The Independent Authors Conference: Talk About A Revolution

Independent Authors Conference keynote

At the Independent Authors Conference, every workshop or session I went to, I learned something new. That makes for an awesome experience.

It opened with talk of cheesesteaks, Rocky Balboa, and flying the self-publishing flag. It closed with a call for writers to find their own community to improve writing skills, build their brand, identify their readers, and create success as an author.

independent authors conference exhibitor hall
IAC exhibitor hall

These were the bookends to BookBaby’s inaugural Independent Authors Conference (IAC), held on the first weekend in November in downtown Philadelphia. 400 authors, writers, speakers, and sponsors gathered to learn, explore, discuss, and share insights from their personal journeys in self publishing. An all-star team of successful self-published authors and industry leaders conducted over 20 workshops, presentations, and panels focused on publishing and marketing books as an independent author.

In my opening keynote remarks, I suggested the attendees had “come to the right place” in a variety of ways. I reviewed Philadelphia’s own rich self-publishing legacy, from Ben Franklin to our beloved Rocky Balboa (aka Sylvester Stallone). I highlighted numbers from BookBaby’s Self Publishing survey to illustrate how networking and attending conferences are a key part in the success of many authors’ careers. My key point was to prove that the IAC is the kind of event our community of writers needs to help motivate themselves and validate their publishing choices.

independent authors conference BB BoothIt was no coincidence that the IAC sessions were just a few blocks from Independence Hall, where a nation gave rise from the documents written, edited, and signed by our revolutionary founders. My hope was that our conference would be the start to many writers’ own self publishing revolution. The early reviews from those in attendance seemed to agree.

“I have been to many, many conferences over the years. I have gone to conferences that didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know. With this conference, every workshop or session I went to, I learned something new. That makes for an awesome experience.” – Patricia Otto

“Writers – put BookBaby’s Independent Author Conference on your radar for next November. This was my take-away from the weekend: writers need to hang with their peeps every once in a while, learn techniques and strategies on how to find their readers and plan for longevity and get inspired to stay motivated. I raise a glass to those authors. Go Get ‘Em!” – Eva Lesko Natiello, author of The Memory Box

“There was such a vibrant, engaged audience of independent authors at this conference. Everyone had insightful questions and was eager to soak up all the knowledge available to them this weekend. Author conferences like this are a great way to prepare for book marketing and publicity, as well as a fun way to meet other authors on the same journey.” – Sandra Smith, President, Smith Publicity

The weekend was jam packed with so many tremendous presentations and panels. Looking back now it’s hard to cover all the highlights. Off the top of my head, some include:

independent authors conference speakers
IAC Speakers Carolyn Howard-Johnson and Lee Wind

  • Author coach Shelley Hitz teaching the process of researching your target audience.
  • Marin Bookworks owner Joel Friedlander sharing ideas about using technology to enhance and extend authors’ content.
  • Self Publishing Boot Camp instructor Carla King sharing essential information about the business of self-publishing and the necessary dollars and common sense of creating your own book.
  • Nancy Erickson (the Book Professor) teaching her very simple three-step formula for telling your non-fiction story.

I want to publicly thank all of our amazing speakers, whose presence at our first-ever event catapulted the Independent Author Conference to the very top in publishing conferences offered today. I also want to thank Jessika Griffin from Rock Paper Scissors who quarterbacked our IAC team from day one of our conference planning.

And of course I want to thank my hardworking BookBaby team of publishing specialists, customer service team members, and marketers. A lot of hours were spent in the planning and execution of our first conference, and they did themselves proud with the event that unfolded.

My lasting impression of our inaugural conference relates to a lighthearted point from my keynote, where I showed a photograph of our city’s leading cheesesteak vendors and stressed how important it is to seek help in making your sandwich choices. This conference proved help is out there in so many forms, including a huge (and growing!) community of authors who are willing to share and give of themselves to promote and elevate the concept of self publishing.

I also reminded the audience that self publishing is the place where authors don’t need permission to publish. I talked with, shook hands with, and enjoyed being in the company of hundreds of authors who now get to choose their own publishing destiny.


your way to self-publishing success in just 5 easy steps with this 62-page book. Yours absolutely free.


Related Posts
The People and Posts of BookBaby’s Independent Authors Conference
18 Uniquely Philadelphia Attractions: Your IAC Extracurricular Planner
5 Ways Attending A Publishing Conference Can Help You Succeed
Making The Most Of Writers’ Conferences
One Writers Conference Can Be All the Catalyst You Need

Steven Spatz
Steven Spatz is a writer, marketer, and the President of BookBaby, the nation’s leading self publishing services company. Spatz’s professional writing career began at age 13, paid by the word to bang out little league baseball game stories on an ancient manual typewriter for southern Oregon weekly newspapers. His journalism career continued after graduation from the University of Oregon at several daily newspapers in Oregon. When his family took over a direct marketing food business, Spatz redirected his writing and design skills into producing catalogs. The Pinnacle Orchards catalog was named "Best Food Catalog," received dozens of other national awards, and the business grew into one of the nation’s largest gourmet fruit gift businesses. After the company was sold, Spatz continued his direct marketing career with Fortune 500 companies including Mattel and Hasbro. He joined AVL Digital in 2004 to lead the direct-to-consumer marketing teams for music industry-leading brands Disc Makers, Oasis, and CD Baby. After serving as Chief Marketing Officer, Spatz was tapped to lead the company’s new publishing division in late 2014. In 2019, the AVL Digital Management team purchased the New Jersey brands, including BookBaby. The company is headquartered in Pennsauken, NJ (just outside Philadelphia, PA) and meets the printed book and eBook needs of thousands of self-publishing authors around the globe. Spatz lives in Glenside, PA with his two children, a demented cat, and some well-used bicycles. Steven loves to hear from authors, editors, and publishers in the BookBaby community with tales of publishing trials and triumphs. To tell him your story, write to


    • Hi Maxine

      I currently have two authors on my coaching list who are over 80 – it’s never too late to start writing! If you get in touch by email letting me know where you are I’ll gladly reply in detail and give you some hints and tips – send me a sample of your writing if you can. You can read on the clients’ page of my website ( what some previous ‘coachees’ think and I am always happy to help new authors in any way I can. Best, Graham

  1. This is the kind of conference that is needed to counter the conferences that keep insisting that self-published authors write crap, and the only way to success is the old way, over the transom, or find and agent (s) to query forever in order to make any profit. I have 7 books now on Amazon, self-published. They are on a shelf on top of the rejection slips from before I saw the light. Hope the next IAC will be on the west coast.

  2. Thank you Mr. Steven Spatz for this awesome and inspiring experience. The privilege to be around like minded people was euphoric for me. I gained such valuable information from such an array of panel speakers and it just didn’t seem like I was in the company of 400 attendees because the settings/workshops were broken up into such intimate groups; so much that it felt comfortable and not so intimidating to participate and engage in the discussions. I also appreciated the location and venue and I’m so looking forward to attending the next conference. Perhaps, a more reasonable price for hotel stay per night could be renegotiated if it’s decided that it will be held at the Sonesta again. However, the staff was great! **P.S. Thanks BookBaby and Sonesta hotel for thinking about us tea drinkers!!! There was such a wide variety of teas and condiments available throughout the day. I was pleasantly surprised and grateful to discover the availability of something we tea connoisseurs usually have to ask for or carry in tow. Your thoughtfulness in realizing that not all authors are coffee people, is well appreciated** :)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.