Mark Dawson’s SPS 2023
I dug my heels in and made every excuse why I couldn’t go to the SPS at the Southbank Centre in London. My disability would make travelling alone difficult, I couldn’t afford the extortionate price for London hotels and I wouldn’t know anybody. But then, after speaking to D J Bowman-Smith during our podcast interview, she encouraged me to go along and meet her there. I’m so glad I did.
The journey was exhausting. Especially since I booked first class on the train and my carriage felt like a mile-long walk to reach it. After arriving at the venue by taxi, I was confronted with a monstrous set of steps, but a kind man took pity on me and carried my trolley bag to the top. People can be so kind! I did between six and seven thousand steps each day, which is more than usual, but I managed.
I also owe a hug thank you to Debbie (D J Bowman-Smith) for helping me with my bag, delivering it to the cloakroom, and helping to wheel it back to the hotel at the end of the day.
Meeting other authors
The event was bustling with people, and after meeting the lovely Debbie, I was given a cotton bag, notebook, pen and other goodies. I took the bull by the horns and made the effort to chat to people from the outset. I was surprised to discover that most people had travelled to the event alone – like myself. Everyone, was warm, friendly and very welcoming.
I suppose that the reason we all chatted so freely together is because we all have writing in common. We shared our writing journeys, plus lots of advice on various aspects of self-publishing and writing tips. The atmosphere was buzzing, and some well-esteemed influencers/writers were there, like Joanna Penn.
The auditorium was packed with around 800+ guests and I was very happy to find plush leather-cushioned seats which is important with my spinal cord injury. The presentations were varied and interesting. Some were especially inspiring, such as Bella Andre, Britt Andrews, Dave Chesson, Kate Pickford, to name but a few.
I soon found myself grabbing the microphone to ask questions, and even shared the positivity mindset I employed whilst in hospital after breaking my back. I later discovered this will be in the playback video soon to be released. Eeek!
As an independent author, it was great to receive the data which shows how indie publishing is on the up, and trad publishing is dipping. The reason being that publishers are making their contracts increasingly unappealing. Mark Dawson (founder of SPS) is a multi-figure award winning author, and gave a detailed talk on how he earns much better money self-publishing as opposed to traditional. There were many others with the same view, including authors who had intentionally switched from trad to self-publishing.
One of the panels was a group of crime (fiction) writers who shared their marketing tips, and how they achieved success. Author ‘Rachel McClean shared her success story and how she shot to fame. There were talks on audible, translations, and other means to increase revenue with books. I particularly loved the social media tips and tricks. TikTok was highlighted as the fastest growing platform, with TikTok shop a major competitor in the e-commerce market.
With regards marketing in general, I found it incredibly useful to see the data, but soon realised that paid advertising is something for the future. I started to realise that I need to write more books, and faster!
There was one overriding thing that I picked up for myself though. No matter the topic, every speaker kept re-iterating how none of it was of any use without having a book! Make writing your number one priority and don’t lose focus. This was particularly emphasised in the marketing talk.
It seems there is no point in forking out for Amazon Ads, or FB ads, if you don’t have a few books to promote. I shrank in my seat a little, as I realised that because ‘The Hoax’ is my first fiction novel, it is as good as being my first book. My memoir and poetry book are both standalone in a completely different genre.
Ideally, you need a minimum of two/three books to made advertising worthwhile. Most successful authors have released a series, and this is something I wish I had focused on now. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing!
More importantly for me though, is building a readership. If I don’t keep books coming thick and fast, they may lose interest… yikes!
Had I planned things better, I would have not released ‘The Hoax’ until I had another book ready, but then none of us are perfect. I have been drafting my next book – very slowly. But it dawned on me that I need to speed things up and get to a position where I am well underway with the next book before publishing my current one. I can clearly see that my lack of organisation and structure is hindering me, and I have failed to make adequate time to focus on my writing.
Setting new goals
After leaving the event, I was buzzing, feeling motivated and inspired. I met some incredible people and am proud of myself for pushing myself to attend.
I paid for some software, ‘fictionary’ (which I was given a great discount for being at the event). It will help to better organise my work and keep my notes and draft in one place. My goal is to make sure I write (even if it is a blog post like this one) first thing in the morning, before I get distracted with TikTok videos, Instagram reels and writing book reviews.
I’m very good at procrastinating. In fact I’m an expert, and this is what needs to change. I’ve been brutally honest with myself after my wakeup call this week and need to start thinking of my writing as a business and not just a little hobby that I make time for now and again.
Every piece that we write, every book that we publish, improves our writing skills. It’s what is most important if we want to achieve any sort of success. If I’m honest, improving and getting better has always been my number one goal.
I plan to get up at least one hour earlier each day, and write before I open my phone or walk the dogs. Even if it is just half an hour, it is better than procrastinating with other things that don’t help progress my WIP. I can always come back to it later, but the initial habit of writing is so important.
I hope to look back on this blog post in a year’s time and be like the other writers I have met, with one book in editing/design phase, another ready to be published, and another with new ideas being penned/drafted.
I would imagine that everybody took away different nuggets of valuable information relevant for them. Overall, I found the whole experience invaluable and it was lovely to connect with other writers, all in varying stages of their writing journey. I wasn’t the duck out of water that I had expected to be, but felt I played a valuable and involved part in the whole event. My confidence has been boosted, I feel inspired to keep writing and feel part of a tribe!
Whatever your current level is, keep writing! Everything else you can learn as you go along.