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Director’s Desk: New Membership Types Address IBPA’s Diverse Membership

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PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 2016

by Angela Bole, CEO, Independent Book Publishers Association


Angela Bole

IBPA has served the independent publishing community since 1983. Today, as self-publishing, e-books, print on demand, hybrid publishing, and an ever-increasing number of other options make it possible for anyone to publish—or at least print—books, the precise definition of “independent publisher” seems to have grown blurry to some—but not to us.

In a 2010 blog post for Shelf Awareness and IBPA, Robert Gray wrote, “… an independent publisher can be an author publisher, traditional publisher, or hybrid publisher. … an independent publisher can be brand new or in business for decades. … an independent publisher can have one title or 10,000+ titles. … an independent publisher can work out of his/her home or a high-rise office building. … an independent publisher can have one or 100+ employees.”

With this, Robert is pointing out that, in the end, the beauty of independent publishing is that size really doesn’t matter—nor does the technology used to produce the content, the business model employed to finance the content, or who the author is. What matters is the independent publisher’s focus on his or her publishing business—that blend of sales, marketing, editorial, production, and promotion that serves as the launching pad for publishing success. What matters is the independent publisher’s dedication to professionalism and excellence.

IBPA’s Board of Directors (from left): Robert Price, Price World Publishing; Peter Goodman, Stone Bridge Press and IBPA Board Chair; Ian Lamont, i30 Media; Keith Garton, Red Chair Press; Brooke Warner, She Writes Press; Shannon Okey, Cooperative Press; Elizabeth Turnbull, Light Messages Publishing; Mark Wesley, me+mi publishing; Robin Culter, IngramSpark; Joshua Tallent, Firebrand Technologies; Karla Olson, Patagonia Books; Leslie M. Browning, Homebound Publications. (Not Pictured: Jim Milliot, Publishers Weekly.)

This means that, at the end of the day, any person or organization publishing content outside the large conglomerates and able to commit to IBPA’s approved Code of Ethics is encouraged to join IBPA’s community of over 3,000 active members. That’s amazing! But it leaves IBPA’s leadership with an organizational challenge. How do we account for the different interests of such a diverse membership? If we’re going to do it right, what IBPA offers to its members can’t be one-size-fits-all.

Enter the IBPA Board of Directors.

To its credit, the IBPA board directly addressed this challenge during its August 2016 meeting where it approved new membership types to go into effect when IBPA’s new website launches at the end of this year (See: “Growing, Innovating, Connecting: A Preview of IBPA’s New Website” in the August 2016 issue of IBPA Independent). The new membership types are:

  • Future Publisher: Persons (student or otherwise) considering or preparing to publish their own or other people’s work. Future Publishers may not serve on committees, may not vote, and may not serve on the Board of Directors.
  • Author Publisher: Persons exclusively publishing their own work (e.g., self-published authors and authors working with hybrid publishers).
  • Independent Publisher: Persons or organizations involved in publishing other people’s work using a traditional, royalty-based publishing model and/or an author-subsidized publishing model.
  • Publisher Partner: Persons or organizations involved with supplying services or products to the field of publishing.
  • Honorary Member: Previous board chairs and special volunteers (not a front-facing membership type).

Our hope is that each of you can see yourself in one of the membership types above. Over time, we will develop personas for each type, set up dedicated discussion boards, and sort the member benefits so that the most relevant benefits float to the top. It will take some time, but the framework is starting to take shape, and that’s very exciting.

As always, I welcome your feedback on IBPA’s new membership types (and anything else!) as we move through these organizational changes. I remain at your disposal at angela@ibpa-online.org and look forward to hearing from you.


Just before Angela Bole became IBPA’s Chief Executive Officer, she was Deputy Executive Director of the Book Industry Study Group, Inc. (BISG), which fosters conversation and consensus across all sectors of the book business. Before that, Angela served for two years as BISG’s Associate Director and two years as its Marketing and Communications Manager.

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