Two days packed with inspiring content and incredible people.

The 2018 Smarter Artist Summit was full of big ideas and great advice from some of the best minds in the industry. So much of what made this conference valuable were the intangibles: the hallway conversations, the sparks of inspiration, and the new friends. This isn’t a comprehensive summary, but here are four nuggets from the conference that my brain is still thinking about a few days later.

1. Outsource Everything but the Writing

Honoree Corder started the conference off strong with a powerful and direct message — you only have one job title. If your job title isn’t “Editor” then you shouldn’t be doing the editing. If your title isn’t “Accountant” you shouldn’t be managing finances. Speaking to a room of authors, she argued that the only thing you should be doing is writing—everything else should be outsourced to professionals. Taking this 100% literally might not be within reach for everyone (it can get pricey), but Honoree argued that if you are serious about the business of writing, outsourcing as many non-writing tasks as you can will transform your business. She did a great job of setting the tone of the conference early on: if you want to be a smarter artist (as opposed to a starving artist), get serious about bringing professionals into the fold.

2. Author Notes

Michael Anderle’s strategy around author notes is simple but brilliant. At the end of his books he gives a few paragraphs of personal reflection, a little peek behind the curtains about the process that goes into writing the book. His strategy here is simple: make the reader like you. This is a time to be vulnerable, to be honest about the struggles of what it took to get the book out the door, and the motivations behind why it was written in the first place.

Why care about whether or not your readers like you, instead of just whether or not they like the story? Because if they like you, they are less likely to review the book poorly, they’ll just skip reviewing it (this hit home with me, I know I’ve done this before). Author notes can be a savvy and strategic way to ethically weed out bad reviewers and bump up your average review score.

3. Writing a Story to a Cover

I’ll admit this one blew my mind, and the idea spanned multiple sessions. Basically, consumers do judge a book by its cover. So what would happen if you embraced that to the extreme, and actually started with the cover instead of the story? Here’s the formula (geared towards commercial fiction):

First, find a strong cover that you love—one that would make you buy the book. Browse pre-made covers filtered against the genre you want to write. Pick the cover first, then start to think of what the story might be, shaping the story to pay off what the cover promises. Write an outline and do some research. Browse similar successful books in the genre and read their one-star and five-star reviews. Learn what people hated about the successful book and do the opposite. Then learn what the 5-star reviewers loved about the book so you don’t lose the magic that made it work.

When writing is your business and not just a hobby, this tactic can be a great starting point for writing commercially-successful fiction.

4. Audiobooks are Hot

We were excited to participate in the Industry Panel on Tuesday alongside a rockstar lineup of other industry experts. What we didn’t expect was how much of a focus there would be on audio.

Kelly Lytle (far right) from Findaway Voices answering an audiobook question during the audience Q&A.

Clearly the message and the potential of audiobooks is resonating. Not only are our friends at Draft2Digital excited about them, but there was a lot of discussion around Kobo’s audiobook offering and their partnership with Walmart.

The audience Q&A portion led to even more great questions about audiobooks, including one topic we’re planning on expanding into its own standalone post: should you narrate your own book (spoiler: the answer is “it depends”). We were thrilled by the buzz and excitement in the room around audiobooks.

“You’ve got me thinking about audiobooks.” —Audience member during Q&A.

Share Your Takeaways

Were you at the Smarter Artist Summit? Share what you learned! Leave your takeaway in the comments below.

And in closing, here’s a bonus gif of Kelly chest-bumping Johnny during his introduction to the panel:

Kelly Lytle being introduced at the 2018 Smarter Artist Summit Industry Panel