Philadelphia’s Big Bang: The Independent Authors Conference

Independent Authors Conference screen

Astrophysicist Carl Sagan said books were “proof that humans are capable of working magic.” The Independent Authors Conference is proof that indie authors can make a mighty big bang!

Independent Authors Conference crowdIf you were wandering around the Old City area of Philadelphia during the first weekend of November, you might have heard a very loud explosion.

That’s what happens when you mix 400 authors, editors, writers, publicists, marketers, speakers, and famous publishing experts into an action-packed weekend of learning. This highly volatile mix of publishing knowledge, insights, motivation, and inspiration was bound to cause a spontaneous reaction.

And the likely fallout? Hundreds of well-written and well-marketed books coming soon to a best-seller list near you!

That’s the best way for me to describe BookBaby’s second annual Independent Author’s Conference at the Sheraton Philadelphia Society Hill Hotel. In my opening keynote, I outlined how indie authors are bursting into the mainstream publishing marketplace. Some choice nuggets include:Independent Authors Conference Steven Spatz

  • Over 1,000 self published authors earned over $100,000 each on Kindle Direct Publishing according to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in his latest letter to stockholders.
  • Indie authors accounted for 28% of the top-selling eBooks in 2017 per
  • The worldwide publishing market is expected to be $121 Billion in 2018 — compared to just $38 Billion in movie box office gross!

I lit the fuse during the IAC18 Opening Night Gala reception, challenging the attendees to open their minds to new ideas while invoking the words of renowned astronomer Carl Sagan:

Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.

Independent Authors Conference t-shirtsIt would be presumptuous of me to claim that our second Indie Author Con was magical, so I’ll let our attendees describe what transpired over the weekend from comments we received in our post-conference survey.

This conference was just what I needed. I walked away excited, inspired, and with actionable next steps towards publishing my first novel.

I thought you did a great job of covering what an indie author needs and wants. I was impressed by BookBaby staff and the general friendly, welcoming atmosphere of the overall conference.

It was an amazing experience. I got great advice and perspective on some things for my book, and I plan to work with BookBaby to publish my book next year.

Great organization of the conference — you’d never know this is only your second year!

Thank you for having Joanna Penn. She is as kind as she is smart and that’s saying a lot!

It was a treat to bring self-publishing expert and UK resident Joanna Penn across the pond for the weekend to give the IAC18 closing keynote talk, “How To Make A Living With Your Writing.” Penn thrilled the audience with her vivid and personal description of her long journey towards commitment and acceptance of a writing career.

Penn was one of 25+ experts who shared their opinions, insights, and passion for self publishing with the IAC18 attendees. All told there were 36 information-packed panels and presentations that educated and enthralled our attendees. Some of the weekend’s best-attended sessions included:

  • Jane Friedman’s presentation of “The Art and Business of Author Platform.” Jane’s key point: Most working writers have at least one thing in common: they seek to grow readership for their work. Her workshop explained some of the key points of what an author platform can do for a self-published writer.
  • Brian Jud’s fascinating talk, “The Buck Stops Here,” delved into the world of non-traditional book sales. Jud told our attendees that every year, more books are sold to buyers in market segments outside of bookstores than are sold in bookstores.
  • The worldwide marketplace was the focus of Lindsy Biven’s presentation on “Self Publishing & Global Markets.” She discussed the process of discoverability in the US and global markets by exploiting tactics of both off- and online activities.

Our speakers have also chimed in to praise the event:

To see contacts from almost every state in attendance blew our mind and was such a testament to the importance of the IAC. It’s exhilarating to see a Philadelphia writer’s conference taking shape. Thank you for allowing us to share in the event and speak to the eager authors, writers, and publishers in attendance. — Corinne Moulder, Smith Publicity

There’s no doubt the IAC is the place to be for writers and authors. I’ve enjoyed sharing my knowledge and learning from others, as well as connecting with industry professional and meeting so many creative people. — Ally Nathaniel, AN Better Publishing

Thank you all for hosting such a fabulous conference. I met so many terrific writers and vendors and was impressed by the amazing list of panels and speakers. — Patricia Mooseburger, Blue Ink Review.

Between sessions, our attendees also enjoyed talking and interacting with our IAC18 sponsors, including IBPA, Smith Publicity, Dart Frog Books, and many more.

Independent Authors Conference staffI also have to give great thanks to my hardworking BookBaby team of publishing specialists, customer service team members, and marketers. Planning for IAC18 began in January with weekly meetings and a challenging calendar full of deadlines. We learned a lot in the in the planning and execution of our first conference, and the encore conference showcased our best efforts in producing the nation’s biggest conference devoted solely to self publishing.

I came away from this second conference feeding off the energy of our speakers, sponsors, and attendees. This conference made the statement that the self-publishing community is growing — and growing fast! The camaraderie we enjoyed during this fall weekend showcased a vibrant community of authors eager and willing to share and give of themselves. I talked with, shook hands with, and exchanged notes with hundreds of authors who are primed to make noise in the publishing marketplace.

Better get ready to put your hands over your ears. You never know when there’s gonna be a roar from one of these talented IAC18 alumni writers!

Authors note: The original version of this post overstated the number of self published authors who earned $100,000+ on the Kindle platform. The correct number is 1000, not 100,000. I deeply regret my error and wanted to set the record straight! Thanks to alert reader Luke Kendall for pointing out this error.


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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


  1. This sounds fascinating and I am glad that self-published authors are on the rise along with the respect it deserves. I’m in the Tri-State area of the Midwest and am a locally known author who self-published through vanity printers many years ago. It was a $16K mistake and pulled the books, creating my own company label (in name only) and publishing with a company at a very small cost. My book series has also turned into a summer 3-day writing camp in a one-room schoolhouse for children, which is the setting of my books Belden Boy.

    Yet, even though I’ve done my own advertising and have been a bit successful, I still need help. I am interested in ebook publishing if possible. My pages are 180 or less. Can you help me? Thank you. Pat.

  2. Glad to hear IAC18 was a resounding success! I came dangerously close to cutting my beach vacation short so I could attend but I decided to keep working on my book while looking at over the dunes, beach, and ocean. Of course, listening to your keynote address made me wonder if maybe I made a bad call… I contacted Bookbaby months (and months) ago, thinking I was close to finishing my book… I’m sure I’m not BB’s first client who’s jumped the gun that way. But I’m definitely closer to finishing than I was months (and months) ago; I will be contacting y’all at some point! Thank you for all your informative, humorous and timely emails.

  3. Given some recent investigation I’ve done, the comment:
    “Over 100,000 self-published authors earned over $100,000 each on Kindle Direct Publishing, according to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in his latest letters to stockholders” struck me differently. I felt it might instead support a very troubling interpretation – that KU revenue is largely being taken by unscrupulous people gaming the system. But 100,000 people doing so seemed to argue against that interpretation.

    Although, 100,000 x $100,000 = ten billion dollars, bigger than the annual pool of money for KU (approx. 12 x $20M… say a quarter of a billion).

    However, when I went and looked at Jeff Bezos’s letter in full
    (, I saw the figure was earned by just 1,000 authors:
    “over a thousand independent authors surpassed $100,000 in royalties in 2017 through Kindle Direct Publishing.”

    I wrote about the topic here:

    I’d welcome feedback, if anyone cares to take a look.

    I don’t think every large payout has been to an unscrupulous person, but I do think a big percentage has been. And from Jeff Bezos’s letter, I think he has misinterpreted the result as a success rather than a failure.

    • In this correction to 1000 it may also be wise to note that there were 1,009,188 books self-published in 2017. Those who cracked 6 figures had a full time job as business people and absorbed the full cost of the publishing and promoting costs that were often expensive outside consultants from editing to marketing. Yet 0.1% beats the lottery even though I don’t find supporting figures for the $100K authors.

  4. Thanks for a fantastic IAC Conference. I so enjoyed meeting you and all the Bookbaby staff. I loved meeting many of the wonderful people who have helped me in my publishing process and that continue to support me in answering my questions.
    Your choice of speakers was excellent and I have copious notes to help me remember all their sage advise. Your “bookend speakers” were an enthusiastic way to start and end the conference and certainly a big part of the “loud explosion” coming from the conference center! Also great to have the Friday sessions as it made coming from far away a better value having 2 1/2 days of sessions instead of 1 1/2 days.
    The speakers were so friendly and easy to talk to during break and social times. I took full advantage of the mentoring sessions with Jane, Miral, and Matthew/Alexa and they gave me advise that I am already implementing.
    Just one more compliment: It’s been a long time since I’ve been in Philadelphia- this hotel was a perfect location to enjoy the older part of the city as you could walk to museums, great restaurants and coffee shops, and the Reading Market. Certainly makes me want to come back to Philly!
    This was my first authors/writers conference so thanks to you all for making it a wonderful experience.

  5. I enjoyed attending this conference very much. I’ve been to a few before, but they fall short compared to the quality of the speakers here, and the overall execution.

    I noticed many pictures were taken, and would love to be able to share one I am in with my own blog, if that’s possible.

    Looking forward to next year!


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