Benefits of a Virtual Conference
I have had the privilege of being a presenter for the Nonfiction Writers Conference a couple of times now, and a pro for the ask-a-pro sessions for many years. I enjoy attending as much as presenting and I’ve learned to block out my schedule that week so I can attend as many of the juicy presentations and author chats as possible. I’ve also scheduled time with other pros and gotten excellent advice on book marketing.
It’s my pleasure to introduce to you the CEO of the the Nonfiction Authors Association and the Writers Conference, Stephanie Chandler. I asked Stephanie some burning questions I knew my readers would benefit from, but if I missed anything on your list, please ask it as a comment below the post!
Lisa: Stephanie, thanks for joining me to talk about the Nonfiction Writers Conference, which has been running for 12 years! You’re a pioneer in virtual events. What are some of the benefits of a virtual conference and what does NFWC do to develop the networking side virtually?
Stephanie: Our mission has always been to deliver the value of an in-person writers’ conference without the time and expense of travel. For networking, we host an attendees-only Facebook group and we also have a special session where attendees participate in small groups in Zoom breakout rooms and brainstorm ideas, questions, and challenges. We’re going to have a blast!
The Nonfiction Writers Conference Author Chats
Lisa: I’m excited about that! I’m also stoked about the featured author chats. Anna Quindlen was my mom’s favorite columnist when I was in my teens. Mom shared those columns with me regularly. We loved her novels, too.
Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way inspired me to create a stand up comic character—Medea Leibowitz, a New York psychic. I had never done any comedy but I took a class at Brookline Center for Adult Ed and it was a hoot! We even performed once at the Hong Kong in Harvard Square for our graduation!
So, I’m very excited about the featured guests, who have both had an influence on my creative life. Can you share a bit about how these two writers impacted you and why you’ve chosen them?
Stephanie: I love that you created a stand-up comedy act! I’ve always loved Anna Quindlen’s work. Her books are uplifting and beautifully written. In fact, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake helped me embrace the joys that come with aging and I’ve recommended it to more people than I can count.
I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way many years ago, but hadn’t really put it into practice. Right before the pandemic started, I happened to take a local class based on the book. We did all kinds of exercises, from pottery to painting to creating our own mini books. That experience, combined with the exercises in the book, unleashed some creative pursuits I didn’t know I needed in my life! I painted my way through the pandemic, and though I’m not a natural artist by any stretch, I am grateful for finding a way to decompress and feel creative at the same time. That book is truly life-changing!
Lisa: Wow, that sounds wonderful!
How to Reach Readers and Sell More Books
Lisa: How to reach readers and sell more books is always an important focus in the Nonfiction Writers Conference. Can you share a few of the speakers and topics that will address that?
Stephanie: We do focus on marketing quite a bit because without it, authors won’t find readers! So I asked Joanne McCall to cover how to host your own podcast tour, and Brian Jud to cover bulk book sales, and Bryan Cohen to cover Amazon ads. We also have Carla King covering how to build your email list, Misty Megia on commanding the stage as a speaker, and Dan Janal on establishing thought leadership with media interviews. Lastly, I’ll cover how to attract and cultivate lifelong fans—a topic I absolutely love teaching.
And For Writers Just Starting Their Book Writing Journey
Lisa: And how about for those just starting the book writing and publishing journey? Which of this year’s topics / speakers might be most relevant for them?
Stephanie: We’re excited to have YOU join us! You’re covering how to choose the right publishing path (traditional, self, or hybrid), which is an essential topic for any writer because there are so many pros and cons on all sides. We also have Cindy Tschosik teaching her book writing process. And one of our most popular sessions is the live Pitch-the-Agents event where 20 attendees will get the chance to give their pitches and potentially sign with an agent!
Lisa: I love the topic of publishing paths. I’ve always been of the mind that choosing a path is so individual–both to the author and the particular book they are publishing; there’s a lot to take in, know and weigh for that decision. Now that I’ve both traditionally published and self-published, I have even more perspective than I did when I only witnessed some of my clients successfully self-publishing.
And the opportunity to pitch agents is priceless!
Pitch an Agent
Lisa: I love the pitch-an-agent opportunity. Can you share any stories about agent representation or book deals coming out of that?
Stephanie: We introduced this live session for the first time last year and at least two of the participants have signed with agents. I’m not sure about book deals yet, but these things take more time than people realize.
Lisa: Yes, they do take time! Signing with an agent is a big step. And an agent may require more work before they pitch to publishers, so that’s not surprising to hear.
How to get the most out of a writers conference
Lisa: What advice do you have for writers/authors to prepare for a writers conference to be sure they get the most out of it?
Stephanie: I love this question! Try to attend live when possible, turn off your phone and be fully present. It’s so easy to login and then let it run in the background while we do other things, but you will potentially miss a lot of value. We carefully select speakers so my expectation is that every single session will be rich in content and engaging. I want you to get the most out of it! We also have live Q&A with the speakers so it’s a wonderful opportunity to get your questions answered.
The Nonfiction Authors Association
Lisa: Two of the options for registering for the Nonfiction Writers Conference come with membership in the Nonfiction Authors Association. Can you share a bit about the benefits of the Nonfiction Authors Association?
Stephanie: Our community began in 2013 and each year we keep adding more benefits. Some of the most popular are the weekly Author Advisor email that includes curated media leads and links to featured content from our archives. We have a TREMENDOUS amount of content for members. From reports and checklists to templates and recorded interviews, you can find the answer to just about any question you have.
We also host monthly mastermind groups on Zoom where members break into small groups and brainstorm ideas together. And we have a private Facebook group, which is one of my favorite places to be. I personally check in several times a week and answer questions, although often times members have already provided answers because the group members are so supportive of each other.
We also have discounts off our classes, book awards, and conference PLUS lots of partner discounts from providers like Lulu.com, Constant Contact, Office Depot, and IngramSpark. The discounts alone can cover the cost of membership.
What Every Authorpreneur Needs to Know
Lisa: You’ve written nine excellent books on publishing, book marketing and running a successful business. What’s the biggest mistake authors make and what’s the most important thing for an “authorpreneur” to know or do?
Stephanie: The biggest mistake is waiting to focus on marketing until after the book is out. This is so common, so those who do are not alone. And the good news is you can start where you are so it’s never really too late!
For an “authorpreneur,” I think it’s important to treat your book like a business. This means getting a business license and business bank account, creating a marketing budget, and looking for ways to build revenue streams around your book. It’s no secret that it’s hard to earn income from book sales, so if that’s your mission, start treating it like a business.
Thank you for this fun interview! I appreciate the opportunity and hope to see many of your blog readers at our upcoming events!
Stephanie Chandler is the author of several books including The Nonfiction Book Publishing Plan and The Nonfiction Book Marketing Plan. She is CEO of the Nonfiction Authors Association, a vibrant educational community for experienced and aspiring writers, and the Nonfiction Writers Conference, events conducted entirely online since 2010. A frequent speaker at business events and on the radio, she has been featured in Entrepreneur, BusinessWeek, and Wired magazine.