I just got back from a fast trip to Chicago to attend the 2013 IBPA Publishing University, undoubtedly the biggest and most diverse live educational opportunity for indie authors and small publishers.
This year’s lineup of presenters and instructors was no different. The energy and optimism of authors, publishers, consultants, vendors, and teachers made me realize how lucky we are to be in the part of the book business that’s actually booming.
Of course, even though I know there will be fun at these events, great networking, meeting new and old friends, and talking to lots and lots of authors, there’s always something I come away with that’s unexpected.
So here’s my list this year of the things I learned at Publishing University that I didn’t have any way of expecting:
- Thomson-Shore of Dexter, Michigan—long a favorite short-run offset printer—is now producing some of the best digitally printed books I’ve ever seen.
Why it matters: Over the years authors have continually asked me about the possibility of producing digital color books, either as short runs or for print on demand distribution.
For the most part it has been impossible to get quality color printing from digital printers without paying very high per copy prices.
Although these books are not cheap, this is an encouraging sign that at least they are coming closer to reality.
- You can drop an Apple MacBook Pro from 3 feet in the air, watch it bounce, and then pick it up and go back to work.
Why it matters: While getting ready to start a presentation, Shannon Bodie of Lightbourne Graphics had her shiny laptop slip from her hands as we were changing places at the podium.
Maybe she was lucky, or maybe computers have just gotten a whole lot better over the years, but from the bounce it took I expected at least some damage to the machine.
But the next day, Shannon showed up with the laptop, loaded our presentations for a session we were giving together, and it functioned perfectly.
- Mark Coker of Smashwords and Brian Felsen of Bookbaby genuinely like each other a lot.
Why it matters: Smashwords and its younger competitor, BookBaby, are both avidly signing up indie authors to use their conversion and distribution services.
Although their business models, backgrounds, and personal style are completely different, they sometimes find themselves sitting on panels together discussing ebooks, and it’s obvious there is real admiration on both sides.
While competition is generally good for us authors who use these services, it’s quite refreshing to know that the principals of these companies are both equally dedicated to authors as indie artists, and are doing everything they can to advance their purpose in the world.
- IBPA is seriously considering bringing their annual Publishing University back to San Francisco.
Why it matters: For many years Publishing University was held in the days leading up to the annual Book Expo America, the huge trade show dedicated to showing traditionally-published books to independent (non-chain) bookstore owners.
Two years ago, in an effort to reach more of the indie publishing community, they brought the event to San Francisco where it was a big success.
Indie publishers, unlike traditional publishers, are spread all over the country, and northern California is an especially important location in the book world. Besides the many publishers located here, we’re also close to the center of the very tech industry that’s causing so much disruption in book publishing.
Besides, who doesn’t like San Francisco?
- “Book shepherding” is becoming a real business.
Why it matters: Many authors don’t want to walk through the self-publishing process alone, because they know that there’s a lot of specific expertise that comes into play when you produce a book.
Book shepherds have to know about editing, cover design, positioning, book marketing, launches, print on demand and offset printing, and the world of ebooks. It’s been difficult to find qualified people to recommend to authors looking for this type of guidance.
Now more people are offering this service, and that’s a good thing. I’ve often talked to colleagues over the last couple of years about the problem that many authors face—not having the inclination or time to take on learning all this stuff just to get a book publishing—and ending up as customers of predatory subsidy publishers.
But the demand spurred by the thousands of people who have decided to get into indie publishing has brought more people with real industry experience into the field, and that has to be a good thing for authors.
I guess this all helps to show that it’s worthwhile going to live events. Besides all the great instruction and networking opportunities, you will always learn stuff you didn’t even know you didn’t know.
And that’s a very good thing.
Author U Extravaganza is This Weekend in Denver
Next week I’ll be in Denver for Judith Briles‘ Author U Extravaganza. This will mark the end of live conferences for me for a while. I won’t miss the hotel food, but if you’ve been on the fence about this event, it’s time to decide.
There will be a great lineup there, and I can promise I’m going to “open the kimono” in my “Deep Dive” workshop on blogging, and walk you through the exact strategies and techniques I’ve used over the years to grow this blog.
If you think there’s a chance you’d like to go, check it out here: Author U Extravaganza
Photo detail of the ceiling of the Palmer House hotel by swanksalot. Author U link is an affiliate link.