Every fall, something wonderful happens here in Central Florida. Readers and authors come from all over the United States, and sometimes from other countries, to see old friends and make new ones. I was super excited this year because my co-blogger, Andi, flew in from Oregon to go with me to Indie Bookfest. It was her first year attending this event and not only did she have a great time, but she made it extra special for me.
Indie Bookfest is a yearly author and reader conference organized by novelists Tawdra Kandle and Mandie Stevens. It features authors from practically every genre and method of publishing. Be it traditionally published, small print or self published, experienced with 30 books or still working on their first, all are welcome.
Tawdra Kandle and Susan Thatcher
In its fifth year, IBF has become something of a family to many of us. We look forward to the one weekend a year where we can all get together, learn from one another and find new readers and authors to welcome into the family.
This year, the event started Thursday night with a delicious buffet at the host hotel. I can honestly say that I’ve never been to a buffet dinner with such good food. I actually liked everything being served and the quality was well worth the price. I can be picky at times, so I hate paying for stuff I won’t eat. I loved the freedom of the dining set up also. There were no assigned seats, so each table was a mix of both friends and strangers, though no one stays a stranger for long among the IBF crowd.
Anthony Awtrey and L.E. Perez
Friday was “Industry Day” which consisted of panels and presentations geared towards authors and other industry professionals. Forums on marketing, writing dialog, time management, and things authors wish they’d known starting out, are just a few topics one would find being covered in the various conference rooms. It’s an engaging, fun, and warm atmosphere. The authors and other industry professionals are all there to help one another. It’s not a competition, there is no pettiness dirtying the waters. It’s a community. They inspire each other to be the best they can at what they do. They give each other advice without judgment of knowledge levels, unlike what you sometimes find in the online community.
I attended as a volunteer and blogger, which has become something of a tradition for me. I’ve been a part of the event every single year since the first IBF was held. I like helping the organizers, because they work so hard to bring us an amazing and memorable event. I want to take pressure off of them however I can to help make sure they have time to enjoy themselves as well. This year, I spent some time at the registration table helping get people checked in and ready for the day. Lucky for me there were two lovely ladies there helping me figure out what I was doing. Lexi and Annah were super fun to get to know and hang out with. They remind me of my own daughters. They are both funny, but know how to listen when there are witnesses. I look forward to seeing them again soon!
The vendors on site varied in provided services, such as cover design, editing, and publishing options. There were also vendors of a less specific nature. AD Roland was there with her line of super cute bags, which she was making at her table- a particularly engaging venture as ‘making on site’ allowed people to choose their fabrics with their orders. The fabrics were unique and fun, adding to the custom-made adorableness. I saw one that had ninja cats and another with mermaids. There was also a lady there who made jewelry, one who made candles and a lady who provided free information on vacations.
After an exhausting day of networking and peopling, we attended “Fanfare”. Fanfare is basically a meet and greet. Authors sit or stand near their table and the readers walk around meeting them and getting goodies without any pressure to buy or sell books. It gives everyone the opportunity to get to know one another without any sales pitches involved. Andi and I ended up at H.D. Smith’s Alice in Wonderland themed table. She always has the cutest marketing ideas. For readers, it’s a lot like trick-or-treating going from one table to the next, chatting with the authors and getting little perks in return.
Andi with HD Smith’s Cheshire Cat
Again, food was provided and was just as tasty as the buffet we had the night before.
Saturday morning was when the majority of readers arrived. Eager to get their exciting day started, we got them through registration as efficiently as possible. The keynote speech was at 9am and we didn’t want anyone to miss it due to registration. A few weeks earlier Tawdra asked past attendees to send her little notes of experiences or memories of the previous years. I shared my story of almost giving birth to my son at IBF 3 years ago. There was seriously only a few hours between my leaving IBF that year and him being born. I love being a part of IBF so much that I sometimes wish I had given birth at the event instead of the hospital.
This year, I came in a couple of minutes late to the keynote speech (which was coincidentally the only IBF keynote speech I’ve made it to in the last 5 years of attending, so of course Tawdra calls me out. It was quite funny. Tawdra continued with her speech after making me laugh (and maybe blush a bit) and she started telling the story of someone she’d met at her first book event. She said that this person had become her adopted little sister and she meant so much to her. I thought it was sweet and that she was talking about someone sitting in front of me. Then I realized she was talking about me when she started telling my memorable birth story.
Tawdra made me ugly cry in front of everyone first thing in the morning (damn you Tawdra and your words!) I say that, but I can honestly say there is no better reason to ugly cry than to feel the way she made me feel that morning.
Reader panels began shortly after Tawdra’s speech ended. On each panel were three to five authors and a moderator who would ask questions of them. There were a variety of panels ranging from the “Young Authors” panel that was just for kids under 18 who were interested in becoming authors someday, to topics like “Strong Women and Alpha Males: Can They Co-Exist on the Same Page?” and “From Gargoyles to Mermaids: Post Twilight, Post Zombie, what are the new creatures on the paranormal scene?”
Sarah, Charleen, Robbie Cox, and Teri
There was a ‘free to the public’ book signing after the panels ended and we’d had lunch. From three to six o’clock, the room was PACKED with people. It wasn’t anything overwhelming like I’ve experienced at some events, but it was crowded in a good way. Authors were having a great time interacting with readers and vise versa. Andi bought so many books that she had to mail them all home because they wouldn’t fit in her suitcase!
After the signing, everyone went to grab a bite to eat before coming back for the party that night. It was a “Pajama Party” theme. There were quite a few onesies there despite it being October in Florida and the weather is still hot. I got quite a few compliments on my monster onesie despite feeling like the love child of Mike Wazowski and Sully from Monsters Inc. I felt ridiculous, but I still had fun. Julie Morgan wore Jack Skellington pj’s and there was another attendee with the cutest dragon pj’s.
Julie Morgan, Seth, and Andi
The party was crashed by a little devil named Seth, who I believed was somehow associated with Violet Howe, known troublemaker extraordinaire; I have since been corrected but have yet to find Seth’s true partner in crime! Violet was nice enough to sponsor the pajama party and provided karaoke for us to embarrass ourselves on. There were several entertaining and/or talented performers. They kept us laughing and having fun. Lucky for everyone, I didn’t get brave enough to try belting out one of my Blink 182 songs. Don’t worry, there’s always next year!
After the pajama party, some of the attendees decided the party wasn’t over just yet and got together in the hotel lobby to play Cards Against Humanity. Now that’s a party. I laughed so hard! If you ever have the opportunity to play this game with a group of authors and are not easily offended…play with them. You probably won’t regret it.
Seth and L.E. Perez
After such an exhausting and exciting weekend, I was ready to go home when I woke up on Sunday. We still had plenty of goodbyes to say as well as a few small author/reader “dates.” Andi and I went to the date out on the pool deck hosted by authors Violet Howe and Heather Hildebrand. They served mimosas and doughnuts.
Andi, Bridget O’Hare, Brynn Myers, and Melanie
I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, and maybe Andi, but I had an amazing time. I couldn’t be happier for our friends Tawdra and Mandie who, once again, put together a well-organized, informative, yet fun and entertaining event. They are memory makers and we are lucky to have two ladies such as them in our community.
L.E. Perez, Tawdra Kandle, and Mandie Stevens at the PJ Party
I highly recommend this event to anyone who can make it. It will be held again next year on August 9-12th and I will definitely be there. Overall, Indie Bookfest is a great conference that I believe everyone in the book industry- whether readers, authors, vendors, or any other position within the community- should experience at least once.
Tickets for next year’s event are now available through Event Brite! Click HERE to find out more!
Melanie’s PJ’s for the Pajama party. I felt so awkward!
Seth, Robin and Dan Johnson