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Board Member’s Memo: The Magic of IBPA Publishing University

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PUBLISHED MARCH/APRIL 2019

by Brooke Warner, Publisher, She Writes Press —


Brooke Warner

Here, IBPA Board Chair Brooke Warner explains why publishers come back to IBPA Publishing University, year after year after year…

This year, IBPA Publishing University (PubU) 2019 will be in Chicago from April 5-6. PubU is a special event for independent publishers in today’s publishing landscape. There are few other educational conferences that give as much access to industry players–from experts to distributors, printers, and designers–as PubU does. That matters in a time when indie publishers are being sidelined at other major conferences, as is the case at BookExpo, or where the cost of entry is prohibitive, as is the case for many publishers I’ve spoken with about Digital Book World (though IBPA members can email christopher@ibpa-online.org for 75 percent off your DBW 2019 ticket, a benefit of membership).

The thing I most value about PubU is the true spirit of community. Book publishing is a complicated industry to navigate. Producing a good book to professional standards requires publishers to know a lot about editorial standards, design, production, and printing. And that’s not even considering marketing, publicity, distribution, and sales. The way to rise to the top as publishers is to have consistently good books, and yet what makes a good book is often subjective. IBPA is the only organization I know that is committed to making sure publishers produce consistently good books, giving them everything they could ever need by way of resources on the website, extraordinary benefits for members, and educational tools including webinars, content, and, of course, culminating with PubU.

Some of the most memorable moments for me from PubU’s past include the power of a click moment. As much as I understood distribution, I didn’t fully understand all the ins and outs of traditional versus active distribution, or distribution versus fulfillment, until I attended my first PubU in San Francisco in 2014. I have met people at PubU who’ve gone on to become colleagues, trusted confidants, and friends. I have discovered printers, designers, and audiobook experts who’ve propelled my business forward. I have made connections with marketing folks, website designers, and other industry experts who’ve offered to host free webinars for my authors, giving me an incredible value-add to my publishing company’s own services and making my authors feel like we’re looking out for them. And, finally, there’s been some pretty good entertainment over the years, too, from funny moderators to original songs to last year’s Ignite sessions.

If you’re coming to PubU this year, do yourself a favor and challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone. I have five ideas for you:

  1. Talk to a board member. Talk to us about your business and what you’re doing and what you hope to achieve.

  2. Connect with the service providers who are exhibiting. They’re at PubU not only because they want your business, but because they have offers and opportunities for publishers, as well. You need most of the services on offer, even if it’s in the distant future, so make the rounds, collect cards, and organize them into the kinds of services they are for future access.

  3. Attend a session that’s out of your comfort zone. Choose one thing that feels like something you’re not ready for yet. If you feel overwhelmed, just take it in. Buy the CD of the session so you can listen to it again later.

  4. Sign up for a special event. This could include a breakfast or Literature and Libations, or, better yet, the off-site jazz show. Immerse yourself in this space with your fellow publishers by doing something fun and more intimate, and see if you might make a new friend for life.

  5. Give a compliment. If you liked someone’s session, or something they shared, let them know. Make use of social media and live tweet while you’re at PubU and see if you can round up some online followers and connections. A compliment is a nice way to open the door to make a connection to someone who’s at the event that you admire, want to connect with, or who you simply feel drawn to.

Many publishers come back year after year after year to PubU, and there’s good reason. The content is stellar and fresh, the people are warm and generous, and the opportunities for networking are so vast that new inroads for your business abound each time you come. PubU is an exciting event, and if you’re coming, remember that you’ll get out of it what you put into it. If you’re not able to attend this year, make sure to get it on your calendar for next year, April 3-4, 2020, in Redondo Beach, California. This is the premier event in independent publishing, and IBPA is leading the way with its innovation and education, and also with its deep support and care for indie publishers.


Brooke Warner is publisher of She Writes Press and SparkPress, president of Warner Coaching Inc., and author of Green-light Your Book and What’s Your Book?. She writes for Huffington Post and SheWrites.com, and sits on the board of the Independent Book Publishers Association.

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