Books,  Inspiration,  Writing World

Utopia Con 2017: Book Haul & Panels ^_^

GUYS! I got shiny pictures! ^_^

First we have a gorgeous couple of pictures from my hotel window. This is outside the Airport Marriott in Nashville. Pretty Tennessee trees. 😀

Next up is a shiny UTOPIA Con bag. Came with a free novella and a fan that plugs into smart phones. ^_^

I somehow miraculously made it in time for the keynote, but it was super short, so sad to say, I barely remember anything. Plus I missed a bit of it because I had to pee and they started a little early. This next picture is some greenery I ran into across from the hotel entrance.

I took notes on my phone because I forgot that I had a pen and notebook in my bag. 😅

PANEL: The Hybrid Author: Which Publishing Arm is Right for You? – Moderator: Katie M. John | Panelists: Jennifer L. Armentrout, Kelly St. Clare, Shannon Mayer, Elise Kova

The panelists were made up of self-published and hybrid authors. Kelly and Elisa both admitted to stalking each other for marketing tips, which I thought was funny, but that was the main takeaway: stalk, stalk, stalk – the nice way, of course. 😛 See what successful writers in your genre are doing.

Kelly writes young adult, and says that it’s harder to reach teen readers because most of the books they read come from the bookstore or library. That said, more than half of YA readers are adults, so most of her readers are in their 20s and 30s, and she’s doing well. Kelly also has a blog that offers advice for aspiring writers. It also has some self-publishing advice. You can find that here.

Jennifer said that traditional publishing pays every six months. Most indie channels pay monthly. So, if you’re on the traditional path or if you’re hybrid, that’s the payout schedule you can expect from that side.

If you’re wanting to follow market trends, you can find good and free information on that at and by stalking the Top 100 of your genre on Amazon and other digital platforms. That can be useful if you’re a fast writer and want to publish a Snow White retelling around the same time Disney releases a live action version of theirs. I don’t know if that’s in the works, but I hope so! I’d love to see a live action Snow White. ^_^

There is also if you don’t mind dropping a few dollars. I don’t know how much it is. The reports I’ve looked at in the past have been free.

They discussed KDP Select and whether it was worth it, but the consensus was, of course, inconclusive. For every person who loves being in the Kindle Unlimited program, there’s someone who says it did little or nothing for them or nothing after the initial 30 days or so. I’m still on the fence about it myself. I’ve sold some books on iBooks and Kobo, and right now, it accounts for 25% of my eBook sales. It’s a hard decision to make. But one thing they did say: don’t enroll book one in KDP select and then release the rest of the series wide or vice versa.

PANEL: BE A SELF-PUBLISHING SENSATION presented by Draft2Digital – Led by Dan Wood, Director of Operations and Author Relations

Honest disclaimer: I didn’t learn anything. But I did finally track down the article that talks about their universal book link. It’s a link that will take shoppers to the retailer of their choice when they click on it, and it works internationally. They say it can boost international sales. Here’s the link to the article that talks all about it. He also said that authors often don’t see traction on other platforms because they only push Amazon. So, if your book is available via other channels, it can help to have those links on your website and social media.

PANEL: SOCIAL GIANTS: the Rise of Bookstagammers, Booktubers and Bloggers – Moderator: Vilma Gonzalez | Panelists: Reagen from ReagenReads, Summer Webb from ButterMyBooks, Benita from BookBeau, and Justine Brooks of The Bookish Box

Another honest disclaimer: this was interesting, but except for one tiny mention of YouTube, they didn’t talk about BookTube or Blogging at all. Everyone was an Instagrammer.

The takeaways I got were:
– Hashtags boost visibility
– Post once a day and see what times and days and kinds of photos and hashtags get the most engagement

VSCO – photo editing app
– Natural Lightning makes better photos
– Save stuff as a draft – as soon you type a caption it’ll be queued – so if you take five minutes to input hashtags, when you post, the picture will be five minutes down the feed – save as a draft and post at your preferred time or so you can post faster later
– Can use the notes function on your phone to save pretyped captions and most used hashtags for faster posting
Planoly – paid app lets you schedule instagram posts
Canva App – free photo app

Passion and dedication sets you apart – all the little details make a difference. If you’re on YouTube, you want to make interesting thumbnails, don’t just throw something up. If you’re an author and want to contact a Bookstagrammer about reviewing your book or taking pictures with it, they prefer you address them by name and email them directly – not via direct message – and know their tastes and brand.

PANEL: Marketing Circus: Moderator: Raye Wagner | Panelists: Kiki Chatfield of Next Step PR, Alicia Rades, Ren Reidy, and Kelly Martin

Yet another honest disclaimer: There was only one blogger on the panel, who said virtually nothing. I was 15 minutes late because I ate lunch with someone and we talked too much. Also, the restaurant was slow. So maybe the blogger talked then, but she said nothing while I was there.

They mentioned that you can make 10-15 second promo videos for your book with apps like Kamcord and Ripple. You can post the videos to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, wherever. One author mentioned that blog tours are not as effective as they used to be because there’s so much noise. Someone also said that unless a guest post can match the tone of the blog, interviews are better than guest posts, because people read blogs for the content creator. For this same reason, doing email swaps can rub people the wrong way – authors should make sure they’re still communicating personally with their readers.

Though no one wants to recommend it, you can succeed without an email list.

Perspective: most small businesses take 3-5 years to be successful. Don’t give up.

Helpful Links:
H.M. Ward – YouTube
Susan Kaye Quinn – Author Resources
Self-Publishing Formula Podcast

Romantic Times Conference isn’t just for romance writers – it’s also a good place to learn about the business side of writing.

You get 90 days for Amazon to help you sell your book with their algorithms, but the first 30 days are the most important. It’s why having a preorder on Amazon for longer than a few weeks might result in lower initial sales – because your book will be less visible when it first comes out. People are always more likely to buy your book if it’s available now. Once you have an established fan base, having a longer preorder on Amazon doesn’t matter as much. With other platforms, having a long preorder doesn’t matter at all because they have different algorithms.

It can take 4 to 6 months to gain traction on the other platforms if you’re selling wide versus going with KDP Select. Free promos work well on iBooks and Kobo. Less well on Amazon since the launch of Kindle Unlimited.

If you have a book you think will do well in another country, you can target your advertising to that country specifically.

If you’re writing a series, they all suggest waiting to release your first book until you have three ready to go. That way you can release them quickly, as quick as two months, and build on that momentum. The general recommendation is to release a book every 4 months to quickly build your backlog, because your backlog is how writers get consistent-ish income.

PANEL: THE BRAND FREAK Presented by Regina Wamba, book cover designer and photographer for Mae I Design

They didn’t even cover book design, which was disappointing because Regina is mad talented. What she focused on for 45 minutes was branding, and more specifically, why you want an author logo. She said branding is emotion and that having a logo keeps your brand consistent and recognizable across various platforms. Authors want something that sums up their brand. If you write across multiple genres, what are the common threads?

FILM SCREENING: WARM BODIES with live commentary by the author: Issac Marion

I HATE zombies, but I actually really enjoyed the movie. Couldn’t have stood to watch it alone, but I could watch it alone now. It has some Romeo & Juliet vibes, and he said the books carries a theme of hope, and that’s what healed the zombies at the end: human interaction and hope. I might read the book now.

KEYNOTE COUCH: Moderator: Janet Wallace, founder of UTOPiAcon, Panelists: CJ Redwine, Andrew Shaffer, Jennifer L. Armentrout, and Casey Bond.

This was my favorite part of the conference! It was a mix of authors published via various avenues, and they talked about the importance of supporting your fellow author, whether traditionally published, self-published, hybrid, or small press. Unless you write non-fiction or parodies, don’t care too much about your book reviews. Reviews are for readers. Don’t freak out over one star reviews – or even see them in the first place – they don’t hurt as much as we think, and they can actually help. People will sometimes pick up a book because it was panned by someone. Don’t freak out about piracy, it happens, and freaking out about it will only bring ALL the trolls to your yard. (I loved it when Jennifer said that!) Also don’t freak out about people who will pick up your books at conferences, expos, and giveaways and then turn around put them on eBay for quadruple the price. Freaking out is not a good use of your time. Authors need to focus on writing, not on drama, nonsense, and other irritating things.

You want to be known for books, not for acting a fool. Also, don’t kill yourself. Don’t try to write 10 books a year. If you can happily manage 4, do that. 2, do that. 1, do that. We have to take care of ourselves so we don’t burn ourselves out. A day or two or week off from writing can do a world of good. 

Don’t forget to celebrate your milestones. Don’t be afraid to publish with multiple publishers or publish in multiple genres. Don’t think traditionally published authors have it easier: they don’t. The New York Times Bestseller list isn’t an accurate portrayal of sales. Publishers often campaign to get their books on the list, and the threshold is about 4000 copies sold. There will be books that sell 15,000 copies the same week that won’t even get looked at. You have to get used to rejection at every stage of publishing, whether it’s a publisher, an agent, an editor, a reader. Stay focused on why you write. Always keep your goals in the forefront.

Words of Wisdom from the Panel
CJ Redwine:
– “You don’t have to do every single social media platform out there, and you shouldn’t, because you need to be writing books.”
– “Your career is not one book…to build your career, it means you have to have multiple titles out there. It’s how you draw new readers. That’s how you recover from the book that didn’t do very well. Backlist is awesome. If you’re traditionally published, that’s how you eventually get royalty checks.”
– “If I would not cry at your funeral, I do not have to care what you think of me now…You get to be mad, but I don’t get to care.”

Jennifer Armentrout:
– “When you burn yourself out and you lose sight of why you’re writing, there is no longevity at that point. You end up hating writing.”
– “You don’t want to fall down that rabbit hole of always chasing the list, always chasing book sales, chasing a movie deal, every book has to be better than the last book. You end up not ever being satisfied.”
– “You have to left go of failure. And if you can’t let go of failure, then you do need to ask yourself if you’re really that passionate about writing.”

Casey Bond:
– On sustaining happiness: “It’s the people in my corner.” (paraphrasing Amy Harmon – Friday’s Keynote Speaker): “You may be the fighter in the ring, but you have people in your corner.”

Andrew Shaffer:
– “If you have a choice between hitting a list and making money, you can cry on your royalty statements. That’s what I choose every time. All the way to the bank.”
– “I don’t know anyone who has that mojo every single day…You’re going to get it back, just keep writing.”

Parting Words of Advice for a Newly Published Author from the Panel:
CJ: “Shut down the internet and your reviews and everything else while you’re writing your second book so that those voices are not louder in your head than the story.”

Jennifer: “Don’t stop reading.”

Casey: “Go ahead and start your next book…while you’re reading and while your studying your craft, you should be writing, you should be working towards the next goal.”

Finally, we have all the books I picked up, a book selfie, and the photos I took with a couple authors I’m a fan of. A few of the books were free, and all of them are signed! Now, I just need to figure out what order I’ll read them in. ^_^

me with CJ Redwine (top) and Jennifer Armentrout (bottom)

This week on the YouTube channel I talked about “The Puppet Box” and why it fell on its face. 🙂


  • Sunflower Michelle

    I’ve been loving your YouTube videos! It sounds like you had a really fun time at the Con and I think a lot of the tips and panelists sounded useful. At least being in that type of environment seems like it would be stimulating the writing brain 🙂

  • Jodi (@perkjo)

    Utopia Con sounds amazing! The advice given by the Keynote Couch session is my favorite. Wish someone had told me back in the day to withhold publishing my first book in the series until I had more books written. Thanks for sharing all of this!

    I started reading the book Warm Bodies but I never finished it. I just didn’t care for it. The female protagonist wasn’t nearly as likable as she is in the movie, and some of the details regarding the zombies were a bit over the top (i.e. In the book, they have zombie school, zombie marriages, etc.). Warm Bodies is one of those rare examples of the movie being better than the book.

    • Krystal Jane

      Maybe I’ll just stick to the movie then. Lol! I almost published my first book later so my first few releases would be closer together, but I don’t think they’re too far apart now. If I wrote series, I feel like I would have waited because I’m not reliable when it comes to that and all my planned ideas had cliff hangers. There’s something to be said about just getting the ball rolling though.

      The keynote couch was definitely my favorite! So much good advice. ^_^

  • tyreanmartinson

    That sounds like a great conference and like you got a lot out of it. I loved your thoughts on each panel and the quotes you used at the end. Thanks for sharing all those tips!

    • Krystal Jane

      I have so many good quotes! I recorded the keynote couch on my phone. It was really difficult not to try and transcribe the whole thing. ^_^

  • Tonja Drecker

    I love the pics from your hotel window! and what a line-up one topics at that con. You’re going to be a publishing guru yet. I found it interesting that they don’t recommend putting books up for preorder that long..makes sense. So glad you enjoyed!

    • Krystal Jane

      There’s just something about seeing trees from up high. ^_^ I had heard about the preorder thing with Amazon, but I either didn’t understand it or I forgot. Or both. LOL! I’m glad I went – I almost talked myself out of it.

  • Crystal Collier

    Fun times! Way to get out and garner some hard-won intelligence. I’ve heard that Instagram can be hugely successful for book marketing. That is, that’s what they told me BEFORE they went to the algorithm rather than the timeline. Which they did right after I made the jump. Kinda killed my motivation. *shrugs*

    • Krystal Jane

      Fun indeed! ^_^ My Instagram timeline is definitely confusing sometimes. Artificial intelligence has a long way to go. It’s still fun, but I’m not going to try to figure it out.

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