Saturday, June 10, 2006

Learning From Others at Pub U and BEA

by Margaret Doyle, Port Gamble Publishing

I arrived at Publishing University, a three-day seminar conducted by PMA, the Independent Publishers Association, to grow my one-person publishing company.

I chose courses from the following tracks: general business advice; finance, legal, marketing, editorial, sales, publicity and Internet. Over and over we are told three things:
1. Watch out for publicists
2. Do what you’re good at, what you like the best. Farm the rest out.
3. Have fun

Kent Sturgis, Epicenter Press publisher and retiring board president of PMA, greeted us on Tuesday morning saying that a straw poll shows that about 60% of us have published one to five titles, and tells us that 20% of independent publishers survive five years. He said, “Publishing is a competitive business, but folks help each other.” I’ve found this to be true in my two years as a publisher, and it is the greatest benefit of this nutsy business.

Robin Bartlett, the education chair of PMA, spoke of “extenuating markets” beyond “the Trades.” I remember when “the Trades” referred to winds of a certain latitude, and being mystified by reference to “trade” books and the “trade” market. Now I understand Bartlett when he says, “Look for places outside of bookstores to sell your books.”

One advantage of independent publishing is that you can set your own time-table and promote your book as much and as long as you want. But the best way to capitalize on the experience and expenses of marketing The Fisherman’s Quilt (my first book) is to publish more books, keeping in mind the vision and integrity of my company.

So I went to Washington DC with the successful sales record of 1.500 copies of The Fisherman’s Quilt selling annually, a memoir on the horizon (early 2007), and a planned oral history collection from soldiers who had served in Iraq in 2003-2004. My course selection at Pub U was a mix of hard knowledge of bookkeeping , planning for growth, and motivating courses on making my best year yet happen.

Join Margaret Doyle at Scott’s Bookstore in Mount Vernon for a discussion of PMA’s Pub U and BookExpo America, the largest book trade show held in the U.S., as well as opportunities for a small press in today’s bookselling climate.