Startup Grind
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Startup Grind

What I learned at the Smarter Artist Summit.

Or, walking around for a week with my brains exploded.

[This piece was sent earlier, but it is SO great, I still wanted to share it with you when I came across it].

Last week I traveled to Austin, Texas to attend the Smarter Artist Summit.

The Smarter Artist Summit is a self-publishing conference put on by Sterling and Stone — Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, and Dave Wright, who are the guys behind The Self-Publishing Podcast and Write. Publish. Repeat. (One of my favorite writing/publishing books.)

I’ve been to a dozen writer’s conferences before. This was the first time I went to one and just sat in my chair having my brain cracked open like an egg. I usually go for the inspiration and to recharge my focus and determination. But this time?

This time I learned stuff that has left me saying stuff like “what is happening?” over and over the last week.

This time, I had to ask questions to really understand. And I had everything I’ve ever thought I knew about publishing turned on its head.

It really was that dramatic for me, inside my little writer’s head. I was especially affected by a speaker named Chris Fox. He’s a data scientist and a writer and has figured out how to use Amazon (in particular) to reach an audience.

If you couldn’t be at the Smarter Artist Summit, you can listen to this Self-Publishing Podcast episode featuring him. He’s being interviewed by the Smarter Artist guys, so it’s almost like you were there. Kind of.

These four guys broke my brain, you guys. Everything I thought I understood about indie publishing was wrong. It’s not about luck. It’s a business. And it’s all (ALL) about storytelling.

I can see where for some writers might freak out at the idea of something like writing a book with the intent of marketing it. We’re creating art here! But, I swear, if you let yourself see it as something entirely different, it will change your life (if you’re trying to make a living as a fiction writer).

Here’s where my thinking was, before The Smarter Artist Summit:

I was prepared to give indie publishing a shot — but I was going at it as if it was just a horizontal shift. I’d use the same model, just a different means.

Meaning that I’d publish one, maybe two books a year. I’d ask everyone on my email list (which I’ve worked my tail off building) to support me by buying my book on the day it launches.

I’d ask for reviews. I’d host a couple of giveaways. Maybe see if I can convince some book bloggers to give it a little love.

That was my plan. Pretty much the exact same plan I had when I was traditionally published, only without the publisher.

(Spoiler: traditional publishing’s model didn’t work out the way I thought it would the first time around.)

What I learned last week is that for indie publishing to be successful, I need to recognize it for what it is:

An entirely different model. A model that relies on being prolific, writing in a world that compels readers to keep reading in that world. Understanding the book selling and buying market in a way that I’ve never thought of before, and taking advantage of how quickly I can publish something new.

And learning how to make Amazon work for me. I’m at the very bare beginnings of this, but the one biggest thing I learned this week was that sharing my new release with my entire email list at the very beginning is a mistake.

It will confuse Amazon, instead of letting them learn how to target readers that are most likely to want to read my book.

If people who read young adult thrillers buy my book in the first few days, it’ll be sent to more readers who read young adult thrillers.

If my dad, my brother, my best friend buy my book, it’ll be sent to people who read political memoirs, backpacking manuals, and steamy romance.

I’m still wrapping my head around it all. I’ll be writing about it in the next few weeks, for sure. And I’ll talk about the other speakers at the summit. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I wrote up ALL of my notes from Chris Fox’s talk at the Smarter Artist Summit. If you’d like those, fill out the form below and I’ll send them right to you.

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Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She lives in Reno with her husband, three superstar kids, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes, is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nation, and the original Ninja Writer.

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Shaunta Grimes

Shaunta Grimes

Learn. Write. Repeat. Visit me at ninjawriters.org. Reach me at shauntagrimes@gmail.com. (My posts may contain affiliate links!)