The Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), based in the United States, has served independent publishers and self-published authors since 1983. The organization is one of the few to serve this market, providing a wide-range of opportunities for its over 3,000 members. Today, I am excited to introduce Angela Bole, the Chief Executive Officer of IBPA, to talk about their services, the current publishing market, and the future of the industry.
Hey, Angela. Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. I would like to start with the basics. For those who are not familiar, would you give us a brief background on IBPA and its progression as a company over the past 30 years?
Absolutely! It’s a fun story, I think, and speaks to the power of collaboration.
In 1983, a group of 15 Southern California independent publishers who couldn’t afford to attend the annual convention of the American Booksellers Association (ABA) decided to pool their funds and send IBPA’s eventual founder Jan Nathan to represent them and their books. Jan returned from the show excited about possibilities, and the Publishers Association of Southern California (PASCAL) was born.
PASCAL quickly saw that national marketing was one of the greatest challenges facing independent publishing, so the concept of cooperative marketing became a cornerstone of the group’s work. As the association grew, the name changed to reflect this focus. PASCAL became the Publishers Marketing Association (PMA) and new programs were developed.
As time passed, PMA’s board of directors decided another name change was needed, this time to reflect the growing concerns of independent publishers beyond cooperative marketing programs. So, in 2008, PMA became the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA). Now, in addition to low-cost cooperative marketing programs, IBPA works hard to level the playing field for small and independent book publishers through educational opportunities, publications, and advocacy.
Today, IBPA is one of the most influential associations in independent publishing. We work hand-in-hand with many highly-regarded, book publishing industry professionals and are always available to answer our members’ questions about the publishing industry.
That is incredible! With so much experience, I presume IBPA’s knowledge of the evolving world of publishing is remarkable. Is IBPA a source of industry data? What trends are we currently seeing?
Developing industry data is an extremely expensive endeavor. Although IBPA isn’t able to develop our own data sources at this time, we do partner with BookScan and PubTrack Digital to provide industry data to our members at a substantially reduced rate.
Related to trends we’re seeing, there is certainly a trend toward more reputable author-subsidized business models. An author-subsidized business model means that the author is paying for some, or all, of the costs to publish. Back in the day, organizations known as vanity presses used an author-subsidized business model to take advantage of the authors they charged by providing subpar services and not delivering on their promises. Vanity publishers still exist, of course, and it’s important for authors to beware of them. At the same time, however, reputable hybrid publishers are growing. Hybrid publishers also charge authors, but provide a stronger royalty on the backend. In addition, the good ones have access to traditional distribution – a high-level mark of professional publishing.
I think authors can be intimidated when trying to stay informed with the many aspects of publishing. Why is it important for independent publishers, self-published authors, or any author to understand the publishing industry and/or remain current on publishing trends?
Like any profession, publishing is a business in its own right with rules and guidelines that have been governing how the game is played for decades. There are traditional players (agents, distributors, booksellers, librarians, etc.) and a general way in which these players have agreed to do business. I’ve seen hundreds of author-publishers lose tons of money because they jumped into the game without first understanding the rules.
Earlier this year, I read in Publisher’s Weekly that authors would need to continue to expand their roles (consultant, publisher, marketer) in 2017 to be successful. How might IBPA better help prepare authors to learn these skills?
It’s true. Even authors who are traditionally published are being asked by their publisher to take part in the marketing of their book or books. As I mentioned previously, IBPA has been developing cooperative marketing programs for decades. We can help authors and publishers put their books in front of the professional buyers they’re interested in. In addition, IBPA’s educational webinars and our annual IBPA Publishing University have been designed to teach the practical skills indie authors need to compete.
Many readers on The Book Tavern are also writers at different stages in their career. I am guessing IBPA has a little something for everyone. Would you describe a typical member of your organization and the process of joining?
Earlier this year, we split our memberships into four buckets. These buckets are:
• Future Publisher: someone (student or otherwise) considering or preparing to publish their own or other people’s work,
• Author Publisher: someone exclusively publishing their own work (a self-published author or an author working with a hybrid publisher),
• Independent Publisher: someone involved in publishing other people’s work, and
• Publisher Partner: someone who provides products or services to the field of independent publisher.
So, yes, there’s something for everyone!
Joining is easy. Interested folks can visit the IBPA website and the system will walk them through the process.
I know IBPA has an excellent community where members can connect and learn from one another, too. Would you provide an overview of the other benefits of joining IBPA?
IBPA offers nearly 30 district benefits which you can read about here.
Related to cooperative marketing, among other things we can showcase your book at a national or international trade show, include it in a physical catalog sent to 3,500 bookstore buyers, or add it an eblast sent to 5,000 librarians. On the educational front, you can add one of our bi-weekly webinarsor join us at our annual IBPA Publishing University. If you’re looking to advertise in trade magazines, we offer advertising discounts in Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Foreword Reviews.
By far our most appreciated benefit, however, is a monthly subscription to IBPA Independent magazine. Our member magazine is the only magazine available that focuses on issues of import to independent publishers and self-published authors. It includes a wealth of ideas and resources each month and is free to all IBPA members.
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat. Anything else you would like to tell our readers before we call it quits?
My pleasure! Thanks for the opportunity.
Regarding anything further, I guess I’d reiterate that IBPA is here to help. I hope your readers will feel comfortable reaching out to our office with their questions about the publishing industry. We’re available online at www.ibpa-online.org, on email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or over the phone at 1-310-546-1818.
Together we help each other achieve and succeed. All of us at IBPA look forward to being of service.