• Renate Stendhal
  • She Writes Press Celebration and First Self-Publishing Summit 2013 in Berkeley
She Writes Press Celebration and First Self-Publishing Summit 2013 in Berkeley
Written by
Renate Stendhal
June 2013
Written by
Renate Stendhal
June 2013

When She Writes comes to my doorstep to celebrate and teach, I put on bells and whistles to be there. It’s a rare joy to be connected not just online, but live, in a room with colleagues, other She Writers, editors, and She Writes Press publisher Brooke Warner.

At an elegant Berkeley hotel, there were the first books, beautiful to look at and thumb through, impeccably published, exactly like any quality mainstream paperbacks. There were the ten women who had written them, happily talking about the experience of working together with Brooke and her editorial and production team. Getting guidance, support and every practical help needed was paramount for first-timers, but I also heard similar praise from old-timers who told me they had no desire to jump through the million hoops of traditional publishing once again. All the authors talked gratefully about the mutual support, the give and take of being part of a group, instead of facing the leap into the public eye all alone.

But now that the appealing books are there, what next? Distribution is only one problem the new press has worked hard to solve. The main challenge, of course, is how to create a demand for the books in order to get distribution to kick in for you.

This is where a second Berkeley event came in. The first “Self-Publishing Summit 2013,” organized by Brooke Warner together with online publishing expert Howard VanEs (letswritebooks.net) was an electrifying beat-by-beat teaching weekend with a bonus presentation by publicist Lorna Garano and a free author photo shoot with Jeremy Cortez. Every moment was filled with essential know-how about the brave new world of do-it-yourself publishing—keeping control over every aspect of your book and keeping most, if not all, the money your book can earn.

Particularly hot themes were “How to Think Like a Publisher,” “How to Quadruple your Amazon Royalties,” “How to Complete a Book in 45 Days or Less,” “Advanced Kindle Strategies,” and, of course, “Secrets of Building Your Platform” (one main secret: start building your database.) Some figures gave me pause: 70% of all books are sold by Amazon; most of the rest by Barnes and Noble. E-books already sell 2 to 1 over hard copies.

The speed of the “boot-camp” was dizzying for an old-timer like me who has experienced the joys and pains of the traditional publishing world several times in the past. I liked the challenge, being faced with new and sometimes still confusing terms and concepts (what is a Kindle Single, a Kindle KDP Giveaway, a landing place, what are Pinterest book storyboards, etc.) The Summit felt uplifting because our instructors, Brooke and Howard, conveyed such solid expertise and certitude about the potential advantages of the new models compared to the old, traditional ones.

For someone like me, who easily gets dizzy reading about platform craze, particularly welcome news were about Kindle: the suggestion to create a small Kindle book with one chapter of my book, add visual or audio content or anything I like, and get started. This could be a new way of “serializing” a book. (A few days after the Summit, I read that Margaret Atwood is planning to serialize her next novel!) Then create interest through a “KDP promo” or Free-Giveaway action of Kindle books. Do it with someone who knows how. You may get some sales. Then do it again with your next chapter… Build up muscle. Finally, the best news: at any time you can still go ahead and publish your entire manuscript as a Kindle book.

Most encouraging to me was Brooke’s advice to “figure out your team”: choose your editor, designer, publishing consultant, marketing team, and publicist with care. You don’t have to figure it all out by yourself, constantly fighting with overwhelm, afraid you’ll never get any more writing time because your “platforming,” marketing, selling will eat you up. (I loved the advice of making use of fiverr.com, the website that offers all kinds of editing and marketing services for $ 5 a pop.) Or, to make it even less stressful, find a “hybrid” publisher like She Writes Press: if you are accepted, you pay to get your book produced, and as a special bonus you are already part of a large community of possible readers for your book.

The magic of self-publishing came across in the most lively, charming way when a ten-year-old boy, Curtis Robert, presented his first self-made, self-published adventure book for kids, A Furry Mystery, cleverly strategized with Howard VanEs, produced in four months, and marketed with the help of an enterprising mom. Little Curtis stood in front of the packed room and answered the question why he likes to write with, “Because I like to express my feelings.”

To sum up what I took home from the Summit: It’s possible to get a new book out into the world. It could be fun. I could be part of it. There is reason to be optimistic.

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  • Renate Stendhal

    Really? The report made it sound exactly the opposite, as if the numbers were "already" growing for Amazon. Thanks again!

  • Renate Stendhal

    Interesting, Christie, that the numbers differ. What to make of that?

    Reading Publishers Weekly is a tough study -- thank you for sharing the link!

  • Christie Olson Day

    Yes, that sounds right.  Although "already" might give the wrong impression of their e-book share ... if they have 45% of the e-book market, then it's dropped dramatically since Apple, Google, B&N, Kobo & the rest entered the fray. It was close to 90% a few years ago.

  • Renate Stendhal

    Trying to google the correct sales figures... According to Reuters (from last February), Amazon covers 27 % of all book sales (B&N 16 %) and it already owns 45 % of the e-book market. 

  • Christie Olson Day

    To follow up on the market-share figures, I've gotten my info over the years from Bowker, via Publishers Weekly.  Here's the most recent update I found at a quick glance ... and amazon's share HAS crept up again, to 30%. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/trade-shows-events/article/55571-touching-the-bases-at-digital-book-world.html

  • Renate Stendhal


    I think a great and easy idea would be to talk to Brooke or Howard and get some guidance on how to start looking...There's also fiverr.com, as I mentioned, and places like taskrabbit.com. Maybe She Writes has a group of similar writers you could join... 

    Good luck!

  • Renate Stendhal

    Thanks, Christie, I am checking back asap with the organizers to make sure what I misheard... Your comment is much appreciated! Can you share with us where you get these figures? I am sure everyone would like to know.

  • AJ Collins

    How did I miss you guys in my backyard.  I live not more than 70 miles from Berkley.  Where is your list of upcoming events??  I don't want to keep missing these fabulous opportunities!!

  • Christie Olson Day

    You were right to react with surprise at those figures about amazon's market share ... they're just plain wrong. ("70% of all books are sold by Amazon; most of the rest by Barnes and Noble.") Amazon sells about 25% of all print books, and that's AFTER the "Borders Bump" increased their share. B&N doesn't have anything like 30%. That 70/30 figure you heard might have been an older number for e-books only; amazon's e-book share has been declining for several years, but was once absurdly high. The e-book marketplace has been diversifying, thank heavens.  And while e-books outsell p-books by unit sales, income is still way behind; the "sales" figures include all those free e-books.

  • Pamela Olson

    I have an idea for a children's book that I think could resonate really well with female children in particular, in a similar vein as The Giving Tree. But I have no idea how to go about finding an illustrator and/or publisher for such a book. And it seems self-publishing a large illustrated book would be difficult. Anyone have any thoughts?

  • Thanks for writing about our events, Renate, and for being an advocate of what we're doing. We so appreciate your enthusiasm and showing up.