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6 Lessons Learned from the Indie Author Fringe Festival

Sara General

I just finished watching another great presentation from the 2016 Indie Author Fringe Festival that took place at the London Book Fair last week. Basically, #IAF16 was twenty-four hours of incredible interviews, presentations, blogs and podcasts. You can find them all here. There was so much fantastic information that it was a challenge to keep track of all the things I wanted to work on by the time the event was over, however—I have picked out a few follow-ups I think are achievable within the next year. So without further ado, here are my 6 takeaways from #IAF16, organized into short, medium and long-term goals. 


Short Term Goals (1-2 months)


LESSON # 1: Update my social media descriptions. I’ll be the first to admit that when I first joined Facebook and Twitter, I wasn’t exactly sure how I wanted to represent myself to the social media world. I have a ton of interests and all of them seemed important or central to my online identity. I care a great deal about humans all over the world having fresh water. I want the education system to represent diversity well, particularly where it concerns Indigenous Peoples. And I love learning to speak the Cayuga language. But what I find myself tweeting, or reading and thinking about the most is my passion for writing and the incredible joy that I get from every aspect of the self-publishing process. There’s a better way to succinctly communicate that via my social media bios, and I’m going to take some time to figure out how.

LESSON # 2: Learn to use to make my links shorter. One thing I've learned is that the little things can go a long way to tidy up or better organize the information I’m sharing or want to share with the world. I always wondered how people managed to make their links shorter—especially given the character limits on various platforms. Fortunately, this presentation by Jane Friedman helped shed some light on how easy it is to make links more accessible. There's several other nuggets of wisdom in her presentation, but this is a small one I was super happy to hear about. 


Medium Term Goals (3-6 months)


LESSON # 3: Record an audio book. At present, I have three books out. One is a short novel, one is a collection of stories and the third is a novelette. I would love to turn these into audio books. Over the next 3-6 months, I will be working on bringing this material to life in the audio format. This presentation by Joanna Penn was incredibly helpful in determining how and where to get started.

LESSON # 4: Practice making stronger and catchier images/covers. So, a confession. It was only in the last month that I discovered the wonder that is Canva (this despite the fact that I’ve read about it in so many self-publishing blogs) and I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. I love how easy to use it is and moving forward, I plan to use it a lot to help me craft images for my blogs and design cool infographs or just make more interesting images. And while for the most part, I plan to hire out all of my cover designs, I still love making the attempt to design covers on my own (even though I’ve made pretty much every rookie mistake that the three wonderful cover design presentations covered!). One of my favourite presentations was this one by Derek Murphy. I took a ton of notes and look forward to trying to make better images based on what I learned here. And I have to admit—this is probably not the best use of my time as an author but as I’m super fortunate to have all of this really amazing software (InDesign, Photoshop, Premiere, etc), it would be a real shame to not put it to some good use—if not for my own author brand, then definitely for my publishing company’s. 


Long Term Goals (6 months - 1 year)


LESSON #5: WRITE MORE BOOKS. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last two years of serious writing, it’s that making time to write every day—even 500 words a day—can really add up. The number one piece of advice I heard consistently in each panel and presentation—was to keep writing and producing great stories. Not necessarily social media posts, or newsletters, or blogs, or sales descriptions—but work hard to finish that first novel, then the second, then the third. This year I plan to write three new books, a non-fiction book, plus write a novelette and a few short stories. So far, I’m doing well in meeting that goal. I’ve written the first draft to a book called The Wall of Bones, and I’m working on another book called The Fortunes of Ithaca right now. I’ve also written two short stories. Since creation is the funnest part of being a writer, it’s easy to make time for it. That doesn’t mean the ideas are always there or that I still don’t get lost—I definitely do. But making time to write every day has certainly paved the way for me to write more stories than I’d ever have dreamed possible as little as three years ago.


LESSON #6: Continue Organizing My Writing Business. In March of this year (right at the start of my March break vacation), I hired a facilitator to help me work through a strategic planning session for my author business because I wanted to get organized around the activities I was going to undertake on behalf of my books, as well as those I was going to undertake for my publishing company (since they are slightly different and have slightly different audiences). 


This exercise was incredibly helpful. It helped me to set some specific targets for what I hoped to achieve over the next year such as establishing an email list, setting up my finances in a responsible way, taking care of my intellectual properties, and understanding my distribution networks in a way that didn’t interfere with the creative/creation aspects of writing. It also helped me to see that you don’t have to do everything all at once. That it’s okay (and honestly better) if you tackle one thing at a time. For instance, I spent the last week getting more familiar with Canva. The week before that, I spent setting up a separate business account for author related expenses, and the week before that I spent learning about how to create ebooks in Scrivener, etc., etc. Tackling these new tasks or technologies in bite-sized pieces has made it a lot easier to incorporate them into my work in a meaningful and effective way. 


So that’s it—those were among my biggest takeaways from the Indie Author Fringe Festival. I am super excited that the Alliance of Independent Authors has made the presentations available for everyone to view. The presentations are an incredible resource and even though I knew you could watch the videos at any time, I still woke up and tried to attend most of the events on the day of because I’ve never been to a writer’s conference before and I thought it would be fun to pretend I was (which it absolutely was). So I want to say a big thank you to the Alliance of Independent Authors for creating a space for these topics to be shared with those of us who can't travel to these book fairs in person. I learned a lot and I appreciate it so very much! I hope you all have a chance to check them out as well!


Happy writing everyone!