discussed is that publishers don’t have a readership problem, but a retailer problem.

I’ll paint you the sad picture they painted for me.

Along with big bookstores, traditional print reviews are dying. There are less and less options for traditional books to get noticed, and therefore fewer books being sold. If a book stops selling after six weeks (or sooner), Barnes and Noble returns all the printed copies back to the publisher.

That’s just terrible.

Because of this reality, the competition for better books grows tighter, resulting in publishers taking on fewer authors so they can keep up. It’s a hit-and-miss, troubling system.

On the bright side, publishers are coming up with more creative solutions. They actively participate in mailing lists for discount ebooks like BookBub and BookPerk to reach readers directly.

And to some degree, independent bookstores are rising again. These bookstore owners are in a good position to let readers know what’s good and what isn’t, saving us from wandering through endless piles of new books.

There are many amazing things that are happening in publishing, but it's always good to know what challenges our industry is facing.


Stay tuned for a recap of my second day at the Bay Area Book Festival. (I got to see Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo, speak about writing!)

Stacy Jerger is a freelance developmental editor who's had the privilege of working with fiction authors to organize and strengthen their stories. If you need help with your manuscript, check out her website.