Stephanie Chandler is the founder and CEO of the Nonfiction Authors Association, a marketing community for writers. The 5th Annual Nonfiction Writers Conference begins May 6th, and the keynote speaker will be Julia Cameron, author of THE ARTIST’S WAY. Participants can attend live sessions by telephone or Skype. Stephanie shares why she started the Nonfiction Authors Association and her experience being a self-published author.
Lucy Silag: First off, what is the Nonfiction Authors Association and why did you start it?
Stephanie Chandler: The Nonfiction Authors Association is a marketing community for trail-blazing writers! I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. When I quit my corporate job in 2003, I opened a 2,800 square-foot bookstore in Sacramento and planned to write novels in the back office. (When you’ve wanted to write your whole life, you naturally assume that a novel is the way to go.) But it turned out I didn’t have a knack for fiction, so I wrote my first nonfiction book (a business start-up guide) and was astonished by how much I loved writing nonfiction.
I began attending writers’ conferences and eventually started speaking at them as my author career took off. I noticed that nonfiction authors were largely neglected at these events. We didn’t quite fit in with the fiction writers and had different needs and approaches. So I launched the Nonfiction Writers Conference in 2010—an event conducted entirely online. I had no idea if it would catch on, but it did. Each year our attendees kept asking how they could keep the momentum going, so I finally answered them by launching the Nonfiction Authors Association in 2012. We needed our own community and now we have one with over 8,500 members and growing every day.
LS: From your perspective, what are the biggest differences between publishing a nonfiction book and a novel?
SC: The mechanics of the publishing process are about the same—both need editing and great graphic design and quality printing. The biggest difference is the marketing strategy. With fiction, the best way to get your book to take off is to get lots and lots of book reviews in as many places as possible—because fiction readers buy books based on reviews.
Reviews help with nonfiction too, but we have other tactics we can employ. Nonfiction authors often have the ability to leverage their expertise in their topic, which makes it easier to land interviews on radio shows and podcasts or contribute guest blog posts to sites that reach a niche target audience. Honestly, I think nonfiction authors are fortunate because we have a wider array of marketing options.
LS: What types of authors or writers make up the NFAA? (Business, memoir, how to . . .?)
SC: What I love about nonfiction books is that they are often written with the intention of bringing change to the world. A cancer memoir can help a reader who is on the same journey. A business how-to guide can help a struggling entrepreneur earn more profits. A health book can impact readers’ lives in many ways, and even the lives of a reader’s family because positive results can extend longevity!
This is why I refer to our community as a group of “trail-blazing” writers. We tend to attract people with a purpose/mission who are writing memoirs, how-to guides, health, business, history and so much more.
LS: Tell us about the Nonfiction Writers Conference.
SC: We are hosting our 5th annual event this year, and each year it just keeps getting better! It’s an online conference, which is a new concept for some people. My goal from the beginning was to take the concept of a traditional writers’ conference and put the whole thing online—delivered via teleseminar. Participants can attend live sessions by telephone or Skype and ask questions of the speaker at the end of each session. And they can also download recordings and transcripts.
Our attendees love the format because they don’t have to spend time and money on traveling, yet they get access to amazing speakers. This year our opening keynote speaker is Julia Cameron, beloved author of THE ARTIST’S WAY and THE RIGHT TO WRITE. We’ve had many popular speakers over the years, including Dan Poynter, Mark Coker from Smashwords, Guy Kawasaki, Joanna Penn, Dan Millman, and dozens of others. Because of the quality of speakers we carefully hand-pick, we have a high percentage of repeat attendees each year.
LS: You are a hybrid author yourself—tell us about your books, how you’ve developed as a nonfiction writer, and what’s been surprising as you’ve transitioned toward self-publishing.
SC: I’ve been extremely fortunate with my author journey. I self-published my first book back in 2005, and because I was building a high-traffic website at the time (BusinessInfoGuide.com), I was able to land a book deal with Wiley for my next book (FROM ENTREPRENEUR TO INFOPRENEUR). That book was a game-changer for my career because it covered topics that nobody had written about before: how to make money online by selling ebooks, reports and other information products.
After that, I signed with an agent and sold two more books. In the meantime, my career took off in directions I never imagined. I was invited (and paid!) to speak at events. I was asked to consult. I built a whole new business I hadn’t planned on, and I was able to sell my bookstore in the midst of all of the activity.
Eventually, I grew disillusioned with traditional publishing. I didn’t like the lack of control, especially when I was the one doing all the work to market my books. The publishers created book covers I didn’t like, yet wouldn’t accept my input. One called and told me to remove a chapter from my book because they wanted to limit page count and save on printing costs. They told me, “We don’t care which chapter. Just pull one.” Seriously! So I formed my own publishing company in 2008 (Authority Publishing) and over ten years, I’ve released nine books total.
Back when my writing journey began, I never imagined I’d launch an association or an online conference or work full-time from a home office and have a team of people working behind the scenes to help make all of this possible. I feel very fortunate for all of it, including the many lessons I’ve learned the hard way!
Being an author—whether fiction, nonfiction, children’s books or whatever your passion—is such a joy and a privilege. We get to realize our dreams, and it’s easier than ever to do so on our own terms! I couldn’t be more grateful for this fulfilling career I’ve built for myself. I encourage authors to follow your heart and do work that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning. Life is short and should be appreciated and lived as fully as possible!
About Stephanie Chandler
Stephanie Chandler is the author of several books including THE NONFICTION BOOK MARKETING PLAN: Online and Offline Promotion Strategies to Build Your Audience and Sell More Books. Stephanie is also founder and CEO of the Nonfiction Writers Association, a vibrant marketing community for trail-blazing writers, and the Nonfiction Writers Conference, an annual event conducted entirely online. A frequent speaker at business events and on the radio, she has been featured in Entrepreneur, BusinessWeek, and Wired magazine, and she is a blogger for Forbes. Also see: @bizauthor and @NonfictionAssoc on Twitter and Facebook.