I took a gamble and went to Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago. No, I didn’t gamble on slot machines or baccarat tables or any of the hundreds of games of chance there. The gamble I took was on myself and my writing. I attended 20Books Vegas 2021: a 20Booksto50k® educational and networking event. By gambling on an opportunity I found permission.
How it Started
The 20Booksto50k® Facebook group is a social learning group created to share knowledge and best business practices for indie-publishing and selling more books.
Michael Anderle, founder of 20Booksto50k®, and Craig Martelle, group leader and organizer, host the conference in Vegas every year(except 2020 when COVID-19 closed Vegas). They keep costs as low as possible to make it affordable for all writers.
This summer, generous donors created a scholarship fund for writers with limited means. Interested people answered essay questions. Awards ranged from covering all costs to partial scholarships to attendance fees only. Need and those essays determined who won what. They awarded more than 100 scholarships.
I took a gamble and answered the essay questions. Figured if I didn’t win, I’d lost nothing. And if I won, it was a sign I was meant to go.
They awarded me attendance fees.
Planning For 20Books Vegas
Even with free admission, going to Vegas was going to be a financial stretch. I needed clothes, suitcases, and more. I won which meant I had to go. Right? So I made a plan to make some extra money.
Besides more money, I looked for ways to cut costs. Especially hotel and food costs. Vegas is ridiculously expensive these days.
And money wasn’t the only thing I had to plan. It’s best to go to a convention like this with some goals. Otherwise you won’t know whether it was worth it. Of course, the goals need to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time sensitive.
My goals were quite modest. I am an introvert’s introvert, so I wanted to meet at least 6 people in the field (Science Fiction & Dystopian fiction).
There were two learning goals as well. My weak spots are productivity and marketing.
I studied the program and identified several presenters I wanted to talk to. I even prepared some questions.
Working the Plan
For extra money, I reached out to two of my husband’s friends. They had offered to help me sell off my husband’s business assets (products, supplies, etc.).
Caring for my medically fragile husband at home for so many years was expensive. I needed more than money for airline tickets.
My husband’s friends exceeded my wildest hopes. The sales they made provided me with money to buy everything I needed (and that was a lot). Plus, there was enough money to give me an ample cushion for nice dinners or entertainment.
A post in the 20BooksVegas Facebook group invited attendees to arrange sharing a hotel room. In a comment with a little about myself and what I write, I asked for a roommate. I found pretty close to the perfect roomie.
Airlines required all passengers to wear masks in the airport and on the plane 100% of the time. Plus, Las Vegas required masks for all indoor activities. That meant I would spend a minimum of eight hours per day in a mask. I bought more reusable masks. They irritate my face less than paper ones.
I had received the original two COVID vaccinations several months ago. So four weeks before my departure, I got the booster and my flu shot.
If you’ve never been to Vegas—it’s party city 24/7. Everything is LOUD. People are drunk. I had the pleasure of observing two young women (on separate occasions) vomiting because they were so drunk. Walking… walking… walking. Everything is at least twice as far away as it looks.
Everyone needs/wants a tip.
But there are also delightful surprises.
Yes, that’s a vending machine that sells cakes from the Cake Boss.
Authors of dystopian fiction had three meetups. I found my tribe. I had a couple of great conversations at a meetup for science fiction authors. And I attended a meetup for Wide for the Win authors (another Facebook group).
Unexpectedly, I met a dystopian author (who writes for young adults) from my neck of the woods. She lives less than 20 miles from me. We plan to get together soon.
Many of the presentations were inspirational. Those focused on helping new-to-writing folk. Some were full of actionable information.
During each of the presentations, I learned a few tips and techniques worth trying. The organizers and many of the presenters repeatedly said—the value of the conference isn’t in the presentations but in the contacts you make.
I did not take part in the book signing and sale, but it did well.
Business Lessons Learned
I took a business card with me. On the back of it, I have the new covers for my books. It was reassuring to have all the dystopian authors admire the covers (one even wanted the name of my designer.)
Lots of industry professionals attended the convention. I hadn’t prepared for that. That is something I will plan for if I go again.
For my first professional show in many years and my first after the death of my husband, I think things went very well. I didn’t take advantage of the big name authors whom I had the chance to meet, didn’t ask presenters the questions I had… I didn’t have the spoons for that. And this time, that was okay. However, next time I will take that opportunity.
Travel Lessons Learned
It was hot. I should have brought more short sleeved outfits, and no long sleeved ones. I used a lightweight Pashma once. But used nothing heavier.
I forgot my second pair of shoes. That was unfortunate since I walked an average of 7,150 steps per day. Because of some issues with my back, I avoided longer walks.
If I go next year, I will take part in the book signing and sale. That means I’ll either drive or ship the books there. Why do I say if? It depends upon how my books are selling, how my finances are, and what my goals are. All those things may change over the next year.
I brought more “extras” on this than I needed. Since It had been a decade since I last traveled, I give myself a pass on that one.
My Favorite Presentation
With 10-12 presentations each day, there was no way to attend them all. Of the ones I attended, my favorite was Six Productivity Myths And Why You Should Stop Believing Them Right Now by Becca Symes.
Her primary tip? Question the premise. Not all methods work for all authors or creatives. Anytime some industry leader says you SHOULD do something or that their technique ALWAYS works—don’t get sucked into thinking you failed when you try the should or the thing that works anti doesn’t. Always question the premise.
By the way, many of the presentations were recorded and are available on YouTube. Search for 20Books Vegas 2021.
My Biggest Take Away
When I first got home, I didn’t think I’d gotten a lot out of the conference. Some tips, yes. But I never felt an ah-ha moment. Didn’t know I was expecting one, but when I got home, I felt let down because I didn’t have one.
Then, a friend asked me what my biggest take away was from attending the conference. At first, I couldn’t say. I didn’t know. But as I told her about what I had been doing after I got home, I had my ah-ha moment.
My biggest take away was permission. In different ways, every presenter stressed how important it was for a creative to take risks and how most of us are our own biggest obstacles. We tell ourselves we can’t do something and we have lots of reasons we can’t.
Take a Gamble and Give Yourself Permission
By gambling on an opportunity I found permission. Listening to them restate the idea of giving ourselves permission to take risks, to do the thing, to scare ourselves… gave me something I didn’t know I needed. It gave me permission to take next steps. Gave me permission to move forward. To invest in myself and my writing. To be my best creative self.
Many of us have difficulty giving ourselves permission to take care of ourselves, to be who and what we are. Often, we aren’t aware that all we need to do is give ourselves permission.
I want to pay it forward. To all of you who are creatives, I encourage you to gamble on yourselves. Give yourself permission to take the risk, gamble on an opportunity, scare yourself. Be the genuine creative you. If you need it, I give you permission to gamble, to give yourself permission. Go forth and be your best creative self.