The second annual DIY Authors Conference and Marketplace at BEA took place on May 21 at the Javits Center in NYC. According to conference organizers, attendance was up slightly from 2010, approaching 300 registrations. More than a dozen presentations by experts in various aspects of self-publishing were offered. Kicking off with an articulate, realistic keynote, mainstream publishing veteran Alan Rinzler of John Wiley & Sons set the tone of the event, with his conviction that there has been a true shift of power in the book world in 2010 and 2011, and that “this is the best time for writers” in history… although not without challenges or pitfalls.

Leading service providers to the booming DIY market such as Amazon (with its CreateSpace and Kindle Direct units), Barnes & Noble’s new PubIt service, and others that cater to writers who self-publish, had a strong presence.

Following its May 19 announcement that e-books outsold their printed counterparts in April 2011, Amazon showcased two successful DIY authors. B.V. Larson and Ray Sabini shared savvy tips and tricks for attracting readers, and ways to wring more revenue from self-published books, in both printed and digital form.

Two common threads among many presentations were the growing role of the author as book publicist, and the use of online social networking media as tools to achieve the publicity needed for success. Several panelists stressed the virtual necessity of almost daily online activity on a diversity of platforms such as Facebook, Goodreads, Shelfari, Twitter and even YouTube… as well as relentless blogging, outreach by e-mail, utilizing search engines, and getting reviews. In her panel on “Twitter for DIY Authors,” Kathleen Matthews Schmidt of KMSPR opined that some writers can cultivate a burgeoning following by sending “only” 10 to 20 tweets per day.

Success stories abounded, though many involved considerable technical expertise and dogged persistence -- qualities sometimes rare among writers who publish their own books. For example, in his informative panel on “Building Community,” Dan Blank of We Grow Media advocated devoting two to three years for social networking before and after publication of a book. “Build a career, don’t just publish a book,” he said.

Some other panels over-simplified the tough realities of what it takes to successfully cultivate a grassroots readership today, or suggested that there are easy ways for writers to attract mainstream publishers. While some presentations were geared for newcomers to the book world, and therefore elementary by design, others raised issues of equal interest to seasoned professionals.One such standout at the end of the day was the “Emerging DIY Opportunities” panel by longtime publishing industry futurist Richard Nash of Cursor, and his new book community. Nash holds that while the production side of book publishing has now changed forever, the consumption side (that is: discoverability, or how writers reach readers) remains daunting for both authors and publishers. He delivered an overview of factors that are now changing the book world, peppered with caustic wit. “Mainstream publishers still have some advantages, such as the ability to get books into bookstores,” he said, adding “Bookstores are places where people who like to read books are known to be found.”

Overall, this year’s DIY conference reinforced a growing sense among industry observers that self-publishing has become a permanent part of the publishing landscape. For a growing number of writers who publish their own books, success is within closer reach than ever -- though not without hard work and risks.