Some of you may know that I am member and ardent supporter of the Independent Book Publishers Association, IBPA. Every year they host an intense learning conference called PubU. In conjunction with PubU the annual Benjamin Franklin Award Ceremony is held the first night of the conference and the Gold Medal winners are announced at a fun banquet where finalists all come to celebrate their award winning books.

This year the conference was in Chicago and the weather cooperated so that I was able to go out on the town and enjoy live jazz, local food, and one of the many museums I haven’t seen yet in this great city, the American Writers Museum, which was a field trip hosted by IBPA.

I want to share a few of the highlights, mainly so I will remember them, and also to show what a supportive and collaborative organization IBPA is. This is truly one of the friendliest groups I’ve ever been a part of and I always come away with lots of new ideas, resources, plans to grow my business, and new friends. Here are a few highlights.

I was privileged to give a four-hour pre-conference workshop with one of the trailblazers of Hybrid Publishing, Brooke Warner of She Writes Press. This Is the second year we have presented this vital material and we have a lot of fun dishing out as much information as we can on the topic of the Industry Standards for a Professionally Published Book. This is something Brooke and I have always been passionate about because we profess that by following these guidelines any book can be as good as the books that are published by the Big 5 traditional publishers, and all books should be judged by the book, not the business model. Brooke’s strength in this area is the editorial side and mine is design, so we are able to give solid information and examples to show others the best practices.

Our keynote speaker was Dominique Raccah, founder of Sourcebooks, the largest woman-owned book publisher in the country and a leader in the publishing industry in multiple ways. Her talk was so inspiring, and it fueled my desire to publish books that matter for people who care” with even more energy.

A few of the sessions that stood out to me were how to Strategically Grow your Audience with eBooks and Hit the Bestseller List, presented by Kelly Peterson and Elizabeth Turnbull. Kelly is the marketing director for IPG, my distributor, and she is one of the most knowledgeable and generous supporters I have right now as my business is growing. Elizabeth is a fellow publisher who has been participating on the IBPA Advocacy Committee with me the past year and a half, and she introduced me to Kelly at last year’s PubU. I am very grateful!

I enjoyed listening to Angela Bole, the CEO of IBPA and Brooke present on the Hybrid Publisher Criteria: One Year Later, a topic I am particularly passionate about and through Top Reads I am doing my part to build and reinforce this critical publishing business model. The Criteria was authored by the Advocacy Committee last year as our most prominent achievement, and many of us support ongoing efforts to bring an understanding of just what a Hybrid Press does in the independent publishing space.

Two of my favorite presenters were Susan Schaefer Bernardo and Courtney Fletcher of Inner Flower Child Books. They were a dynamic duo speaking on two topics: Publishing Children’s Picture Books, and Crowdfunding the Capital You Need. Wow, did they pack a lot of information into those two presentations!

The Awards Banquet was very special to me this year as one of the books Top Reads published was a finalist in the category of Inspiration, Monday Moments, and the author, Ann Hales flew to Chicago to attend the ceremony. We were happy to have won the Silver Medal for this wonderful book and I was proud to take home my second Ben Franklin. The first one was for Neal Katz debut novel, Outrageous: Rise to Riches, which won the Gold medal for Best First Book by a Publisher in 2016.

I made several connections with new authors and publishers during my Ask the Experts sessions when I offered advice to anyone who had a question about publishing. There were also a few standout sponsors who had tables in the main hall, like Mike Coles from Choose Your Reader, a very cool story app for children’s books, and Darrin Sappenfield from Total Printing Systems.

And of course, I must mention some of my dear publishing buddies, Karla Olson, Bethel Swift, Richard Williams, Tammy Dever, Maggie Langrick, Gail Woodard, and the amazing staff of IBPA, Lee Wind, Terry Nathan, and Christopher Locke.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s PubU, which will be close to home in Redondo Beach! And maybe we’ll bring home a few more Ben Franklins.