Review of the #SelfPublishing Conference hosted by @matadorbooks 

On a beautiful spring day in April, I joined approximately one hundred and twenty fellow delegates at the Stamford Court Conference Centre, the University of Leicester for the 5th Self-Publishing Conference hosted by Troubador Publishing.

Self Pub Conf 1

I had wanted to attend this conference for some years, but life stuff inevitably took over, and the date never worked. However, 2017 was the right fit, and I was eager to dive in and learn as much as I could.

Included in your ticket price you received a goody bag on arrival with a colourful delegate booklet, admission to your choice of four sessions on a wide variety of industry topics, refreshments throughout the day, and a wonderful lunch. I was late buying my ticket, so I missed out on the early bird discount, however, even at full price, it was value for money.

The workshop sessions covered a range of themes, catering to every level of self-publisher. These have to be pre-booked ahead of the conference, however, should you decide on the day that you would prefer to attend an alternative workshop then the staff are on hand to assist. I must just quickly mention the staff here. Throughout the day there were ‘helpers’ on hand for anything you need, whether that was publishing advice, or finding out where the nearest loo was, everyone was incredibly professional, polite, and welcoming. The catering staff at the University also deserve a shout out for their care and attention.

The sessions were broken up into hour slots, and as I mentioned, you got to choose four within your ticket price. I’ve included the 2017 options at the end of the post for anyone who is interested.

There was an amazing choice of workshops, and the only trouble I had was deciding which sessions I wanted to attend. Eventually, I decided on:

Be a PR Star: Making the Most of Media Opportunities

Reaching the Retailers: Selling to Bookshops

Inspiring in Schools: Promoting Your Children’s Book

Non-Fiction Focus: Planning Your Book for Success

Before we broke into the syndicate rooms for our workshops, we heard from keynote speaker, Angus Phillips, Director of Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies. Angus talked about current trends in the industry and how print books are still dominant in the market. He touched on the rise in audio books (£4m sales in 2010 – £10m sales in 2015), as well as the revival of short stories.

He went on to cover the changes in technology with eReader sales slowing significantly as readers now prefer to download books to their smartphones.

It was interesting to hear the issues facing publishing at the moment, the decline in the UK independent bookshops being key. Angus stressed the importance of discoverability, social media and being active in communities. He also talked about the author brand being strong and how important accurate metadata is.

His talk ended with an interesting observation. We all know that Amazon is one of the biggest booksellers. However, it was fascinating to hear the statistics and discover that only 8% of Amazon’s revenue is from books. Angus raised the question – do they still care about books?

My first session was with Ben Cameron from Cameron Publicity and Marketing who works with both traditionally and self-published authors. His message was simple – publicity starts before you write a word. Knowing what message you want to share with your book, and where it fits in the marketplace is key to good publicity. Book buyers begin looking at new releases for their stores at least three months in advance so having a campaign in place is vital for your discoverability.

“Writing your blurb is like writing poetry, every word counts.” Ben Cameron.

Pitching your book to local and national press/radio/television is an important aspect but your pitch should be to the point, including why your book would appeal to them. Ben mentioned perfecting your elevator pitch (a short and snappy description of your book) and practicing it over and over.

He values the option to run giveaways on Goodreads and has seen great success with the use of Facebook ads for some of his clients.

According to Ben, working with a publicity and marketing company would cost in the region of £2200 for a four-week campaign, so if this is something of interest you must factor these costs into your book budget and sales figures.

My second session was with Debbie James from Kibworth Bookshop and from the start it was obvious how passionate Debbie is about her store and books. She shared a few images of the stunning bookshelves, and we laughed at her obsession with the finished size of a paperback. Having the right sized book clearly matters to a bookseller! The largest space in Kibworth Bookshop is the children’s department, and this is reflected in Debbie’s sales. She stocks approximately 26% children’s books, 23% fiction, 16% cards and gift wrap, 6.5% stationery, and the remaining stock is gift books, humour, cookery, travel, and local interest. Debbie and her team are 100% responsible for choosing the stock for the store, and they refer to trade catalogues to help with that choice. They are always looking for stock at least three months in advance.

While Kibworth Bookshop does support self-published authors, Debbie has the final approval. She stressed the importance of building a relationship with your local independent store and supporting them within the community. She is attracted by a passionate writer, an intriguing title, beautiful cover, and a book that will look aesthetically pleasing on her shelves.

“I want to stock your books so write an amazing book, have an amazing cover, and make me want to.” Debbie James.

We broke for lunch which gave everyone a chance to network. I was delighted to see a familiar face in the crowds and got to catch up with award-winning author, Elizabeth Ducie. I spoke to so many authors at varying stages of the writing and publishing process, and it was interesting to hear their opinions of the industry. Amazon, unfortunately, appears to be upsetting quite a few people with many making the switch to alternative self-publishing routes. Marketing and promotion seem to be the main concern for most of the writers’ I spoke with.

After our lunch, we returned to the main hall for a talk by Clive Herbert, Head of Professional Services at Nielsen Books who started his speech with a quote.

“Metadata is totally boring but absolutely vital.” Clive Herbert.

He’s right! Throughout his talk, Clive showed us just how important it is to have accurate metadata for our books and to have the BIC (book industry communication) information, which is the minimum information required by the UK Book Trade, uploaded at least sixteen weeks ahead of your release date.

Discoverability was the key theme and when you realise your book is one of thirty-three million active products, then giving your book the best possible chance of being seen is vital. According to Nielsen, 178,000 new print books were published last year, that’s an average of 500 new titles a day. (That figure is closer to 2.2 million in the US).

Clive advised us to use Nielsen’s Title Editor to provide all our metadata, which provides a free service as well as a subscription feature. For more information, you can visit their website at It’s also worth noting that you can now purchase a single ISBN as well as the usual block of ten.

My first afternoon session was Inspiring in Schools with the author, Angela Fish. Although her session was targeted more at younger children and visiting infant and junior schools, I was able to transfer some of her advice to the young adult audience I write for.

She mentioned the benefits of being prepared and planning a variety of activities for the children. Working closely with the teachers will enable you to provide a valuable workshop. Angela doesn’t make much money from doing her school visits. However, she is getting her name known as she returns to the same schools, and she does provide the parents’ with her information. The main reason for running her school sessions is the passion she has for working with children and sharing her story. This is an important aspect of choosing to include school visits into your skill set. Why are you doing it?

Angela also mentioned the importance of a follow-up in the way of a mini questionnaire or competition. Capturing the attention of your audience in such a way that they engage with you and your book in a positive way.

My final session was Planning Your Non-Fiction Book for Success with Ginny Carter. I think this was my favourite session. Ginny is a passionate coach and clearly enjoys working with writers’ at all stages of their journey. Her slides were informative and humourous.

“Writing a book is like a sausage roll. Great when it’s finished, but you don’t want to know what’s gone into it!” Ginny Carter.

Planning is key! That was Ginny’s message for her audience as she shared six essential steps to take before you write a word.

1        Know what you want to achieve.

2        Mind-set.

3        Your ideal reader.

4        Your books message.

5        Outlining your book.

6        Return on Investment

As we all made our way to the closing drinks reception, there was a buzz of motivation among the crowd. We had all come away with some nugget of wisdom, an abundance of networking contacts, and a rekindled passion to return to our keyboards.

I was incredibly impressed with this event, from an organisational aspect as well as a delegate. I will be booking a return trip as soon as the ticket sales are announced for 2018 and if you’re serious about your self-publishing career, I’d suggest you do the same.

Self pub conf 2

Workshop session choices:

Session 1

Avoiding the Vanity Trap by Andrew Lowe (author and editor) and Alysoun Owen (editor at The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook).

Endorsements, Blurbs and Spine Design: Beyond the Cover by Chelsea Taylor (Production Manager at Troubador) and Jonathan White (Sales & Marketing Manager at Troubador).

Be a PR Star: Making the Most of Media Opportunities by Ben Cameron (Cameron Publicity and Marketing).

The Libel Trap: How to Avoid Getting Sued by Rosie Burbridge (Fox Williams LLP, Solicitors).

Session 2

Reaching the Retailers: Selling to Bookshops by Debbie James (The Kibworth Bookshop)

Doing It Differently: Crowdfunding and Partnership Publishing by Cressida Downing (The Book Analyst), Alice Jolly (author) and Jeremy Thompson (The Book Guild).

Building an Audience: Practical Ways to Get Your Book Known by Marion Molteno (novelist and indie publisher).

Copyright Clearance – The Easy Way by Jonathan Griffin (Publishers Licensing Society).

Session 3

Inspiring in Schools: Promoting Your Children’s Book by Angela Fish (independent author).

Making Money from Library Lending by Julia Eccleshare (Public Lending Rights).

Boost Your Ebook’s Earnings: Maximising Sales by Rachel Gregory (Ebook Programme Manager at Troubador).

Is Your Writing Ready: Before You Self-Publish by Alysoun Owen (Editor at The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook).

Session 4

Do Judge a Book by its Cover by Andy Vosper (Deputy Chief Executive at TJ international Ltd) and Chelsea Taylor (Production Manager at Troubador).

Non-Fiction Focus: Planning Your Book for Success by Ginny Carter (The Author Maker).

Get Your Book Heard: Radio Plays and Audio Books by James Peak (Essential Music).

Words and Picture: Creating Illustrated Children’s Fiction by Louise Jordan (Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books).

Thanks for visiting my blog, I hope you enjoyed this post. Want more? Connect with me here:  Twitter @ShelleyWilson72, Instagram or check out my Facebook pages and You can also find me on Pinterest


Going Back To School With @Suzie81blog and @ThankBookFor #SundayBlogShare #Blogging


Learning new skills, adapting old ones, and nurturing our knowledge bank is just as important as we get older as it is when we are young students. Just because we can no longer fit all the candles on the cake, doesn’t mean we must neglect our mind, body, or soul. I re-trained as a holistic health practitioner in my thirties, discovering new therapies and adapting old techniques to fit the anxieties of modern-day clients. When you work in the personal development sector, it’s imperative to stay in touch with improvements, new treatments, and regulations so that you can guide your clients in the most helpful direction. Continue reading “Going Back To School With @Suzie81blog and @ThankBookFor #SundayBlogShare #Blogging”

Make Time For What Matters – Now! #SundayBlogShare #SpecialOffer

Everyone knows how much I love writing lists and goal setting, and it’s commonly known that I enjoy a good New Year resolution or two. The New Year is a great time to work on new beginnings and fresh starts. However, you don’t need to wait until January 1st to make relevant changes to your lifestyle, career, health, or wellbeing.

Holistic Photo

September, for me, is the perfect month to embrace those new adventures, start a new academic course either online or at night school, or begin a health regime that will keep you mentally and physically fit during the winter. It’s a month of crisp weather, the promise of home grown apples and blackberries, and let’s not forget the oodles of back to school stationery just waiting to be purchased. Continue reading “Make Time For What Matters – Now! #SundayBlogShare #SpecialOffer”

Guest Post – Writing and Creativity by author, Rebecka Vigus #WritersLife



Today’s guest on the Big Blue Takeover is, Rebecka Vigus, author of the Macy McVannel mystery series. Over to Rebecka…

Writing and Creativity

Be inspiring, be informative, be creative…all this in one blog? I will do my best. One of the most asked questions when I am at book signings or book talks is, “Where to do you get your ideas?” Life gives me ideas. My books have covered murder, arson, stalking, abuse, and magic.

My take on these subjects is what makes me different. I don’t write blood, gore, horror. I look at these things through the eyes of those trying to stop them. What makes one murder different from another? The way the characters are cast and the way it’s solved. In the end murder means someone died. The best detective, police officer, investigator is the one who can get through all the twists and turns to find out motive. They are always asking why. Continue reading “Guest Post – Writing and Creativity by author, Rebecka Vigus #WritersLife”

#MondayBlogs How Writing a Memoir Has Changed Me

How Writing a Memoir Has Changed Me.


I love my creative writing class, and over the past few weeks we have been looking at writing a memoir. It’s turned out to be a hugely cathartic experience.

Without realising it at the time, my bestseller How I Changed My Life in a Year, fit perfectly into this genre. For me, it was just a documentation of a series of challenges and my attempt to establish a regular writing routine, I never thought of it as a memoir.

Autobiographies, or biographies are about interesting people and the incredible lives they lead, or historical documents about harrowing experiences and how the author overcome them – aren’t they?

Apparently not. Memoirs can cover a huge range of topics and it’s the authors spin – or voice – that makes it a story worth reading.

During our creative writing sessions we gave considerable thought to what we would write about. The objective was not to pen a bestseller – although our tutor is always pushing us to reach for this goal – it was to use our life experiences to good effect.

So, what could we write about?

I used my OCD list writing abilities to jot down a few possible scenarios that could inevitably be developed into a full length story:

  • Coping as a single parent
  • Dealing with depression and anxiety
  • Surviving domestic abuse
  • Running a holistic health business
  • Coping with ill health

These were just a few of the topics that jumped out at me when I did my brainstorming session. Would they make a good memoir? I couldn’t be sure. Would I have enough material to warrant a full length book? With adequate plotting and research I probably would.

We were then instructed to choose one topic to develop over the course of five weeks. Out of my extensive list I was drawn to ‘domestic abuse’ and it was this particular theme that I began working with.

Our tutor directed us to create a timeline for our chosen theme. He allowed us to explore our feelings on the topic of choice and discover how it could be developed. Was it going to be a ‘start at the beginning’ kind of story, or did it require some back story and further analysis?

I was able to choose specific times in my life when the abuse was at its worst and centre my writing on this. It helped enormously to see the timeline take shape and I was able to visualise each point on the line as a chapter heading, giving me a starting point for each section.


Reading out my first piece of work was one of the most uncomfortable things I’ve ever had to do and yet it was also the most empowering. My group was hugely supportive. They offered valid advice on my sentence structure and helped me to shift from a place of nervousness to one of positivity.

Writing about life experiences is something I’ve done for many years in the form of my journal/diary. I’ve written letters to people who have harmed me and then burnt them in a cleansing ceremony (fabulous way to remove negativity, if you fancy giving it a go).

Revealing my inner demons and sharing them in public is something else entirely but I found it to be a catalyst for something quite powerful.

Using our personal experiences in writing projects helps to shape our voice. I’ve only ever used these events in a fictional way before, but switching the focus and concentrating on memoir has only added to my skill set as a writer.

Our creative writing classes have finished for a couple of months and the topic when we return will be something entirely new and exciting. In the meantime, I am continuing to work on my memoir as I feel it is healing my soul to write everything down.

The nerves have fallen away and I’ve shifted my perspective – I AM going to write this book, I AM going to share my story, and I’m not afraid anymore. The members of my creative writing group were both gracious and inspirational in pushing me to continue with this project. They believed it was a story worth telling, and they are right. Somewhere out there, a young woman is being beaten by her boyfriend or husband, or a mother is shielding her children from an abusive father. I want to let them know that there is hope. I want to be the light at the end of the tunnel. I want to show them how to be a survivor rather than a victim.


So, a simple class about memoirs has turned my life upside down and set me on a path that I feel honoured to tread.

Have you ever thought about writing a memoir? Or perhaps you enjoy reading this genre? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Is the Writers’ Notepad Becoming a Thing of The Past?

Do you use notepads to plot out your stories?

When I was young, I could always be found wedged between my bed and the radiator with a notepad and pen in hand. As writers, we are always creating something, whether that’s a scene, new idea, character bio, or even a poem/story.

I loved writing and as soon as I was old enough to hold a pencil I started creating little stories and filling page after page of notes. When my parents moved house recently I was given the obligatory ‘box of crap memories from your childhood’ that every parent keeps in the loft.

Mine contained old school reports (apparently I talked too much!!), my vinyl records, and a collection of school books/notepads.

IMG_5227 Continue reading “Is the Writers’ Notepad Becoming a Thing of The Past?”

A Doorway To… #FlashFiction #Writing #Challenge

A Doorway To...

A Doorway to… #FlashFiction Writing Challenge Week 3

Inspired by one of my Pinterest boards, this is a flash fiction writing challenge based on the following theme:

‘Doorway to…’

“The door you are afraid to enter might lead you to the most beautiful and magical places.” 

Using one of the images below as inspiration, write a 200-word flash fiction story about what lies beyond the door. Who will you find and where will the doorway lead you? Any genre is acceptable. NB: As I write for a teen audience, please be aware that under 18’s frequent my blog.

Door Number 1: Continue reading “A Doorway To… #FlashFiction #Writing #Challenge”