The indie author community is strong and thriving! Do you have what it takes to make a living with your writing? Find out my takeaways from the 2017 20 Books Vegas Conference.

In early November, my husband and I flew to Las Vegas to attend the first annual conference of the 20Booksto50K Facebook group. The first official gathering of the 20Books author community, the event was designed for indie fiction authors to network, collaborate, and learn.

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My husband and I on our way to Vegas!

By the way, if you are a fiction author, I highly recommend joining the Facebook group. It’s helped me immensely on my author journey.

Surrounded by 450 authors ranging from newbie to 7-figure authors who are crushing it, I was blown away by the spirit of sharing. There was incredible positivity and many lessons learned—there was no shame in revealing the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The indie author community is not only strong but is also leading the industry in many areas of publishing and book marketing.

Here are my top takeaways from the conference:

1. Fat Outlining helps you write faster and edit less.

Kat Lind is the creator of “fat outlining.” After analyzing millions of publications, she developed fat outlining, uses them for her own books, and teaches the process to others.

The technique involves listing out the sensory images and emotions you want readers to experience in each scene. According to Kat’s research, images are processed differently in our brains. Readers can remember an image many pages later.

Kat recommends dictation to speed up your writing, as well as channeling your child ego state. Remember when you were a kid and you asked lots of questions, and anything could happen?

Another unique tip is to use commas instead of periods when you write your first draft. A period stops your thought. You have greater fluidity when you write with commas.

Check out Kat’s book, A Writer’s Guide to Fat Outlining.

2. Use phrases, not keywords to sell more books.

Dave Chesson ( and Scott Paul presented tips on using Amazon data science to market your books.

Did you know that 27% of Amazon shoppers click the first book that appears in the search results? Only 12% click the second book. That means the first book gets twice as many clicks as the second! You want your book to be the first that a reader sees.

I can attest to the power of being #1 in the search results. My book, Layoff Reboot, appears when you search “layoff.” I recently got a call from a major magazine wanting to interview me for a story about losing your job. The editor said I had written the book on layoffs. *High five!*

Keyword tips from Dave and Scott:

1. Use words that Amazon shoppers use to search.

How? Type the terms into the search bar on Amazon. Use an incognito search screen in Google Chrome, so that you aren’t influencing the search bar with your previous searches. For more search term research, they recommend Google Keyword Planner (free) and KDP Rocket (Chesson’s tool) if you have it.

2. Use words that Amazon shoppers use when buying books.

A shopper might enter “science fiction” as a broad search word when they are just starting to shop. Look at the sales rank for the top book in your search term to see how competitive it is. Try to rank as the number one book for a keyword.

3. Use words that aren’t too competitive.

Look at the number one book:

• Is the author famous?
• What is the book cover quality? If the book is selling, and the covers are terrible, use that keyword!
• Look at reviews: grades, number, and recency. If there were no reviews in the last year, that is a bad keyword.
• Is the keyword in the title? Look at the age of the book. Are there a lot of Amazon ads? Do they have a big blog and online assets?

Update your keywords every three months, or when sales drop.

Remember these Amazon keyword rules:
• Do not use book titles or another author name.
• You CAN use a series name as long as it’s not the title.
• Don’t use “Kindle” or “ebook.”

When you choose book categories, look at the number you need to sell per day to hit number one.

20 Books Vegas

20 Books Vegas was held at Sam’s Town, a quirky, off-strip venue that had a laser light show, waterfall, and animatronic grizzly bear.

3. You can market your books for free.

According to Bryan Cohen, you can use a combination of three elements to market your books at no cost:

1) Skills – What are your unique skills? What do you bring to the table that may help others? Bryan is highly organized and was a performer, so he created an online summit that helped many authors at once.

2) Characters – Use the journey of your main character when crafting book descriptions and ad copy. Don’t worry about plot. End blurbs with cliffhangers.

3) Storytelling – Email your list and tell them personal stories to connect. Share pictures in your emails. Don’t be afraid to show the ups and downs of your writing adventures. Bryan says to show the real you to your readers.

Bonus tip: Mention the character in the first line of your sales blurb.

20 Books Vegas

Best of all, there were plenty of networking opportunities. Here we are having dinner with Chloe Adler, Brian Meeks, and Lyz Kelley.

4. Become a possibility thinker.

Honoree Corder told the conference audience to “Make Your Fortune” in her inspiring session. Several attendees said this was one of their favorite sessions.

To achieve a breakthrough and earn the income you want, Honoree says you must:

• Become a possibility thinker.

Don’t limit yourself to what you can’t do or what you’ve been told all your life. She points out that she was a foster kid, teenage mom, and got divorced. She overcame her adversity with positive and limitless thinking.

• Identify your writing role model.

Study what they do and emulate them.

• Create “I Am” statements.

Write these statements down every morning. Keep them where you can see them and repeat throughout the day. Since this session, I’ve been using “I am” statements for my fiction goals and finding them powerful.

• Compare yourself to you.

Stop wasting time feeling you are behind. Everyone started somewhere. You can, too.

Commitment eats impossible for breakfast. – Honoree Corder

20 Books Vegas

Craig Martelle was the master of ceremonies! He put a tremendous amount of work into the event.

5. Keep your story ideas simple.

Joe Nasisse, co-founder of Story Engines presented 7 Steps to Write Better Books Faster. Joe says we are wired for story.

When you have a book idea, keep it simple. For example, “I’m going to write a story about baseball.” Then turn it into a premise following this formula:

Hero + story problem + stakes +villian/opposition
The story must have conflict. Your hero and villain goals must be diametrically opposed.

I used the Story Engines formula for my novel, Brink:

Brink is about a kick-ass female soldier who moves to a new city and wants to hide her supernatural healing power. When a sadistic, terminally-ill mayor discovers her secret, she must defeat him before he uses her power to conquer the city with his robot army.

If you have many characters in your story, each character must have their own goals, face conflict, and resolve matters by the end.

Use a scene list to put everything together.

Finally, your hero must be heroic, have agency, and drive events to conclusion.

Check back for more 20 Books takeaways coming soon…


20 Books Vegas