Saturday, November 18, 2023

Learning in Las Vegas, by Lori Roberts Herbst

Luck was a lady for me when I attended 20BooksVegas amid the neon lights of Las Vegas Nov. 6-10. The conference was geared toward indie authors, with almost 2,000 attendees showing up to learn, share, and bond over our common writing and publishing pursuit. It was one of the best conferences I’ve attended, and I came away with many ideas and resources that I wanted to share.


First, though, a couple of observations.


We humans are essentially social creatures.


Authors sit at our computers and create stories filled with people and dialogue, but it doesn’t completely fill the need for “real” people and interactions. So many of the authors I meet are self-proclaimed introverts, but almost all of us still crave personal, human connection. When I go to a conference, I find myself energized by the…well, the energy of human beings. It’s such a rush to commingle with people who share a common interest: writing and telling stories.


Some things we never outgrow.


When I was a kid, our family moved a lot, meaning I changed schools frequently. I can remember the nearly debilitating fear of “who am I going to sit with at lunch?” Turns out, that anxiety doesn’t go away, even when you’re in your sixties. I began the
week knowing only a couple of people, so when lunchtime rolled around, I admit my first instinct was to grab a sandwich and hide out in my hotel room. But once I faced my fear, I found people who were more than happy to include me in their lunch groups—and I made some friends. (I still hid out in my room once or twice, but mostly for my own well-being. For me, recharging my emotional batteries is only achieved in isolation.)


But enough of my anthropological observations. More importantly, I learned so much at this conference. I started publishing cozy mysteries almost three years ago and have five books in the world, soon to be six. Still, I feel like a neophyte in the writing and publishing world. In Vegas, I was treated to a ton of sessions on how to navigate the journey. Here are a few takeaways:


·      The industry is changing.


Then again, change in this industry is nothing new. It’s been happening since the time of hieroglyphics. People are publishing in different formats and on a variety of platforms. Technology can be both a blessing and a burden in that regard. But the opportunities continue to grow for authors who are willing to keep learning and growing.


·      There’s room for everyone.


Your success doesn’t make my success any less likely. The world is filled with readers, and they read more than one book, more than one genre, more than one author. We will never saturate the total readership. And helping each other grow and succeed only creates better products and more trust with readers. One thing I love most about this conference is their motto: “A rising tide lifts all boats.” What a generous, insightful way to look at things. 


·      We should stop operating from a position of “have to.”


Many people will tell you what you must do to succeed in this business. Write every day. Spend money on advertising. Book lots of live events. Grow your email list. Sell direct. Publish on Kindle Unlimited. Stay away from Amazon. These are all strategies that work for some people and not for others. The bottom line is that each author must discover what works for them and what they’re comfortable with. There are as many paths as there are individual authors.


·      Set goals that make you happy.


This aligns with the last bullet point, but it bears repeating. Your journey is no one else’s journey. Author A might be happy writing eight hours a day. More power to them. For me, that would quickly lead to burnout and a drain on my creative reserve, so I choose to write two or three hours a day, and I’ll take the occasional day off if I want to. More power to me. It’s a cliché, I realize, but life is too short to be miserable in what you do.


·      Keep an open mind.


It’s so easy to fall into the one-size-fits-all mentality. To judge the way other authors approach the craft and the business. But it’s so much more rewarding to keep learning, exploring, growing, and collaborating. 


Aside from all that I learned, nothing beats a conference in Vegas. I lost $13 in slot machines, spent way more than that on food, saw a great show, spotted a vending machine that dispenses cake slices, and had to dissuade a drunk Mickey Mouse who wanted me to take a photo with him for just a $5 fee. Only in Vegas, baby.  

Where would you hold your dream conference?


Lori Roberts Herbst writes the Callie Cassidy Mysteries, a cozy mystery series set in Rock Creek Village, Colorado. To find out more and to sign up for her newsletter, go to 


  1. Lori, I've heard wonderful things about that conference! Sounds like you had a blast. As for where I'd hold my dream conference? Hm. I think I've already been there: Long Beach, CA. The Bouchercon there in November was my favorite, although I confess I played hooky for most of it. I mean, really. Long Beach. In November. (It was 22 degrees and snowing when I got off the plane coming home.)

    1. Sounds beautiful, Annette! Could there be a better time and place? Glad you had such a great time!

  2. Converences can help us broaden the small world of "me" and place it in a much larger context. As for a favorite place to have a conference, I'd choose someplace far from a city, deep in woods, on a lake where meals were family style and you stayed in cabins with a wood stove to take care of the morning or evening chill.

    1. Jim, Craig Martelle, one of the people who spearheaded 20BooksVegas, is hosting a writers' retreat at some cabins where he lives. In northern Alaska. In February, if I remember correctly. Brrr!

  3. Sounds like a great conference! Las Vegas is a "fun" town; there's lots to do and see. I like cities for writers' conferences, and quiet, scenic places for writers' retreats.

    1. Sounds perfect. I didn't actually leave the hotel but a couple of times. But I've been to Vegas many times in the past. Didn't need to see the sights.

  4. That conference sounded like a lot of fun, although, Las Vegas doesn’t appeal to me. I missed out going to a conference at Banff, so I’m voting for one there.
    Grace Topping

    1. I've always wanted to go to Banff, Grace! Let's lobby for a conference there!