Breaking Bread (and Churros) across Europe: 20Books Madrid in Review

There is no substitute for in-person events.

“You’ll learn a few things from the books, you’ll get quite a bit from the professors, but where the real knowledge and experience comes from, what you really need to make an effort to focus on, are your classmates.” 

That was the advice I received from a graduating student as I started my two-year MBA degree. Dare ask me which of those three things I value most all these years later? Well, I recently co-wrote a children’s book with one of those classmates along with his kids and my own, and I talked to him just yesterday. 

20Books Madrid is now in the record books, and I could categorize the event along the same lines as my MBA: 

  1. Presentations (the “books”): If you’re an active indie author, chances are that you’ve read the books, watched the videos, and “learned all the things.” That said, ideally these presentations are cutting edge with the latest and greatest information, so even if you think you know the basics, it’s always great to hear it—especially live from a real person in front of you. 
  2. Speakers (the “professors”): We truly have access to the speakers, especially at a smaller conference, such as Madrid. Craig encouraged everyone to go up to a speaker and ask your question or just say hi. This, of course, is the biggest benefit of coming to a conference as compared to reading the speakers’ books, listening to them on a podcast, or watching them on YouTube. All of the presenters were available to chat with during the breaks. This is definitely a highlight of a smaller conference and one authors can—and should—take advantage of.
  3. Authors (the “classmates”): Whereas the speakers might seem distant because they are so far ahead in income, number of books, experience, or all of the above, the other authors at the conference can be an even more resourceful group to connect with as they are more likely to be at or near your level. Everyone there is in the same boat and has something to share and usually something you can learn from. This is truly the most powerful reason to come to a conference, and especially one with just a few hundred people in attendance. You will have the time and the opportunity to make those connections with questions like, “How can we get our audiobook listeners to use the BookFunnel app so they’ll be more receptive to our books on that platform?” or “Have you had the churros with the little bowl of dark chocolate? We’re going tomorrow afternoon to get more.” 

So after all that, which piece of information stands out the most? 

The chocolate and the churros, obviously! 

Downtown Madrid boasts a café that serves up churros—and pretty much only churros. You go to one counter to place your order. The staff is decked out in white-collared shirts, there’s an old-school cash register, and they give you your paper receipt and send you away. 

You go stand in another line around the corner and await another waiter to seat you. Once a spot opens up in the shade outside, you are taken to your seats and he takes your order. Soon thereafter, yet another waiter delivers the only thing on the menu: a plate of hot churros and a cup of warm, gooey dark chocolate. 

You break apart the long, donut-like stick, dip the end into the chocolate, and twirl it deep. The warm oil seeps onto your fingers, and soon, the churro is in your mouth, an explosion of rich chocolate, cinnamon, sugar, and delightful dough. 

Share with fellow authors. Repeat. 

Craig Martelle, the founder of 20BooksTo50K® and organizer, emcee, and fearless leader of the show, made it a point to say that the breaks in between the forty-five-minute presentations would be thirty minutes. 

This was the core of what we authors were “supposed” to focus on: the other authors, authors just like us. Sure, we’d learn something from the presentations and the speakers, but most of the interaction, the communication, and the connection came through meeting other authors. And that was exactly the case at this year’s 20Books Madrid.

Key Takeaways from Madrid

As much as I want to talk about the churros and the chocolate or the intense exchanges with Kate Pickford who invited authors up on stage to work through the main points of their story in real time in front of the entire audience, here are a few high-level takeaways from the conference: 

  1. Mindset: If a guy who sits on his boat and plays with Amazon ads for an hour a day and writes two books per year can do it, so can we.
  2. A rising tide lifts all boats: This is the 20BooksTo50K® motto, and it’s especially true at an in-person event. We all help each other. We’re collaborators, not competitors. Go talk to someone!
  3. Bring them in: We need to do the work to bring the readers in. With the exception of TikTok, this includes tactics, such as ads, newsletters, and writing more books. 
  4. Keep them happy: Once you have the reader, take care of them, keep them happy, and give them more. 
  5. Long game: Like most overnight success stories, years of hard work, passion, and patience usually frame the background. Give yourself room to breathe—and live. 
  6. Relationships: Several speakers, as well as authors in the audience, talked about how they work with people they met at these conferences. 
  7. Just say hi: To create those relationships, just say hi to people. The worst that could happen is you two don’t hit it off and both walk away to see if there are any more ham sandwiches. No harm, no foul. One of the best things that can happen is churros in downtown Madrid. 

Maybe the biggest takeaway is what you don’t take away. There’s a firehose of information over the course of a conference, and there’s no way anyone can take it all in—much less take action on all of it. 

Cherry-pick a few action items and possibly some ideas on a higher-level strategy, and then execute those actions.

Picture of Bradley Charbonneau

Bradley Charbonneau

Bradley Charbonneau wanted to be a writer. Trouble was, he didn’t write. A friend was running a “Monthly Experiment” (no coffee for a month, wake up at 5 AM, etc.) and created one where everyone had to write every single day for 30 days. Bradley took the challenge. “Hmm, that wasn’t so bad.” Then he kept going. 100 days. 365. 1,000. 2,808 days and 31 books later and he found out it’s simple. Not necessarily easy, but simple. #write #everysingleday

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