BEA 2013: What Have We Learned?

By Lori Culwell
BEA 2013

BEA 2013 was just this kind of a blur.

OK, everyone is back from BEA (Book Expo America) now, and of course we’re all experiencing the “BEA Hangover,” where we’re all exhausted, our brains are full, and we have forty thousand follow-up emails to send.   BEA is super overstimulating and tiring, and by the end, you feel like you ran a marathon and need some time off.   I guess what I’m saying is, if you don’t hear from anyone in the publishing industry in the next couple of days, don’t take it personally—everyone is just tired and playing catch-up from being out most of last week.

While you’re waiting to hear back from your agent, publisher, publicist, or anyone else in the industry, allow to me to share some insights that I believe I gained during the conference.  I say “I believe” because I think I need some more time to process all of the knowledge, panels, and conversations I had, but I’m going to tell you my favorite parts/ impressions I was left with.

n  Self Publishing is Here to Stay.   This topic is so interesting to me, I’m actually working on a whole separate article about it for the Huffington Post (out this week if I can dig out and finish it).   Ten (or even five) years ago, self publishing was still the subject of ridicule, and writers (including me) were embarrassed to say they had done it.   Now it’s everywhere, everyone is doing it, and it’s totally accepted by big publishers.

n  Books Are Business.   With the “self publishing is everywhere” thought in mind, it seems like everyone (including myself, on two panels) is talking about authors need to be more organized and business-like, and to promote themselves more.   This isn’t a new insight, but it’s one we have to keep thinking about until all authors are considering writing (and the business of writing) as a career.    This was actually the point made by my favorite panelist/ speaker of BEA, author Barbara Freethy.   I’m going to do a whole profile on Barbara and how awesome she is, but suffice it to say I think you should look at her network and her results (3 million books sold, # 1 New York Times bestseller) and take whatever she says as gospel.  I know I did.  Another thing I liked about Barbara was that she was totally down-to-earth and didn’t attribute her success to luck or any other mysterious factors.   She’s just smart, she’s a good writer, and she is really conscious of building her brand.  Oh, and if you’re an author, she really encourages you to write multiple books.  I thought that was another awesome insight.

n  Social Media is Non-Negotiable.   Many of the publishers and agents I talked to will now not even consider an author if they are not organized and available on social media.  Websites, Facebook, Twitter—these are all indicators that you are participating in your career, and without these tools, publishers and agents are afraid you are not going to participate in your own success, should they take you on.   Should you still want to go the traditional route, this is good to know, right?  Agents and publishers ARE Googling you—every single one of the many people I talked to said they absolutely do this.   One funny thing I noticed was that everyone is now just accepting social media and websites as part of the “big picture” of successful authors, not as the magic bullet they thought it was last year.

Those are my “first impression” takeaways, and of course I have more bullet points to add to this list tomorrow, but I thought that overall, this knowledge was totally encouraging to authors who self-publish and self-promote.    It is absolutely possible for you to build up your own career as an author, and more and more, authors who do this are then accepted by the mainstream.

With that in mind, go forth and take some steps to build up your network!

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