Indies Learn to Adapt to a Changing Marketplace at IBPA's Publishing University
With educational sessions organized into three distinct levels—beginner, more experienced and poised for growth—independent book publishers ranging from newbies to seasoned veterans gathered at The Roosevelt Hotel in New York City, May 24-25, to attend the 26th-annual Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) Publishing University. According to IBPA President Florrie Binford Kichler, this year marked "a radical departure" in format from years past. "Rather than organizing the event by specific tracks such as marketing, promotion, finance, etc., the more than 20 break-out sessions instead featured topics custom-tailored for publishers in three stages of their careers," said Kichler.
These sessions featured a total of 80 speakers and addressed topics ranging from social media marketing and e-books to book production and book-selling. "Another innovation for IBPA Publishing University 2010 was the first-time-ever live podcast of a general session—our 'E-magination' panel moderated by Chris Kenneally of [Copyright Clearance Center], which featured industry e-leaders from Smashwords, Vook, O Magazine and BLIO," said Kichler.
"Feedback from attendees was overwhelmingly positive, and we’re already looking ahead to next year," she continued. "As one of the participants told me: ‘Amazing—I don’t know when I’ve had a more incredible two days.’”
Shifting to a Tribe-centric Business Model
A highlight of this year's IBPA Publishing University was the May 25 keynote address given by marketing guru and best-selling author Seth Godin. Godin addressed a packed ballroom of independent publishers and other industry professionals, challenging the crowd to determine how they could use the changes in the world—specifically, advancing technologies—to the advantage of their businesses.
"You have the opportunity. Are you going to take it?" Godin asked, noting that the music industry did not when faced with the emergence of MP3 downloads. "[The music industry's] only response was to sue their biggest fans," he added, referring to lawsuits filed against people who illegally downloaded music.
Godin spoke about the importance of building a tribe—or a niche—and producing and distributing books to benefit that tribe. "The future belongs to publishers who care enough to build a tribe and do work that matters [to that tribe]," he said. As an example, he cited Houston, Texas-based Curvebender Publishing and its book, "Recording the Beatles: The Studio Equipment and Techniques Used to Create Their Classic Albums." The hardcover deluxe edition, priced at $100, sold out in one week because, as Godin explained, it was marketed only to the people who really care about the topic.
Godin also advised independent publishers to shift their focus from finding readers for your writers to finding writers for your readers—a shift that he says, "changes everything."
The future is not going to be about pop culture, he added, equating the popularity of Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight Saga" to "winning the pop-culture lottery."