Just one facet of being a published indie author is universal, and that is technology.
You are free to choose the genre, the tropes, and the story arc of every work you produce. You’re able to choose how words appear on the page—whether that means filling notebooks with prose, speaking the story aloud into a dictation program, or banging out hundred-thousand-word tomes on a keyboard. You’re free to choose whether it is a solo endeavor to get your book from ideation to publication or whether you will employ editors, virtual assistants, formatters, designers, or marketing staff to help.
But you’ll need technology to publish, market, and sell your work—and it was that one uniting factor for all modern published authors that inspired the inaugural Author Tech Summit, hosted virtually by Indie Author Magazine this past month, September 13-16.
The four-day event was free to attendees, with sessions available for twenty-four hours, so participants could view them in any order and at any time, from any time zone. Sessions were dedicated to hands-on demonstrations of popular tools and an under-the-hood look at ways to optimize an author’s technology engine, with each day’s theme corresponding to a different step in the writing and publishing process. Discussions included everything from story development to social media marketing, all with the goal of helping make technology more accessible to as many authors as possible. And at least by the numbers, one could argue it succeeded—during the four days of the live event, over seven hundred students watched more than 41,000 minutes of video.
Worried you missed out? Don’t fret—we’ve summed up everything you might have missed from the summit below. If you want to learn more, replays of the sessions are available at https://authortechsummit.com by purchasing an all-access pass for $197, which opens up access for an entire year and includes additional bonus sessions.
Day One: Reader Engagement and Story Development
Day one of the summit launched with sessions from four different apps that help authors build their world, write their manuscripts, format them, and find new readers.
Janet Forbes, CEO and co-founder of World Anvil, took participants on a tour of the world building and novel writing software, which was created by her husband for her to finish her “unfinishable” novel. Originally aimed at gamers and fantasy writers for its ability to create maps and fleshed-out worlds, World Anvil also presented a second session that showed practical applications for authors using its timeline builder, character templates, and manuscript writing tool.
Reedsy is best known for the online directory of editing, design, and other professionals, but in this session, Reedsy’s Ricardo Fayet introduced the software’s writing and formatting tool called Reedsy Book Editor, highlighting the features of the online tool and demonstrating one key feature sure to be popular: collaboration, and how co-authors and editors can share a document without overriding one another’s work.
Kickstarter has garnered a lot of attention in recent months after Brandon Sanderson’s record-breaking campaign raised the most money ever by any user on the platform. Two Kickstarter sessions led participants through the basics of the app, including ways to get started with Kickstarter led by the company’s director of publishing and comics outreach, Oriana Leckert, and a deeper dive into building a sales page campaign from Russell Nohelty and Monica Leonelle, bestselling co-authors of the indie author guidebook Get Your Book Selling on Kickstarter.
Plottr is a visual outline and story bible tool for writers. In this session, Ryan Zee, co-founder and head of marketing, and Troy Lambert, education lead for the program, talked with Author Tech Summit Director of Operations Amy Holiday about how discovery writers—or those who aren’t plotters by nature—can utilize the program. Zee and Lambert delved into four concepts, including post-plotting, revising first drafts, managing story and series bibles, and tracking tent-pole events.
Day Two: Content Management
Day two focused on ways for authors to reach readers in new ways using websites, podcasts, and text-to-speech and translation tools to generate marketing materials.
Rich snippets are panels of information displayed in search results, offering audiences expanded information about the book, author, links to libraries, and links to buy. This session described how indie authors can use their website and other resources to alert Google to display this information using schemas, machine-readable formatting standard to most websites.
Using the power of RSS feeds, this session walked participants through the steps of writing a blog post and formatting its machine-readable template with links, images, and excerpts so that it can be used to populate newsletters, author profile pages, search results, push notifications, and social media posts.
Artificial intelligence (AI) tools for text-to-speech have become sophisticated enough for use in everyday marketing efforts. This session presented a use-case of creating sound files with two characters’ dialogue “spoken” using AI and combined into a short-form video for use on platforms like TikTok or Instagram. (View the sample finished video)
Building on the “Blog Once and Update Everywhere” session, this presentation delved deeper into the specifics of how to automate updates to the author’s profiles on Amazon and Goodreads using an RSS feed from each of the major website platforms.
Anchor.FM is a podcasting tool that serves as a central point for creating, editing, and syndicating podcasts. This session explored the possibilities of using Anchor.FM in two ways. The first described the steps for indie authors wanting to publish audio versions of serial fiction with ads or listener support. The second showed authors how to upload AI-generated sound files to produce a podcast and syndicate it to Google Play, Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, and other podcast download sites.
Not every author can afford to hire a narrator, but with the right setup and know-how, almost any author can produce a quality audio edition of their work on their own. Professional audiobook editor Jim Wilbourne walked attendees through setting up an advanced sound file editor and detailed what he does to ensure a raw recorded sound file has all the technical aspects required to achieve a polished result.
Day Three: Email Service Providers
Each of the email service providers profiled on day three—Sendy, Sendinblue, Mailchimp, MailPoet, MailerLite, and SendFox—was selected for features advantageous to indie authors. Presentations highlighted the basics of each, along with more advanced automation and other tricks for experienced users in additional sessions. Below are standout features for each platform that were highlighted.
- Installed on a website host and configured to send emails like other email service providers
- Instead of logging into a service, the author hosts and controls their own newsletter service with most of the same features as other paid services
- $69 for one website and hosting
- Charges for emails sent rather than per subscriber
- Integrated with websites for instant follow-up emails based on visitor activity
- Excellent choice for authors selling direct
- Free version still available
- Great for automating newsletters using RSS feeds
- Installed on WordPress websites as plugin
- Owned by WooCommerce, with exclusive features as a result
- Subscriber lists remain on the website for optimized data control
- Free up to one thousand subscribers
- Survey option can be used to ethically direct higher reviews to sites
- Zapier can be used to send notifications and attachments
- Attractive one-time payment for lifetime access
- Smart Campaigns can automate newsletter sending
Day Four: Social Media Scheduling
Rounding out the event, five sessions gave participants specific steps to manage social media posts and channels, as well as tips to engage readers more deeply.
Indie Author Magazine Creative Director Alice Briggs taught two sessions using common spreadsheet tools to help streamline social media scheduling across multiple channels. She included tips for how to choose which channels to focus on and how to create images in batches to save steps and time.
Hootsuite, at its core, is a social media planning and monitoring app. Its free version includes a feature that incorporates third-party apps, which participants learned are ways to find new content, monitor TikTok trends, and create graphics in Canva without leaving the app.
In this session, attendees explored another social media posting tool, PromoRepublic, and its key features that give users an all-in-one planning calendar and more advanced graphic design options.
Zapier is an application that connects other apps using the concept of “workflows.” This advanced session showcased how to add subscriber data into an email service provider to send targeted email; how to keep email subscribers backed up and able to import elsewhere; how to validate email addresses before adding to a primary list; how to send social media updates by entering information into a blog post or Google Sheet, and how to manage monthly paid subscriptions and downloads.
Organizers for Author Tech Summit are already planning another event for January 2023 with a focus on website design, graphic design applications, and tools that authors use to distribute wide and sell from their own websites. Register for email updates at https://authortechsummit.com.