Author conferences are a great place for you to meet up and connect with authors and industry influencers who can help you and inspire you in your writing career. In this episode of Self Publishing Insiders, our resident author conference experts share some of their tips for making your conference experience a success.
Author conferences can be a springboard for leveling up your author career. Meet other authors and learn from them, find people to collaborate with, discover helpful and useful services, and meet-n-greet with movers and shakers in the industry! In this episode of Self Publishing Insiders we’re talking about the secrets and tips we’ve learned from years of attending author conferences. Don’t miss it!
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Kevin Tumlinson 00:01
Well, hey, everybody, thank you for tuning in to the Self-Publishing Insiders with Draft2Digital. We went and picked some of the finest minds in the digital landscape to talk to you about a very important subject, which is how to get the most amazing author conference experience possible. We are big believers in author conferences at Draft2Digital. We go to numerous conferences worldwide every year, have since our inception all the way back in 2012. It may have been a foundational part of growing this business. And speaking as an author personally, it’s been a huge boon for my own author career. So I’m Kevin Tumlinson. I’m the director of marketing and public relations for Draft2Digital. And accompanying me, we’ll go you first Nick. Introduce yourself.
Nick Thacker 00:54
Well, I am Nick, just as Kevin said, and I too have gotten a lot out of conferences. So you know, personally, as a fiction thriller author, there are some conferences that I want to attend, but haven’t because of price. And so my experience with conferences is going to be more on the—I’ve got some hacks, I guess, is the way I should say it. I’ve got some hacks to “go to conferences” without actually paying the big bucks to go to some of these conferences. I don’t know off the top of my head, but there’s like Thriller Fest up in New York, which is in New York City. So already, it’s a little bit prohibitive. And when I was in Hawaii, everything is extra prohibitive as far as travel goes, it’s hard to get there. And so once, you know, once I could get to a place, then there’s some hacks I’ve got that I want to share about how to get the most out of a conference, maybe without even having to attend the conference officially, as an [inaudible]. All that to say, I don’t think that we should not pay entrance fees to conferences. I think these are very valuable. I just, I’m cheap and I didn’t have the money in the early days, right? That’s all I’m saying.
Kevin Tumlinson 02:05
That’s fine. There’s the budget conscious among us. We can talk about that. Next up. we have Mark “the suit” Leslie Lefevbre. The first time I ever met Mark, ever met you, man, you were in a suit. And then every subsequent time I ever met you, you were in a suit. I’m always at these like, author conferences that have high humidity. So I salute you, sir, for your endurance.
Mark Lefebvre 02:32
I have humidity-free suits. They’re very special. I have a wonderful tailor. But Nick, a lot of people talk about being a ghostwriter. But you’re a ghost attendee of conferences, apparently, as you as you sneak in and out of these places. I am the Director of Business Development for Draft2Digital. I have been going to conferences for ages, both as a business person, from the business side of writing and publishing, but also as a writer. And I’ve got a list of hacks, because one of the things I always worry about when writers go to conferences is this firehose of information, and potentially how to deal with it. But then also dealing with different types of conferences. You’ve got the in-person conferences, and if you are, like me, an introvert, and you find some of the small talk conversation difficult, what are some of the things you can do to make it a little bit easier on yourself as well? I think that could be something that will be applicable for our wonderful audience.
Kevin Tumlinson 03:29
Excellent. So, why don’t we just go ahead and start there? What are things that … Well, I guess one question we need to answer up front, though, is like, what is the primary benefit for an author to go to one of these conferences? And should they be focused on going to the big conferences, the big expensive ones, or can they start local?
Mark Lefebvre 03:53
Let’s start with one of the perks. So one of the reasons you want to go to a conference is to learn, right? That’s one of the key things. You’re going to learn. You’re going to learn from people who are doing the same things you’re doing, who are doing other things, whether they’re in your genre or not, right? There’s different kinds of conferences. Regional conferences, where you’re going to find more local. So the thing you have in common is you may be local writers, as opposed to all writing thrillers like Thriller Fest in New York. And the other thing that I think is important, it’s about connecting, and it’s about community, and it’s about networking. And networking seems like a dirty marketing buzzword or whatever. But it really is about those relationships that you can have, either with other authors, with potentially editors, cover designers, any of the representatives from the various retailers, editors, agents, any of those things that you’re looking for, right? It’s establishing those relationships, because it’s those relationships that allow you to continue to learn and grow. Because you may have questions about your growth and things you want to do. And there are other people who probably have some experience doing the things you’re interested in. So in my mind, those are some of the benefits of attending an author conference. Why, you know, as Nick said, some of them are so cost-prohibitive, or even distance-wise, like all of the time and money involved. Why would you invest so much time? Well, those are some of the reasons.
Nick Thacker 05:17
Yeah, if I can add one thing, this was personal to me. Everything Mark said is absolutely accurate. And that’s pretty much top of the list for the, you know, generally why you’d want to go to conference. On the more personal side, when I left my full time job, I was working for a church, but it was with a group of people. They were my friends, they were my whole network. And when I left that to go write, to literally tie myself to it—I shouldn’t say literally, that means something. To be in a chair all day, in the basement, you know, writing in front of a screen with no human interaction, I’ll just straight up say, I got a lot of anxiety, and I had panic attacks. And there was just, you know, you can say what you will about introverts and extroverts and all that. I think there is this aspect of human interaction, real in the flesh, human interaction, that at least for me, I was craving, I didn’t realize it. And so going to conferences, was a cure in some ways, because it was a way for me to not only just be around other humans, because I have a family, I can go talk to my wife, she’s in the flesh, you know, my kids. But they’re not in the world of writing with me. They don’t, you know, get it in the same way that you two guys do if I’m at a conference. And so going to these places where I … you two are a great example, you know? I didn’t know you in person, I met you on the internet, you know, so there was all these questions of if you were real, and if you were actually, you know, who you say you are. But in a conference, you know, you get to meet people that you’ve met and interacted with only online. And it’s a much more … I want to say visceral experience. It’s a much broader experience. And that was huge for me. So that was a big one for me, was just being able to stave off some of the anxiety of just being in a in a bunker writing books all day. That I think was huge.
Kevin Tumlinson 07:07
Yes, You know, I joke and tell people, people will always assume that I’m an extrovert. And I tell people that I’m actually a high-functioning introvert. I do kind of get a little bit of a buzz and charge from being around people for a while, but then I burn out. And I have to go retreat, and slink off in my room or something. But one of the huge benefits for me as an author at these author conferences is how they just like supercharge my need and drive to sit down and write. I have frequently been at conferences where—because you know, you’re talking about your craft, you’re talking about something you love, and you’re among a whole bunch of people who are excited about it. So what I started doing was, when I’d get to that sort of introvert lull where I needed to go be quiet somewhere else, that’s when I’d sit down and chunk out, like, you know, five chapters of a book. I mean, I think a good third of my catalog was written, or at least partially written, at conferences. And I’ve actually had, like, career turnarounds, where I remember going to the very first, before it was called the Smarter Artists Summit. There was a, the guys who were running the Self-Publishing Podcast, John, Sean and Dave, they had this like roundtable thing. And I was one of the first people to go to that. And there were people there who were unknowns at the time, but now are big names in this business like David Courtney and Honoré Porter, and, you know, a bunch of those folks. And we were all just meeting each other and starting this business for the first time. And we did this, like, hot seat. And in my hot seat, I started talking about, you know, everything I wanted to do, and how I wanted to make a successful business out of writing nonfiction, but then I kept looping back to fiction. And I think it was Shawn Platt who said, it sounds to me like what you really want is to be a fiction writer. And that was like a, that was a lightbulb moment for me. I actually left that conference slightly early so that I could get home and retool everything about my business. So that’s a benefit right there, is it can really help you figure out exactly what you want to do as an author.
Mark Lefebvre 09:31
I had a moment … Oh, go ahead Nick. I had a moment like that at a conference not too long ago, When Words Collide in Calgary, probably three and a half years ago, where it was a conversation at a conference that allowed me to see something about my own overall career that helped me make a really good decision. A positive decision that led to me getting to join Draft2Digital. So that can happen. But I want to go back to something you said previously Kevin, that I think is really, really important. Oftentimes, you know, one of the things I recommend people do is if the schedule is posted ahead of time, you can check out the speakers ahead of time. You can go online, whether you get some sort of email that gives you a calendar. And it’s, okay, some of them have apps. For example, like, 20 Books to 50k has this really cool app where you can go in and build a schedule, or you can just go in manually, take a look at what you want to do and highlight. Because one of the challenges, When Words Collide, which is taking place this weekend, virtually this year, has 12 tracks. 12 tracks! It’s like Thriller Fest where it’s like there’s so much going on, you’ll want to see five of the 12 at the same time. So some of the times you decide which ones you’re going to attend in person. Sometimes they indicate, like at Novelists Inc or whatever, which ones are going to be recorded. So you go, oh, if that’s being recorded, I can go see the other one live that’s not being recorded. So that scheduling is really important. Just understanding what you want to see, who you want to maybe interact with, based on the attendees, if that’s posted. So you’re like, oh my God, I know Kevin Tumlinson, I’d love to meet the guy and see, does he wear a suit all the time, like me? Or does he wear the bow tie all the time, like, I always wear my sports coat? So that kind of thing can happen. But going back to what you said, Kevin, that was a bit of an aside, but it kind of is tied in is, when you’re scheduling, when you’re deciding how you’re going to get to this conference, who you want to talk to, what things you want to see, make sure you schedule downtime for yourself, right? Whether that’s to recharge, write, just go get a drink. Just sit back and veg and enjoy. And sometimes, often we’re very lucky, we’ve gone to conferences where it’s quite beautiful and picturesque. Take some time for yourself to just decompress to just enjoy being there. Because I hate having traveled to a wonderful city and people say, oh my god, you were in this city. It’s like, did you go see this? I’m like, no, I went from the hotel to the, from the airport to the hotel, I did the conference, and then I went back to the …
Kevin Tumlinson 12:08
What’s St. Pete’s beach like? It looks a lot like a hotel lobby. [inaudible]
Nick Thacker 12:19
Sorry about that Kevin, I know we’re on a little bit of delay. My bad. I was just gonna say, so on that note, Mark, I actually have three rules that I’ve made for myself over the years. Very simple, because I’m a very simple person, in order to memorize them. It’s Yes, No, Maybe. And for me, after you’ve made the schedule, and after I’ve figured out, you know, usually these days, it’s an app. And I can click through and see, click on people’s heads and see who they are, and all that. And I’m pretty sure I know which ones I want to go to, which conference or sessions or breakouts or whatever. Yes, no, maybe is my rule when I’m actually walking the floor. And what that is is, I say yes to any opportunity that just shows up and asks me to do something with them. So that means lunch, dinner, going out for a drink, meeting somebody, having a conversation. I try to say yes to those things as often as I can. Even if I know I need to be somewhere because I really wanted to attend that session. I have found that, for me, very often that thing I say yes to leads to some kind of connection with someone that I never would have thought I wanted, because I didn’t know who they were. I say no to any conference session that I go into, and the speaker is not good. Or the material doesn’t seem well presented or doesn’t seem well thought out and flushed out. This is not a slight to any presenter, this is hard to do. I’m a presenter, and speaker, and all that. But I ain’t got enough time for that. And there’s just other things going on that I can be saying yes to. And so if I go in, and I’m pretty ruthless about it, if I go in, I’ll stand against the back wall, so that I’m not interrupting anything if I have to leave. But I’m, in some sense looking for, you know, an excuse to leave if the material is something that I already know really well. Or it’s something that I just, you know, I thought it was this thing, but it’s really not interesting. And I don’t need that I don’t think, I’m going to duck out. And I’ll just go sit in the atrium and get a drink and talk to people that are you know, also doing the same thing. And then maybe. The last one is, I try to ask myself the question, or try to tell myself, maybe there’s something here at this conference that I need to learn, that I have no idea I need to learn. So you know, when I make that schedule, I’m thinking of things like what I’m doing right now in my writer career. Well, I need to learn, you know, Amazon ads better. So I’m going to go to all the sessions about that. I need to learn Facebook ads. Completely forgetting that maybe there’s somebody there talking about optioning film rights for my books, a professional from Hollywood who knows how to do that. That’s not even on my radar. And so maybe I just need to hear from them. So I don’t know if that’s helpful to anybody listening, but just come up with these little rules for yourself. I think they’re cute, and they’ve helped me along a little bit. You know, don’t be afraid to be ruthless about leaving, you know, a certain breakout session if there’s something better out there somewhere. You know, chances are you’re right. So yes, no, maybe.
Kevin Tumlinson 14:59
I think that’s a very important thing. It’s the same principle, you hear that applied to like books and films and things like that. Like you do not, you are not obligated to finish something that isn’t benefiting you, just because you started it. So if you are, in the case of a book, if you’re reading a book, and you’re in chapter three, and you’re just not getting anything out of it, you’re not enjoying it, you are not obligated to finish it just because you started reading it. And the same applies to these workshops and conferences. If you attend someone’s talk, and it’s just not doing it for you, you know, try to be nice about it. But it’s okay to leave and go and go slip into a different one where you might get a little bit more benefit. So let’s hop in. We got some comments and questions that we definitely want to post up. Our own Elyssa says that conventions let you talk and be heard, which is a very important point to make, because you’re meeting some of these like influencers and big name authors and all kinds of folks that you wouldn’t normally get a chance to communicate with. So this is a great time to network and communicate with those people. We have a question from Author Maggie Mae on YouTube. And she says, “For an aspiring author, what is the best conference to attend? How many should I be attending per year?” Who would like to jump in?
Mark Lefebvre 16:26
It’s difficult to answer that.
Kevin Tumlinson 16:28
Yeah, that’s a tough one.
Mark Lefebvre 16:31
It leads to more questions, Maggie, because I think it’s … if you’ve never gone to a conference, the first thing I would do, because it is an investment of time and energy. And obviously, you know, right now we’re talking about being in person and stuff. And some things are opened up, and some things are in person and some aren’t. It’s up to you to look to see what’s the … like, try local, see what’s going on, what sort of conferences, what sort of gatherings are within your realm of the things you’re interested in writing about or talking about or learning. Check it out, go to see previous ones, what they’ve had there. Sometimes even some of them have content, you can go listen to via podcast or something like that, so you can check to see some of the highlights from the previous year so you can get a feel for what it’s like. But try one local. Don’t let that be the indicator for all conferences, because one of the things I’ve found, having gone to so many of them, is they’re all run differently. So some of them are really good about this, not so good about that. And it depends on what the This and the That is and what’s important to you. For me, I’ve been in the book industry since 1992. And there’s not a single day that goes by that I don’t learn something new about it. But oftentimes when I go to these conferences lately, for the past probably half dozen years, 90% of my time is spent hanging out, as Nick said, in the atrium, in the lobby, and in the nearby bar where all the writers are. Just hanging out and chatting with people and getting to know people and getting to meet new people and see old friends, and I get a lot of learning out of that. Because sometimes things happen and opportunities arise where it’s some sort of collaboration that you get invited to, because they’re aware that that’s what you do. Those are amazing opportunities. But I still highlight specific pieces and talks and keynotes or content that I know I’m going to want to participate in. And the same thing for you, Maggie. Usually the first conference you go to, you’re probably in every session, right? You’re like, I paid this much money, I’m going, and I’m gonna go from eight in the morning till five at night, every single session, I’ll take my lunch break. That’s an important thing to start off with. You may modify that over time, as you get to know people. Like maybe a friend you saw last year at the conference, you’re going to make a point of having lunch with them or sitting together. Or even what I’ve done, this is another strategy. I’ve done this, me and Matt Buckman did this at Novelists Inc a few years back, where we both wanted to go to the same, like we sat down and looked at our things we wanted to go to, and there were things we both wanted to go to at the same time. So we divided up and said, okay, I’ll take really vigorous notes. You go to that one, take vigorous notes. And then, you know, we had dinner afterwards, and we just talked about the things that we learned. So that’s another strategy. Another reason why I think it’s really important if you’re able to make conference friends. I know some authors joke about having a conference husband or conference wife, which is just their buddy that they always do these conferences with. They seem to be like teams. And remember, some friendships—for example, you talked about the Smarter Artists Summit that was held in Austin. There are people I know to this day that are dear friends because they met at that conference. And so those are the kinds of things that I think you can really establish long term relationships just from that mutual thing that you got to do together. Whether it was suffer through a speaker and you felt bad about leaving the room because you didn’t want to make them feel bad, so you kind of suffered through in silence, so you shared that. Whether you both turned to each other during one of those aha moments and went, oh my god, why haven’t I tried this? There’s really special things that can happen there.
Kevin Tumlinson 20:09
Maybe I shouldn’t have given the advice to walk out on speakers, because I’ll start seeing people leave in droves during my talks. So I think something important, one of the things you should do when you’re looking for conferences to attend, I do think you should sample and try different conferences and different types of conferences. What I would do is go see if you can get involved in groups online of authors who are similar to you, who have similar goals as you have, and write similar things even. But find out what sort of conferences they’re attending. Because there are different types. So a few years ago, Nick and I and our friend Justin Sloan went to a conference that we’re going to say was in a place called Murder Texas, cuz that was, when we were driving in, that was the vibe we were starting to get of the place. But we went to a conference. And it was a self-publishing conference, we were invited as speakers. And when we got there, no one attending that conference had the slightest idea what an ebook was. And so all of our advice was geared around, you know, e-publishing. Around, you know, the idea of creating a business around selling ebooks. And print books. But you know, they were the, write your books, pay thousands of dollars, get your books printed, and sell them out of the back of your car. That’s what that crowd was. So that was not the kind of author conference that was good for us. Like, we weren’t going to get anything out of that. The people attending weren’t going to get anything out of us as speakers. Hopefully, they did, hopefully, they were encouraged to go check out this fancy new ebook technology. But for the most part, we knew they weren’t going to. And so that was an example of a conference that we probably should have avoided.
Nick Thacker 22:03
To be fair, we were invited there, and they paid us to go, and you know, everything was taken care of. So it was an easy Yes for us, it was not something we would have attended of our own accord. It’s also the only place in the world I’ve ever seen somebody pour Kevin a Jack and Coke neat, meaning Jack Daniels and Coca Cola with no ice. But you know, so for me, I think to answer this question real quickly, Maggie, I’m a budget guy. So I’m going to go to the conference that’s cheap, that I can afford, you know? There’s no reason to splurge and spend 1500 bucks on a ticket to some crazy convention if it’s your first one. Just go to what you can, go to where you can afford. And usually that means go somewhere in your backyard, so you don’t have to fly to get there and spend a lot of money on travel, hotels. Here in town, I’m right now currently not gonna, we’re hopefully gonna be here for a while in Colorado Springs, Colorado. And I know the two of you guys, and I met Mark last year, met up with Mark last year, at a conference here in town that turns out to be one of the best conferences, I think it’s one of the best around. But it’s great because I can go sleep in my own bed at night. And you know, not have to pay a bunch of money for a hotel and an arm and a leg to get there and all that stuff. So try to find stuff around. It doesn’t have to be big, but there’s usually in most major metropolitan areas, there’s going to be something for writers, It may not be specific to your genre, but just get in the door. Just figure it out, because it’s going to help you figure out what you don’t want to do. You may go and, like Kevin and I learned, you know, the hard way: well, we don’t want to go to Murder, Texas anymore. That’s not really our people. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. But now we know now we know what we know.
Kevin Tumlinson 23:45
Since you brought it up, that seems like a good segue into your whole conversation about attending conferences on the cheap. Before we do that though, I do want to pop Roland Denzel up, because he said he wished I’d given him permission to leave years ago. So I don’t look to see him in any of my talks anymore.
Mark Lefebvre 24:08
You’ll see the back of his head at most of the things you speak at.
Nick Thacker 24:11
I want to say, Roland and everyone else, you have my permission to leave Kevin’s talk and go to mine. I think all three of us might be presenting in Vegas this year in 20 Books.
Kevin Tumlinson 24:21
Possibly all at the same time.
Nick Thacker 24:23
You all have my permission to go to my conference talk and not theirs, so.
Kevin Tumlinson 24:28
So Nick, how does one attend conferences on the cheap?
Nick Thacker 24:33
Well, you know, I do … So first of all, let’s just say this out loud. I think it’s probably in your best interest to expect to spend something to go. And I’m not talking about, yeah, it’s gonna cost gas money to drive over across town. I mean, go there with the expectation that you’re gonna support the people putting this conference on. I was in a position where I just literally could not afford the $750 sticker price to go to some of these things, right? It wasn’t that I didn’t want to, I knew it would be valuable. So just go, if you really can’t afford it, there are ways to go and get some of the, and I’m not gonna say all of it, but some of the benefits from these things. There was one conference here in town that I didn’t know about until it was happening. And a friend of a friend invited me and said hey, this is going on right now, it’s too late to buy admission basically at the door. But come on out to the hotel, it’s down in the south side of town. And it’s a huge, you know, a relatively large Convention Center and all that. And it’s good people. And so I went and just parked in the hotel parking lot and walked into the bar, the restaurant right at the front of the hotel. And I just hung out there, you know, I just posted up there. I bought a drink, I wanted to support the bartender, of course, as well as my drinking habit. And I just talked to other writers, I just networked with them. And it started slow. I talked to the guy who invited me, and then after that, we dismissed up to the lobby, and then essentially it ended up being you know, like a networking event, where all the people who had left the conference ended for the evening, and they were all just going to the restaurant as well. And I got to just participate in the part about every conference that’s my favorite, which is meeting other people who are doing what I’m doing. I don’t need to spend $750 to go to a session and hear somebody talk in order to experience that. So to be fair, again, I’m not saying that that’s not valuable, there may be information that you want to get. But for me, the most important thing in any of these conferences is meeting you guys, is talking to people in person, making those connections. And so that’s a way to do it. And it’s great if there’s some that are local. But I’ve even considered flying out. A couple years ago, Kevin and I talked about going to NINC, Novelists Incorporated, we’re both members of that. And I wasn’t presenting there and I actually couldn’t attend because we had some familial things there that we had to do instead, that we were planning on doing. But I was considering just going to the hotel and just sitting at the lobby bar and hanging out for a few hours, trying to do that a couple days in a row. So there are ways to get something out of the conference beneficial without having to spend, you know, crazy amounts of money. Because a lot of this stuff happens in the bars and restaurants.
Kevin Tumlinson 27:21
Yeah, it’s sort of a running joke. But a lot of people do kind of hold to that idea that the real conference is happening at the bar. Which is true, but not true. Like the talks and the sort of behind the doors things, like you’re not going to get any of that if you didn’t pay to attend and you shouldn’t even try. So don’t take that as advice. But there’s nothing that says you can’t be in the lobby, in the bar, talking to people and meeting and greeting people. And that’s a big part of the experience. So, you know, I know, every time we go to NINC, I run across numerous people who aren’t actually attending the conference. We hang out at the bar, some of them would come to like our karaoke events, which became kind of famous. It’s too bad we can’t do that this year. But you know, that is a great place to sort of introduce yourself, meet people, hear some things. And it’s a great networking opportunity.
Mark Lefebvre 28:22
Yeah, so you get to know people, then maybe the following year, you know, when you can afford it, you actually attend, so you can support the conference, which Nick said is important. But here’s another trick that may help in terms of being able to afford it. So some conferences, if you are presenting, if you are on panels, like a number of panels or presenting X number, they may reduce what they charge you to attend. And that’s another great, I mean, the best way is when you’re a paid speaker and they fly you out to the conference, and they pay for everything. Those are my favorite. But sometimes, you get, so let’s say a $500 ticket or $750 ticket, but because you’re doing something, because you’re volunteering so volunteering is another way. You go in and you offer, hey, I’ll work x many hours and help you guys set up or whatever. So sometimes that volunteering helps reduce what you pay, or sometimes covers your pay to get into the conference. You may still have the hotel fees unless you live locally or any other travel fees. But that’s another great thing that you can do if you’re on a budget and it’s not an affordable option for you.
Kevin Tumlinson 29:33
Yeah, that’s a very good point. I meet a lot of volunteers at these conferences. And you know, I get comped, we get comped at D2D, or when I do them on my own a lot of times, I get the entire experience sometimes. Short hotel usually, but sometimes even that gets thrown in. So yeah, if you are interested in going, it’s really not bad advice to get involved with that conference. For one, that is showing your support, so you’re kind of paying it forward in a way. But there are also some benefits to being behind scenes there. Like you actually get more opportunities. The person who sits in the greenroom at some of these conferences meets every single speaker that comes through there. So they get an opportunity to chat with people on a personal level that most people have to pay and get in line for, basically, to meet. And not necessarily pay, but it depends on the type of conference. That’s very good advice. Okay, so we have more questions here. From Michael Susko on YouTube, “What about smaller venues, like workshops for writers, like a day long retreat with an established writer?” Mark, you do a lot of stuff with Kevin J. Anderson and some other folks. So this might be a good question for you.
Mark Lefebvre 30:56
Yeah. So Michael, great question. Thanks for asking. I think one of the things about the smaller venues or the day long workshops, or whatever, so a single day workshop may even be easier to afford if you have to take time off work, for example, to attend, and maybe local. But usually with a smaller group, you get a lot more intimacy. So Nick talked about Superstars Writing Seminars, which is held every February in Colorado Springs. And I’ve been lucky enough that they haven’t kicked me out after 10 years of going to that wonderful conference. But Superstars has grown to a larger number. I think it’s in the 250 range. But when it first started, it was really small. It might have been, you know, 80 or 100 people. And so those smaller groups, those intimate groups, really solidify those connections, those familial, like, these are my people, right? These are the people that have my back throughout the year, because they’re often interacting through like a, you know, an online group, or Yahoo group or Facebook group or something like that, where you can still reach out to these people throughout the year. So those smaller venues can be really good. And the other great thing about workshops is, you know, there’s workshops about the business of writing and publishing, which I’m very passionate about helping authors understand. But then there’s the craft workshops, too. And there’s some really great learnings that you can do in those. So those, even if it’s just a writing retreat, I know there’s some of my friends from the Calgary area who do, you know, participate in When Words Collide, they often have like a retreat where they go up to Bamf, and they’re there, they basically are all in this giant shared accommodation, you know, common bathrooms and stuff like that, common kitchen, where they’re just there for three days to write. And, of course, you know, what happens when you put a bunch of writers together, you get writing done.
Kevin Tumlinson 32:51
Mark Lefevbre 32:52
In the evening, you sit around the fire—get your head out of the gutter. You sit around the fire, you have drinks, or coffee, or whatever. And you really are inspired by these fellow people. So Michael, I really strongly encourage that. And again, if you’re shy or introverted, the smaller conferences may allow you an opportunity to open up. Now speaking of which, I do want to offer some advice for introverts. I think one of the challenges we have as introverts is we’re not good at small talk, right? That really uncomfortable thing. So a friend of mine basically says, so don’t engage in small talk. Ask a really important significant question of something really deep and meaningful so you can get right into the heart of a conversation. For me, for example, I am shy. If I walk into a room, I’ll just go hang out in the corner and like be this meek, I’m not little, but this meek little guy who just is like, I don’t know who I should talk to or whatever. Unless I see a familiar face, then I’ll go running over there or try to make eye contact. But if anyone approaches me, and it doesn’t matter who they are, if anyone approaches me, I am you know, friendly as all get out. I will be there to answer questions or whatever. So oftentimes, knowing that other people are probably like you, and they’re the ones who are afraid to approach, like I am. Sometimes I remind myself of that. I’m like, well, if anyone approached me, I’m there to talk to people, so why wouldn’t I talk to people? So that gives me the courage and the strength to go and talk to someone else to say, hey, there’s a guy standing in the corner all alone. And I’m gonna go approach them and ask them, maybe not a small talk question like, you know, a weather comment or whatever sports team or something like that. Maybe it’s gonna be something meaningful about, hey, did you catch when Kevin Tumlinson was on stage and did you see the scene Roland Denzel made when he walked out? Wasn’t that funny? And then you launch into a conversation and you’re good to go.
Nick Thacker 34:45
You know, Michael, I will add too, I have a different expectation from a conference versus a like a small workshop. And some of these are obvious. But for me, I go to a conference mainly for networking and drinking from the firehose and that sort of experience. And I go to workshop or a small seminar, or a one on one, like you, in your example, to specifically get better at something or do something very specific. And so it’s a specificity thing. So if I’m going to go with an author and do a writer’s retreat, one, it’s going to be, I’m going to have something I’m working on, some problem I need to solve. A very specific, like, hey, I need to figure this out. Whether that’s craft or marketing, whatever the workshop is about. That’s why I’ll choose that avenue. But they’re absolutely just as valuable, if not more so, to get that done than a convention or conference. But those bigger events are a different purpose, I don’t go with the expectation that I’ll get more writing done, or more work done. I go with the expectation I’ll get less done. Because that’s not what I’m going to that convention for. So just, you know, I hope that helps. If you know, like you’re on the fence, you said you’re considering it, it sounds like maybe you know, you’re an introvert, you said, it sounds like maybe the reason you’re considering it isn’t that you think it’s going to be valuable, but that you’re an introvert. In which case, just as a reminder, everybody, introversion, extroversion, all that means is how you get your energy. You know, do you get it from being around people? Or like me, who’s a recovering extrovert, do you need a bottle of bourbon and a jar of peanut butter in your hotel room at 64 degrees. That’s a requirement for me when I go to these things. That means I can participate in everything, but I need to go back and I need to rejuvenate alone, without anyone else around.
Kevin Tumlinson 36:34
That probably explains why Nick and I don’t room together anymore. Um, okay, so this comment leads into another part of the topic I want us to cover. But Shirish says, “Forget town, I don’t think there are any author conferences in my country.” And that has always been a problem, I’ve had a few people actually comment that they don’t have conferences in their local area that they can attend. So one of the ways that you can get the author conference experience, at least to a degree, is virtual conferences, which became huge over 2020 thanks to a boost from the pandemic. They’ve been around for a long while, but we’re seeing a lot more of them. In fact, some of the conferences that we’ve attended have kind of gone full time virtual, even if they’re still having in person stuff. They’re still offering the virtual component. What have you—I’ve had various experiences with virtual conferences. What about you guys? Mark, you did one recently right?
Mark Lefebvre 37:37
Yeah, so Inkers Con recently. So had great, you know, interactions, just like open one-hour sessions, kind of like this Q&A with authors at Inkers Con. It was phenomenal, on top of pre-recording the sessions. This weekend, whenwordscollide.org is a free virtual conference, that’s Friday, Saturday, Sunday, 12 tracks of programming, as well. And they did that virtual last year as well. And one of the challenges is, you know, we always built a fun fort, and I would tell ghost stories in it. And it was an unofficial event where people would drink in the fort, and it was just in the evening. So you know, we just translated that into Mark’s virtual hunted fort, an event we’re having here in the office. I’m building the fort, and I’ve got the little flashlight on my face. And everyone’s in their own comfort of their own home and they’re in their jammies or whatever in their own forts that they built, because come on, don’t we all want to just build forts all the time? But those virtual conferences can really be affordable. And if you’re introverted, they’re a little bit easier for you to get some information without having to feel like you’re pressured. Right? So for example, Nick is like, he needs to have his 64 degree peanut butter and bourbon medley there. I prefer chocolate and peanut butter or bourbon and bourbon. But you know, you’ve got that. So if you’re attending a virtual conference, you don’t even have to escape the room, turn your back to Kevin as he’s talking on stage and walk away. You shut off your camera, you just silently leave the room, and you go decompress, right? You don’t have to even leave the space, you can just kind of do it that way. So that may be a great way for you, if you’ve never been to a conference, to check out. The one thing I will tell you though, the thing you don’t get with a virtual conference, is those serendipitous hallway moments, where you bump into someone and you go, oh my god, Nick Thacker, wow, I’ve been following you on Twitter for two years. I’ve seen the stuff you’ve done. We’ve never met in person. My name is Mark, I’d love to just say thank you for the things you do. So you don’t get those weird, serendipitous moments of personal connections. Or you’re both frustrated because you’re waiting in line for the restroom and whatever, right. And there’s a giant lineup, like you’re at a Rush concert. And you know, the women’s room is clear and the men are all just standing there going like, I can’t go to the washroom, there’s too many of us.
Nick Thacker 39:50
I was gonna say, however, the virtual ones, I can crank up my audio interface so my speakers are blasting the presenter so I can go pee and still hear the conference.
Mark Lefevbre 40:00
Yeah. And you don’t miss it at all. Actually, I went just before we went live, so I could still hear you guys.
Kevin Tumlinson 40:08
Yeah. So I’ve had numerous experiences with virtual conferences at this point, both as an attendee and a speaker. And I do, I kind of miss that interactive component. But one of the things that does do is allow you to see more of the tracks. Like, typically they have all those things recorded. And so you can attend, even if it’s not live, you can see like a playback of one. So you miss a lot less of the content. So if you’re all about the content, that’s actually a really good way to go. And that’s why I like seeing these hybrids popping up. The in person with an online component means that even if you attended Nick’s workshop on Author Email, and you missed Mark’s talk about wearing suits to conferences, you can get Mark’s talk later. That’s something I’m really starting to see come out and I really appreciate that.
Nick Thacker 41:08
Hey, nobody asked this. But Mark and Kevin, did you guys have any advice on, since you mentioned suits, on etiquette? What’s the right word, the dress code, anything like that? Have you experienced any upside downside to just rolling in, Hawaiian shirt, flip flops, shorts, like I do?
Kevin Tumlinson 41:26
Most people aren’t attending dressed like that, although I’ve been to a couple of conferences where people are dressed to the nines, man. So it’s really just, you’re gonna have to kind of do a little investigating ahead of time and find out what people consider appropriate.
Nick Thacker 41:41
Bring two outfits right? And then just be ready to change.
Mark Lefebvre 41:44
Be comfortable is important. What are you comfortable in? What is you, what is that? And so for me, this has always been my thing. The one thing I will say is make sure you shower or bathe. I know it sounds funny, and like no, I’m not saying this to be funny. I’m just saying, make sure you shower or bathe, because the impression you make when you meet people in person. If you’ve had a wonderful Italian meal with garlic bread, some amazing, right, brush your teeth before you get back out into the public. Because your interaction with someone can be a negative experience for them if there are other factors about your appearance or scent, that may be off-putting. And to that end, there are people who are sensitive to scents. Like maybe it’s the, you know, bathing in route 43, or whatever it is, [inaudible] like a 17 year old hitting the town, right? So those are some of the things to be conscious of, but be comfortable. Because if you’re dressed in a certain way and you’re not comfortable, you’re not going to enjoy the experience and that’s gonna kind of ruin it for you. So again, even in stupid degree heat, I’ll put on a sports coat. Maybe with a t-shirt and shorts.
Nick Thacker 42:53
Well, Kevin is anti-pants, and he’s most comfortable with no pants on. So there are limits to how comfortable you are allowed to be. That was one of the best parts about wearing masks though, right? Because I could eat whatever I wanted to and not brush my teeth, and nobody would ever know.
Mark Lefebvre 43:08
Yeah, see, that’s a huge benefit. That’s probably like, hey, if I just had garlic, I’ll just put the mask back on.
Kevin Tumlinson 43:12
Alright, well, we’re close to wrapping up. So a couple of housekeeping type things that I want to throw out there, and one of them is conference related. We are going to be attending conferences throughout the remainder of 2021. We think. I mean, everything’s kind of up in the air, so you just never know. But the ones that are currently still making right now. So we will be, starting on 9/3, so September 3, we have Writer Con, which is happening in Oklahoma City. That’s our home turf for Draft2Digital. So if you’re going to be there, make sure you check us out. We are also going to attend the Career Authors Summit on the 18th of September. So I’ll be there as well as my wife Kara who is our merchandising manager here at Draft2Digital. So if you’re interested in promotions, you might want to say hi to her. So make sure you check that out. Then we will be at, September 22, we’ll be at NINC, in St. Pete’s Beach, Florida, which is a huge conference. One of the biggest we attend. If you are a member of Novelists, Inc. you’re familiar with that. If you haven’t heard of that, a lot of very successful authors go to this conference, a lot of industry movers and shakers. It was at this conference that I first started meeting people from Amazon, Apple, for a brief moment Barnes & Noble, some schmuck from Kobo, things like that. So that’s a great conference to attend and a great organization to be a part of. And then I know there’s others but we are actually wrapping up in Vegas, 20 Books Vegas, and that is November 8. So if you’re going to be in the general Vegas area, which apparently is anywhere from California to the outer edge of New Mexico, then you can swing by that conference. That’s become a huge conference. We’re attending, practically everyone you know in this business is attending. So check that out. That’s a great place to meet like-minded authors for sure. That, to me, is probably the self-publishing conference, at least self-publishing in the way we deal with it. Did I miss any? Do you guys know of any that I should have brought up?
Mark Lefebvre 45:44
Virtual When Words Collide, I’ll be attending their show in some D2D Live. And then in the new year, Superstars Writing Seminars is in February. So Nick’s just around the corner. I have to hop on a plane.
Kevin Tumlinson 46:00
Good luck with that. You know, Kara and I are still in the van, we’re driving the van to all these conferences, and you would think that would actually make it easier to attend them. But, you know, at one point, like, we have to get strategic about it. Because at one point last year, before they got canceled, we realized, we’ve got a conference in Florida. And then like a week later, there’s a conference in Portland, Oregon. So we were going to have to hot-foot it across the country in one big burn, so it pays to plan. So okay, so that’s going to wrap us up. Now, if you haven’t already, make sure you drop by Draft2Digital to come get started on your self-publishing career. And we’re happy to help you out with that. We got a lot of resources there. In fact, if you hop over to youtube.com, go to youtube.com/draft2digital, where you can subscribe to us and hit the little bell and all the things that YouTubers tell you to do. That is a great place to find walkthroughs of how the service works. You find content like this, where we pre-recorded live streams, so you can catch up on all that stuff. Great advice, we interview a lot of the movers and shakers in the self-publishing industry. So go and subscribe to us there. And you can follow us and like us on Facebook at facebook.com/draft2digital. I’m really starting to kind of expand our presence on all the social media platforms, so I’ll probably be changing that little spiel soon. If you’re interested, I did see some folks who mentioned this, but the D2D Print. We are still in beta. But we have made some dramatic improvements on the back end of this thing. So we are, every day we edge just that much closer to being able to get out of beta and go live with it. But even if you are just in the beta, you get the full D2D Print experience. You get all the benefits of it. I’ve been using it now for a couple years for all my print, all my print books are in D2D Print at this point. So you can join the beta. We’re adding new people all the time, as we are testing our changes we’re making, new features we’re adding. So go to draft2digital.com/printb eta. And that will give you a little forum where you can sign up and join in. And we’ve been adding quite a few people per day. So go check that out. Other than that, make sure you’re tuning in to selfpublishinginsiders.com, where you can find episodes like this. We have ongoing podcasts out there, all these live streams get recorded and rebroadcast as a podcast, so that you can listen to it anytime you want. And of course you can find it on YouTube and watch and see all the interesting things are happening in the backgrounds of our homes, and in my case our vans, while we are talking. So that’s gonna wrap us up. Did you guys want to throw in any last words before I end this?
Nick Thacker 48:55
If you are at one of the conferences we’re attending, come say hi, introverted or not. We’re going to be nice, we don’t bite. Come shake our hand. We’d love to meet you and see you and buy you a drink or whatever the case is. That’s how it all begins, guys. So come say hi.
Kevin Tumlinson 49:09
You’re the reason we attend. So make sure you are saying hi. You’re the reason we’re there. Specifically you, the person watching this now. And you and you, every one of you. That’s the whole reason we go. So make sure you check that out. Mark? Nothing?
Mark Lefevbre 49:30
I’m agreeing. I’m agreeing we’re there for you.
Kevin Tumlinson 49:33
All right everybody. Thank you so much for tuning in to Self-Publishing Insiders with Draft2Digital. We will be doing another one of these very soon. So we’ll see you or shout out to you then. Take care and farewell.