by Terry Nathan
My 15 Years with PMA: Looking Back and Ahead
As you may know, I am now responsible for heading up PMA, after the recent passing of my mother, Jan Nathan. For this, my first Director’s Desk column, I decided to look at the growth and changes I’ve seen in PMA since I began working with the organization.
My involvement started in May of 1992. I was living and working in San Diego, having just received my MBA. My mom called to say she had reached a plateau with Publishers Marketing Association and to ask if I might be interested in helping her take it to the next level.
She described PMA at that point as a group of 900 small and independent book publishers and said its mission was offering low-cost marketing and educational programs to help members with their businesses. The company I was working for was planning to move me to Virginia and, having lived in California most of my life, I was not eager to move East.
In the following week, the American Booksellers Association was to hold its annual trade show in Anaheim, and PMA was going to offer a Publishing University during the two days before the show opened. I figured I’d go check it out.
The week was absolutely thrilling. The people at PMA University were so energetic and enthusiastic about what they were doing. Having worked in the corporate world, I found it a breath of fresh air. In fact, I was so energized by working the University and the convention booth that you never would have known I was putting in 12- to 14-hour days for seven days in a row.
I was hooked. I decided to move back to Los Angeles and begin working with Jan Nathan & Associates as it managed PMA. Here is a quick look at where we were then, and how we have evolved.
In 1992, we offered two mailings per year to bookstores and book reviewers, and four mailings per year to libraries. We also attended trade shows on behalf of our members: ABA (now BEA), the American Library Association (ALA), and the Frankfurt Book Fair.
Now zoom ahead 15 years. Today, we offer mailings to bookstores and book reviewers every other month, and mailings to 4,000 libraries every month and sometimes twice a month; we also offer a combination mailing that goes to all three markets. We have expanded attendance at trade shows beyond BEA, ALA, and Frankfurt, adding seven regional booksellers’ shows every fall and, at various times, the Public Library Association Show (PLA) and the London, Tokyo, Guadalajara, and Bologna book fairs. We have also experimented outside the book trade at the Gift Fair, the Natural Products Expo, the Gourmet Products Show, and more.
In 1992, the Benjamin Franklin Awards were in their fourth year, and had 450 entries. Last year, we had more than 1,700 entries. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the awards.
Publishing University consisted of 30 sessions over two days in 1992. In 2008, we will be offering more than 75 sessions over three days. In addition, we now offer Publishing University Online sessions every month. Over the years, we have helped our regional Affiliate groups by co-sponsoring one-day conferences, and we plan to continue doing them at least once a year. And, for our more experienced members, we now offer the PMA Graduate School.
The PMA Newsletter has always been a favorite of our members. In 1992, we scrambled each month to fill 24 or 32 pages. Now called PMA Independent, our monthly publication is 48 pages long (and sometimes longer), and is edited by Judith Appelbaum, formerly managing editor of Publishers Weekly. So many members regularly tell me that when PMA Independent arrives, they stop what they are doing to read it cover to cover. As a bonus, the articles from the past 10 years are available at our Web site, all searchable by keyword.
In 1992, our annual directory was 96 pages long. This year’s directory just came off the press and has 272 pages of information about members, books, and resources for publishers.
Distribution to the book trade for small and independent publishers was a challenge in 1992 and is still a challenge today, but we have made great strides.
In 1992, we started the Trade Distribution Program to help our members get accepted by a national trade distributor, Independent Publishers Group (IPG). We continue to offer this program twice a year, and in 15 years it has grossed more than $17 million in sales.
During the past 15 years we have also allied ourselves with the major wholesalers Baker & Taylor and Ingram. Baker & Taylor has been a valued partner, and we continue to offer the Partner Program to help our members place books in its system. We are also continuing our efforts to connect our members with Ingram.
More, More, More
Since 1992, PMA has branched out into so many other areas. The benefits of membership have steadily increased over the years, thanks mostly to our active board of directors. Click the Member Benefits button at pma-online.org to see what I’m talking about. PMA members are offered discounts on shipping, insurance, office supplies, and other services that can help make their businesses more successful.
Membership has steadily grown, and we are now more than 4,100 strong. Thanks to my mom’s leadership, and the drive of the PMA board of directors, we have taken our place at the publishing industry table. Our president, Florrie Binford Kichler, sits on the board of the Book Industry Study Group, and we now get regular coverage in Publishers Weekly and the other industry journals. PMA has become the voice of independent publishing, a voice I am sure will continue to be heard.
A New Name and Other Upcoming Changes
We have evolved into so much more than just a marketing association. Not long ago, we changed the name PMA: Publishers Marketing Association to PMA, the Independent Book Publishers Association, and the board of directors has voted to drop the PMA soon, to better define the association and its mission.
As I reflect on 15 years with PMA, I remain as enthusiastic as ever. I just returned, completely wide-eyed and motivated, from a two-day board meeting and Mini-University in Phoenix. Your board of directors is moving the association forward full steam ahead, with many excellent ideas and offerings soon to come.
I continue to be impressed with the enthusiasm and energy I see among our membership. And now, as I take the helm, I find myself ready to tackle new challenges and strengthen the organization, just as my mom did.
Anyone who knew Jan Nathan knows she left some very big shoes to fill, and although I will never be her, I am grateful to have learned from the best. I will take her legacy, and add my efforts and those of our members, to move forward. Too bad my son is just five years old!