Lessons from the Smarter Artist Summit 2018

Adventures in self publishing with Trudi Jaye.

I’ve been jealously watching from New Zealand each year as authors and publishers I know online gather in Austin for the Smarter Artist Summit. It always sounds so amazing – a group of like-minded self publishers together in one place, talking shop and getting to know each other.

This year, I couldn’t handle it any more, and decided to do something about it. (FOMO is a real thing, people.)

So I travelled to Houston, where I met fellow author and SPA Girls podcast guest, Jami Albright, for the first time in person. She then drove us to Austin, for my very first Smarter Artist Summit.

Right from the very start, I loved it: I got a hug from conference co-creator Sean Platt within half an hour of arriving at the hotel. I interviewed the amazingly generous Michael Anderle within a couple of hours, and laughed out loud to a live episode of the Worst Show Ever (the other show that Johnny B. Truant, Sean Platt and David Wright record) by the end of the first evening.

I listened attentively to speakers like Michelle Spiva (marketing and data guru), Honoree Corder (previous SPA Girls Podcast guest, and super-inspiring business woman), Michael Anderle (super-duper author and self publishing rockstar), got advice from industry experts like Carlyn from BookBub, Damon from BookFunnel, Dan and Kevin from Draft to Digital and Chrissy from Kobo, and hung out with other authors, both those I already knew, and some I was meeting for the first time.

I have to admit to being pretty exhausted after my 17 hour trip from New Zealand, but I was determined not to miss a thing. I pretty much ran on adrenaline for the six days I was in the US, meeting and greeting so many people, some of them have already blurred into another. But the one thing they all had in common was a love of self publishing and writing – my two favourite subjects in the whole world.

I’ve been to conferences both in New Zealand and the USA before, but never one so completely in my wheel house. Everyone wanted to talk about the same stuff that I did. Everyone spoke the same jargon: KDP, AMS, KU, BookBub, ENT, you name it, they knew it.

It’s such an intimate setting, you can be listening to one of the experts giving a presentation in the main room, and then later that day, chatting with them in the hotel bar. Everyone was open and approachable, and as a wide-eyed Kiwi chick (We’re not in Kansas now, Toto), I really appreciated it. 

I was also hugely lucky to have friends in the audience, even if I was meeting all of them for the first time in person. Jami took me under her wing – aside from being a fantastic writer, she’s been twice before, and introduced me to a whole bunch of people throughout our time in Austin. I also met up with Arianna Golden, another podcast guest and a longtime friend, for the first time in person. Anyone Jami didn’t know, Arianna did. Previous podcast guests were in the audience and presenters, and a talented editor I had worked with were also there to catch up with.

Meeting all these people who I’ve been reading about, interacting with and watching from afar via the internet for the last few years was beyond amazing. It made me realise that, while interacting with people online is great, and we’re lucky to be able to connect even that much from here in New Zealand, there’s nothing like meeting people in person to forge connections and make lifelong friends.

I learned so much in my time there, there were hundreds of takeaways that I could have listed. But I’ve managed to compile my top ten below:



My Top Ten Lessons from Smarter Artist Summit 2018  

  1. Take yourself seriously. Be professional. Treat your writing business like a business.
  2. It’s all about your readers. From the very first moment you start plotting and writing your book, to connecting with your readers as an author, and then marketing your book to them once it’s done. You should be doing everything with them in mind. If you don’t know who your readers are, you’re in trouble.
  3. Readers like a little humour in their books. (And Michael Anderle would know.)
  4. Readers also want to connect to the characters in your books. If nothing else, you need to have a likeable, relatable main character who your readers will love.
  5. Sub plots with open loops between books in a series are one way to get readers to go from one book to the next.
  6. Data is good. Always get data, it helps you make the right decisions. BookBub uses data to their best advantage, and they’re very successful because of it.
  7. Tactics are not marketing. You need a long term strategy.
  8. You can’t beat meeting people in person. No matter how many Skype calls you have it’s just not the same.
  9. Collaboration is a difficult but worthwhile beast.
  10. Everything you want is on the other side of your fear. It should feel a little bit scary – if it doesn’t, you’ve waited too long to do it.

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