The Corner Office: Change, Distribution Top List of Challenges for Indie Houses
It is a difficult time to be an independent book publisher. Fractured distribution models, soaring manufacturing costs, technology changing at breakneck speeds and the ongoing global recession are just a few of the threats coming at indies from all directions.
Despite all of these land mines, however, independent publishers continue to be a significant force in the marketplace. They accounted for up to half of the $37 billion in total net book publishing revenues in 2007, as reported by the Book Industry Study Group’s most recent “Trends” report, which compiles annual data on publishers’ net revenues and unit sales.
Keeping a watchful eye on their interests is the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA). Formerly PMA, the trade group is home to more than 4,000 publishing members and the organizer of Publishing University, a three-day conference for independent publishers.
Florrie Binford Kichler recently served as president of the association. She is also founder and president of Patria Press, the Indianapolis-based publisher of the “Young Patriots Series”—children’s biographies featuring American heroes like Frederick Douglas and Alexander Hamilton. She spoke with Book Business about the challenging landscape facing independent publishers, the IBPA’s critical role in helping independent publishers thrive and her thoughts on the industry’s future.
• The Publishers Marketing Association ditched its PMA tag a year ago in favor of IBPA, expanding its mission in the process. How and why did the organization’s focus change?
Florrie Binford Kichler: … We actually began the journey to a new name in 2004 under the guidance of [former executive director, the late] Jan Nathan and President Kent Sturgis, when the board of directors, after months of discussion, consultation and serious thought, voted to change our name [from Publishers Marketing Association] to PMA, the Independent Book Publishers Association. We retained the PMA initially to ease the transition and then eliminated it last year.
… We changed the name to truly reflect our mission, which still includes, but has gone far beyond, marketing. Not only do we continue to provide marketing support and education to our members, but we have formally added industry advocacy to our mission in order to take a leadership role in positively influencing the publishing industry for the benefit of independent publishers everywhere.
We are independent publishers—and our association exists to support a thriving, vibrant and strong independent publishing community. To best serve our members, and all independent publishers, our name needs to reflect who we are and leave no doubt about why we exist. PMA is our history and our legacy, and it is thanks to that history that we are able to move ahead in a position of strength as IBPA.
Matt Steinmetz is the publisher and brand director of Publishing Executive.