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June 1, 2015
The annual self-publishing conference offered indie authors a day of panels, discussion sessions, and networking at the Javits Cener in New York City.

Indie authors looked to leverage both self-publishing best practices and insights from traditional publishing at a day of panels, discussion sessions, and networking Saturday at uPublishU at the Javits Cener in New York City.

This year’s conference offered three distinct tracks: one aimed at first-time self-publishers; another dedicated to authors focused on marketing and building readerships; and a third geared to experienced indie authors.

According to BEA Education Director Sally Dedecker, who organized uPubU, many indie authors, having experienced the booming growth of the self-publishing sector, are looking to traditional publishing for guidance and tips.

“It’s great to blaze new paths, but the reality is you are playing on a ball field that traditional publishing established. You need to understand what the standards are to play on that field,” Dedecker said, adding that self-publishing is now a viable option for any author: “Self-publishing is happening. It’s real, people are selling books, and it’s not something in the back closet.”

This year’s uPubU kicked off with a session titled “The Rise of the Hybrid Author”—which discussed how authors can migrate between traditional and self-publishing depending on their needs—and featured panels on everything from tapping international markets and boosting sales to book marketing and social media.

"Self-publishing is happening. It’s real, people are selling books, and it’s not something in the back closet."
Among some of the highlights of this year’s show were “Building the Indie Author Team”—a panel aimed at providing self-publishers with tips on working with book business professionals to produce high-quality work—and “How to Hit the E-Book Bestseller List with E-Book Preorders,” with Smashwords Founder and CEO Mark Coker.

“Preorders are probably the most exciting tool today for self-published authors,” Coker told PW, noting that books available for preorder sell 10 times as many copies on average than titles not available for preorder. “This is probably one of the most important things an author can do around their book launch to make the book successful.”

Coker cited more effective advance marketing and breaking onto bestseller lists via accumulated orders as two of the major advantages of preorders.

“The benefit of hitting the bestseller list is that your book becomes more visible and more desirable to readers,” he said, adding that only 9.8% of books are born as preorders. “Basically 90% of self-published authors aren’t using preorders—and it’s a huge mistake, but it also points to a huge opportunity.”

Susannah Greenberg, president of Susannah Greenberg Public Relations, moderated a panel titled “Connecting to Readers—with Social Media” and urged indie authors to take advantage of multiple social media platforms and to reach out to readers in savvy ways.

“Don’t constantly sell your book,” she said. “Try to engage and entertain and inform and share information. That way you draw your following—and stay in touch with them frequently and daily.”

The conference also offered attendees a chance to network with a bevy of self-publishing service providers. Among the exhibitors at this year’s uPublishU were IngramSpark, Lulu, KOBO, Draft2Digial, Nook Press, BookBaby, BookGrabbr, Bowker, and Smashwords.