This year I attended the 20 Booksto50k Vegas event. This educational and networking event for indi authors was held at Bally’s Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Since self publishing in the spring of 2021, I knew that publishing my first novel was the end of one journey and the start of another. You learn a lot writing a book you don’t publish and I would say that you learn so much more writing a book that you do. From the drafting of the novel, editing, design, and publication, there is a lot of information to digest and just as many different opinions on how to do it as there are authors. But one thing was clear, by taking publication into my own hands, I was going to need to learn how to act like a publisher if I wanted to be successful.
In late October 2022 I learned about an event for independent authors where I could meet others in the industry as well as other authors who could teach me things they had learned which would help me overcome challenges.
Would I Recommend 20 Books Vegas?
In short, yes. There are several reasons this conference may be better for some than others and though it may not be right for everyone, in general there are a lot of things any independent author can gain from attending. I would say that if you do not have a book ready for publication this conference will have great information for you, but you will miss out on a lot of opportunities that come with having something to promote. If I could go back, I would have attended this conference, taken what I learned, and then published my book a few weeks/months after. However, having a book out allowed me to talk with others about it, show the cover to people, and work on my “elevator pitch” to an audience who is genuinely interested. Sure, not everyone I spoke to was ready to buy my book, but I felt comfortable sharing it with other writers in my genre and learned a lot as a result. I was also able to listen to dozens of other elevator pitches for books which was another great thing to learn and experience.
What Are The Major Takeaways?
The first thing that I wanted to share was how I felt during the event. It was like I was surrounded by my kind of people. As someone who is usually reclusive and introverted, I had a great time meeting people, making friends, and found it unique in how easy it was to start a conversation. All I had to do was ask “so, what do you write?” and “that’s interesting, tell me more!” As a result, I met some rather amazing people, went and had fun with them, and was able to learn from their experiences.
Let’s get into the three core aspects of 20 Books Vegas. This event provides new writes with the following worth attending in person (though it’s great that there is a virtual option for those who may not be in the position to attend in person.)
Aspect One: The Vendors
The first day of the conference is centered on the vendors. From companies that assist with print on demand services, eBook publication and distribution, book cover design, marketing services, audio book services, and marketing, there was a lot to learn. I found this very beneficial as a new author since I was unfamiliar with many of these services and getting to speak to representatives gave me the unique opportunity to understand what they do as well as get information on how I could use them. At the end of a few hours, I had a large stack of flyers, business cards, pamphlets, and even a book.
At the end of the first day, the information I got from the vendors alone made me feel like the trip was already worth it. As well, many of the vendors were on the schedule for panels or presentations. Getting to know them on day one helped me finalize my choices for which events I would be catching live and which I would be watching the recordings of after the conference was over.
Aspect Two: The Panels
As stated above, many of the vendors as well as professional writers and industry veterans give presentations or have panel discussions to provide information on the craft of writing, the business of writing, and the marketing of your writing. Sprinkled in are panels about book design, cover design, and others which I found to be helpful. The best part about attending live is the option to ask questions during the panel and get direct answers. Amazingly, many of the speakers were willing to stick around after and continue to answer questions on a one-on-one or small group basis during the breaks between sessions.
Most of the sessions were also recorded and for those who attended the events, they were made live afterwards. I took the time to watch sessions I missed and found the ability to view the recordings to add to the value. That really added to the value of the event since I didn’t feel like I had to miss out on anything. This was a great learning opportunity for me and I look forward to applying what I learned to my current projects as well as future projects.
One highlight for me was being able to attend several sessions where author Dean Westly Smith presented his ideas on writing and staying productive. He has been a favorite author of mine for some time and his book “Writing into the Dark” has inspired me and guided my own approach to writing books. I will include a brief overview of a few things he shared which stood out to me below.
Aspect Three: The People
Perhaps the best part of the entire conference was the people I was able to meet. Since everyone has name badges which include the genre(s) each person writes in, it was easy to find people who also wrote in my genre or those I was interested in. As stated above, it was incredibly easy to start a conversation with people. I also happened to meat a group of fantasy writers and get connected with them. By talking to those who are also starting out as well as those who are successfully doing what I wish to be, I was able to learn more than at any of the panels or sessions. Since they could share what had and not worked for them, I was able to better understand how I can share my own worth and reach more readers as well as get new ideas on how to be a more productive writer.
It was also a lot of fun to go out, have dinner, and enjoy the company of people who share an interest in fiction writing. The sorts of conversations I’d always wanted to have were actually possible and that was by far the best part of this experience. For this alone, I would recommend anyone who is a writer or is aspiring to be an indi-writer, to go to these sorts of events. The networking and connections I made are what in the end make me want to attend more of these events.
Don’t Kill Your Dream!
There were plenty of things that I learned at this conference. However, author Dean Westly Smith held a panel where he talked about staying productive over time. He shared the 10 rules to keep going when you feel like everything is over so you can keep going.
- You are the only one who can kill your career.
- Avoid burnout by making sure that you keep writing fun. If it isn’t fun, you’re doing it wrong.
- Never call your writing work.
- Write what you love and have passion for.
- Be willing to start over. Adapt, but never quit!
- Keep your expenses down. Invest and save when you can.
- Get rid of all the toxic people (friends and family) who negatively criticize your career!
- Exercise and stay in shape. A healthy writer is a happy writer.
- Learn from other writers but never compare yourself to another writer. As well, be willing to support others.
- Just don’t quit. If you quit, you lose. Only you can kill your dream, so don’t do it!