The Independent Book Publishers Association certainly lived up to its motto of “helping each other achieve and succeed” during this year’s IBPA University, the organization’s annual conference of author-publishers and indie publishers. IBPA University was held in Chicago, April 5–6.

With 325 attendees—ranging from 100 aspiring and new publishers attending their first conference to a few seasoned veterans who have been attending every year since back when it was known as the Publishers Marketing Association (1983–2008)—the emphasis was on the sharing of information and ideas. There were 28 breakout sessions throughout the weekend, on subjects ranging from selling to schools and launching podcasts to copyright laws, with several panels, such as one on distribution channels that drew a standing-room-only audience.

Keynotes featured speakers relating stories of successes and failures: Brooke Warner of She Writes Press disclosed how “an epic” financial error she made two years after starting her company almost sank it; Lee Wind, IBPA’s director of marketing and programming, told of self-publishing his LGBTQ-themed YA novel after its scheduled publication by a Big Five house fell through; and Sourcebooks publisher Dominique Raccah told of her 30-year journey from being an author-publisher to becoming the 10th-largest indie publisher in the U.S.

Several regular IBPA University attendees said that this year’s gathering, with its emphasis on the nuts and bolts of publishing and presenting myriad opportunities to network, was one of the best in years. “This is the real deal—this is not a BS sales conference,” noted Peter Goodman of Stonebridge Press, a former IBPA board member who has attended many universities since their launch in 1992.

First-timer Marianne Maili of Chez Soi Press expressed astonishment at the “amazing” people she’d met over the weekend. “I’m so impressed with how people are really trying to help each other,” she said. “People are being real. Nobody is putting on airs.”