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Notes from Digi.Lit, San Francisco’s First Digital Literary Conference


June 29 I had the pleasure of participating on the Author Branding & Marketing Panel at Digi.Lit, Litquake’s first digital literary conference. I also attended several other sessions and live tweeted them.

Here are some gems from the morning and noon sessions I attended:

Is Digital Publishing the Best Option for Me?

Agent April Eberhardt, Mark Coker of Smashwords, author/publisher Holly Payne, and moderator She Writes Press publisher Brooke Warner


April Eberhardt: “You do have to spend money to independently publish well. Instead of taking a vacation, stay home and use that vacation money to have someone edit your book … and then get a good cover. Over 95% of indie-published books are not good quality.”


Holly Payne recommends reading Making Real Money Selling Books

“Apparently the military buys a lot of books. Prisons buy a lot of books.”


April Eberhardt: “You have to do all of your marketing, regardless of how you’re published. … A big part of that marketing is getting reviews. Most reviewers require a paper book.”


Mark Coker: “The most important thing that authors can do is focus on writing, focus on improving their writing…”


Mark Coker: “Perma-free is an incredibly powerful tool. Make the first book free and you will drive sales incredibly.” Mark Coker


Author Branding & Marketing

Christin Evans from Booksmith, author Ransom Stephens, moderator Kat Engh of North Atlantic Books and the Book Promotion Forum, and myself


Ransom Stephens: “What I try to do it not be responsible for making people show up. … What I look for is events with a captive audience … because my people are exhausted. … I did 90 events in 18 months when The God Patent came out, and how many times can you ask your mother to come to your event? Three, apparently.”


Ransom Stephens: “Make a list of everything you could do, then make a list of all the things you would actually do, then winnow that down to those things that you’re going to commit to.”


Kat Engh: “I don’t expect you to do everything, but I do expect you to invest time in what you feel comfortable with. … If you don’t want to do public speaking, don’t do it.”


Kat Engh: “If bookstores go to your website and the only place you have to buy your book is Amazon, they’re gong to be pissed.” (be sure to include B&N and IndieBound on your site)


While Booksmith manager Christin Evans advises self-published authors to do a small POD print run for book reviews and a book launch party, Ransom Stephens says, “You might want to think about whether your want to do a print book at all until you see how the ebook goes over.” This strategy also allows you to fix mistakes people spot in the ebook before it goes to print.


Christin Evans: “Who is your audience? Are they shopping at an independent bookstore, or are they shopping online?”


Kat Engh: “You should get to know your independent bookstore because they are your community.”


Kat Engh: “If you want to get your book out there and don’t have a platform … I would recommend starting with an event.”


Kat Engh: “My suggestion with book trailers is this: I wouldn’t use a Flip cam, but the best thing you can do is have a book trailer of you talking for 60 seconds about your book. … You can use virtually no money writing your elevator pitch. The reason for doing that is your can take that video and send it out to press to show you are an articulate speaker.”


Kat Engh: “Twitter’s a really good way to find book bloggers.” Kat suggests getting to know them on Twitter before you send them your pitch.


Kat Engh: “There are communities being cultivated on Google+ that are really cool.”



Reinventing the Literary Career for the Digital Age

Author Neal Pollack


On Book tours

“Unless you’re David Sedaris … there’s no value in giving readings.”

“If you write books for a living, you don’t necessarily need bookstores anymore.”


On Publicity

The Times told him: “I’m afraid we don’t review self-published books.”

“In the digital world, unless you sell a million copies, you will not get coverage.”

“No book tours, no bookstores, and no publicity.”


On Sales

“Here’s what you can expect from a digital literary career—sales.”

“If Amazon gets behind your book, you don’t need any of the trappings of the old guard.”

“It’s not as romantic as  … as an appearance on The Today Show, but those things don’t move books. Algorithms do.”


On Speed

“There is not time for quiet contemplation—you just churn and earn and burn.”


On The Digital Age

“If you want to make the transition into the digital age, you’re going to have to give up the fantasy of the internationally published author.”


“By making the transition into the digital literary age, I’ve rediscovered the pure joy of writing—and that’s worth everything.”


I’ll be back in next week with more nuggets of advice from the afternoon sessions Bringing Your Print Book Back from the Dead and How to FInd Success in Digital Books (Or at Least Not Lost Your Shirt)


10 comments to Notes from Digi.Lit, San Francisco’s First Digital Literary Conference

  • Kristan

    Very interesting roundup of quotes here, thanks for sharing! I look forward to seeing what else was said. 🙂

  • annerallen

    Fascinating quotes. Lots of different opinions here. Indie authors need to be aware that most "indie" bookstores won't take your print books unless you can wheedle them to take a copy or two on consignment–and that will only be in your neighborhood–so printing up a bunch of print books because your audience shops at indie bookstores is pointless. "Independent" bookstores are in thrall to corporate Big 5 publishing and don't want anything to do with small presses or self-publishers.

    • meghancward

      Great point, Anne. It sounds like the only reason to print books is for reviewers, book parties, and grandmas who don't read ebooks.

      • Karen B. Kaplan

        Hey! I don't read ebooks and I'm middle-aged and no grandma, and not even a ma. Also, I heard print book sales are now on the rise. (Sorry, I don't remember the source offhand.)

        Apropos of this subject, I'm currently in the first draft of a compassionate science fiction short story about a man who repairs print books, which have become rare, for nostalgic or religious reasons. Perhaps my final draft will make this a cautionary tale.

        Finally, I'm not looking for an apology, just more discussion on this interesting topic. This might give me ideas for my story….. _Karen B. Kaplan

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