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PMA – Celebrating 20!
A Short History of What Happened When

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The first PMA newsletter was called PASCAL Info (the former name of the Publishers Marketing Association was Publishers Association of Southern California or PASCAL). That newsletter debuted in October 1983 (printed entirely in green), and the four-pager’s headline copy promoted a meeting at which PASCAL President Richard Bye (then with Red Rose Books), and PASCAL Board member Kiran S. Rana (Hunter House Inc.) spoke on the “Frankfurt Hustle.” The newsletter also included a one-page ad urging members to engage in a cooperative book exhibit at the American Library Association and California Library Association conferences. The Board of Directors of PASCALexpressedthe same vision that the current PMA Board has of sharing and celebrating each publisher’s success in this challenging, yet joyful world of independent publishing.

When PASCAL turned into PMA, Richard Bye transitioned to the position of President of the new Publishers Marketing Association. PASCAL Info became the PMA Newsletter in March 1986 to reflect the group’s name change.

The PMA Newsletter was also printed in green at first, and it continued to promote meetings on the front page (the initial PMA Newsletter noted the first joint meeting with the San Diego Publishers Group). The marketing programs had been expanded to include the co-op mailings that exist today, and the Newsletter announced the second annual Resource Directory. It also promoted something called the ABA Training Session (the forerunner of today’s PMA Publishing University) to be held on the Friday evening prior to the opening of ABA (BEA’s predecessor was the American Booksellers Association convention). That year, ABA was to be held in New Orleans. At that Training Session, the first Benjamin Franklin Award was given to a person, and I was honored to be its recipient.

The Newsletter changed from all green to all black type in November 1986. In that issue, we also decided to change the font in each and every issue to educate our publishers about type fonts, leading, and ease in reading one typeface over another (the first typefaces we showcased were 10 point Souvenir for the text and 24 point Helvetica for the heads).

500 Strong and Growing

In January 1987, a new PMA President Bob Alberti (Impact Publishers, Inc.) congratulated us for reaching 500 members and stated that our five goals for the year had to do with Marketing, Education, Trade Relationships, Member Services, and Membership–categories in which many of our goals fit today.

Throughout the Newsletters of the past, the theme “What is a publisher/what is an author?” is reflected over and over again. In fact, Bob Alberti thought this theme so important that he devoted eight Newsletter articles to it in 1987 and ’88.

On the design front, the PMA Newsletter became two-color in September 1987, and we moved from 12-page issues to 24-pagers. Along the way, the PMA Seminar (one step closer to Publishing University) began to take shape. In January 1988, PMA presented two seminars, one for beginning publishers and one for advanced publishers, with “advanced” defined as having “more than seven titles in print.”

By January 1988, the Benjamin Franklins had evolved into category competition, and that year, you could compete in 11 different categories.
Who We Were

In June 1988, the first survey developed by PMA to present a membership profile announced that we had received 348 questionnaires back from a mailing of 900. The response showed the following about our members: 90% had been involved in publishing for 1-19 years (44% for 1-3 years; 21% for 4-6 years; 12% for 7-9 years, and 13% for 10-19 years).

Gary Moselle (Craftsman Book Company) took over the Presidency of PMA in 1988, and he developed a unique member profile in every Newsletter during his term of office. In February of 1989, my column focused on an issue that surfaced then and is still a concern today. The column was titled “Deep Discount Issue Is Growing, May Affect Smaller Publishers.” Also, in that issue, PMA welcomed its 1,000th member, Ray Hauserman of The Ligate Publishers in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Another historic comment from the PMA Newsletter came in October 1989, under the reigning President Howard Fisher (Fisher Books then; The Fisher Company now). “Amy Davis, one of our Board members and co-chair for the marketing programs, presented the PMA Board with a rather startling forecast. A recent analysis says there are currently 20,000 identifiable publishers. But, by the year 2000, there will be 100,000!”

And still another historic event occurred three months later, in December 1989, when PMA’s mission statement was developed: “A professional trade association advancing the interests of independent publishers, through cooperative marketing programs, educational programs and publications, and acting as an advocate for the publishing industry.”

In January 1990, the PMA Seminar (by then also a “Suppliers’ Fair”) evolved into a full-day event, including three seminars, exhibits, and a reception at the end of the day. PMA’s Regional Affiliate Program began during Howard Fisher’s term as well, with the Tucson Book Publishers Association (now Arizona Book Publishing Association) and the Marin Small Publishers Association (now Bay Area Independent Publishers Association) being the first two groups to join (today we have 22 affiliates).
More Milestones

That spring, PMA began its successful Trade Distribution Program, under the direction of then Board member Bob Erdmann (Columbine Communications & Publications). Publishing University became the official name of PMA’s annual seminar, and the time and place changed from January in California to the days directly prior to BEA (then still ABA) at the book convention’s location. We convened in the Alexis Park Hotel in Las Vegas for two full days and offered 20 seminars. Some of the topics included “Selling to Libraries,” “Publishing Law,” “Financial Management for Book Publishers,” and “Publicity 101: From A to Z” (still in existence today as the basic publicity course, Parts I and II). Some of the speakers at that 1990 debut also appeared at Publishing University 2003, including Jean Srnecz of Baker & Taylor, Bob Erdmann, and Alice Acheson of Acheson Public Relations.

Howard Fisher’s final Newsletter column as PMA President (June 1990) focused on what was then a new technology–using flatbed scanners to put files, books, and other scannable data onto laser disks–placing PMA at the forefront of the technology boon.

In September of that year, the next PMA President, Bob Erdmann, identified major developments in his column that are continuing today. It was titled “Changes Are Coming in the Ways that Books Are Marketed.” No truer words were ever spoken! By that time, by the way, the Newsletter had again expanded, from 24 pages to 32.

Publishing University continued to expand as well. Held in New York in 1991, it included 26 sessions over two days. That same spring, the logo on the front page of the Newsletter changed to the one we currently use.

In 1992, as we were reaching the end of our first decade, thePMA Resource Directory incorporated a front section we refer to as the PMA“Yellow Pages”; categories for the Benjamin Franklin Awards had increased to 32; affiliate groups now numbered 10; and the Publishing University had grown to offer 32 classes.

Up to the Million Mark

While Leigh Cohn (Gürze Books) was President (from July 1992 to June 1994), the PMA Board voted to join forces with the Media Coalition, supporting that group as a force for protecting First Amendment rights. To this day, PMA supports the Media Coalition. Also, in September of 1993, the Newsletter began to run a regular column by PMA’s General Counsel Jonathan Kirsch.

Meanwhile, the Benjamin Franklin Awards had expanded to 40 categories; the Publishing University had grown to include 39 seminars; and we added five more affiliates. In addition, the look of PMA and all its promotion pieces had begun to get more professional under the direction of John Webster and Francie Droll of Abacus Graphics, who were named the official designers of PMA’s promotional material. Around this time, Robin Quinn was hired out of our own classifieds to become Copyeditor of the Newsletter, under my direction as Editor, to give our publication its final polish.

In Leigh Cohn’s last column for the PMA Newsletter, he reflected about all he had seen since he had joined the PMA Board of Directors years earlier:“At that time, there were about 300 members and an annual budget of $125,000. Eight and a half years later, we have close to 2,500 members and a million dollar budget.”

Keeping Up with Technology

During the tenure of Jerry Marino (then Wildlife Education Ltd., now The Marino Group) as PMA President, technology was the key word in publisher development. Newsletter articles tried to keep the membership up-to-date with all the new advances. The Publishing University had grown to include 46 classes focusing on seven specific tracks. Again, our President addressed the question “Are You an Author or a Publisher?” in his March 1995 editorial. Another issue that appears over and over again throughout the past 20 years was the focus of one of my 1995 columns, “Turning to Returns.”

Throughout PMA’s history, each President has had a main theme and interest. All have been great. Jerry Marino’s was, and still is, strategic planning, and he wrote an excellent article about that in the December 1995 Newsletter.

In February 1996, the first article about the Internet and sales appeared in our Newsletter, written by Mark Radcliffee, and it was titled, “Doing Business in Cyberspace.”

In July 1996–by which time, we had 20 regional groups as affiliates–the PMA Newsletter had another new look. And in his first message as PMA President, Curt Matthews of IPG introduced himself by stating, “I can claim an extensive knowledge of avoidable publishing mistakes because I have made most of them. I published a book out of my garage 22 years ago–a slender volume of translated Japanese verse. The demand for this book was, to say the least, moderate.” This intro, I believe, endeared him to all.
News of Niches

Niche publishing has always been a major focus of the articles within the PMA Newsletter and at classes during any of our seminars. An excellent article called “Finding and Expanding Your Niche” by Nan Field (Dog-Eared Publications) appeared in the November 1996 issue of the Newsletter, followed by Curt Matthews’ article the next month titled “What’s in a Niche?” (To this day, an article Curt Matthews wrote in August 1997, “A Sample Marketing Plan,” is one of the most downloaded pieces at the PMA Web site.)

The 1997 Benjamin Franklin Call for Entries saw a new look which still exists today. The design includes a foldout that becomes a collectible poster. The Awards program was up to 48 categories. The first article about Publishing on Demand appeared in the February 1997 issue, written by current Board member Paul Coates (Black Classic Press). Again, PMA was ahead of its time in talking about this new publishing tool.

This same year, we worked with the Small Press Center in New York to have March declared as Small Press Month. Actually, that year, it was just a week, but the following year, it grew to encompass a full month of activity and celebration for the independent publishing community. Also, in March of 1997, the Newsletter included one of the first articles about Amazon.com, “A Journey Down the Amazon.com River,” by Ken Lee (Michael Wiese Productions).

Another survey (this time in coordination with the Brenner Group) in December 1997 showed that our membership community was 56% male; 41% female (3% didn’t report their gender). Average revenue was $420,248, and the average number of books published was seven. These figures have changed somewhat over the years, but this is still an interesting article to read at our Web site. The title is “PMA-Sponsored Survey Profiles Small Independent Publishers: Results Provide Fascinating Insight into Industry,” and its author was Robert C. Brenner.

Growing, Growing, Growing

In 1998, listening to the pleas of our judges, we staggered entries for the Benjamin Franklin Awards, sending out one call for books published January through June, which went to the judges in July, and a second call for books published July through December, which went to them in January. This sort of schedule still exists today, and it helps all of us do a good job and stay sane.

With the 1998 Publishing University–expanded to include 52 classes during a two-day period–themes began to appear. This one was “The Anatomy of a Publishing Company.”

That August, PMA President Nick Weir-Williams (then Northwestern University Press, now Reed) again wrote about “Returns and the Book Industry” in the Newsletter. Some topics can never be spoken of too frequently and this is one of them. A super article appeared in the September 1998 issue by current PMA Newsletter Editor at Large Judith Appelbaum and Florence Janovic–”Writers Are from Saturn, Publishers Are from Pluto.”

In June 1999, PMA and the Book Industry Study Group released the first study of America’s smaller and independent publishers, “The Rest of Us.” The dollar figure represented by this uncounted portion of the industry shocked everyone, including most of us. Conservatively, it showed that our group’s sales amounted to $14.3 billion annually in an industry whose total had previously been reported as $26 billion. This month, we are releasing a new “Rest of Us” study, and these numbers will shock us all again, proving what we know–the independent publisher is now a major player within the book publishing community.(The new “Rest of Us” report is free to PMA members, $25 for nonmembers via the PMA Web site. Look for a summary of the report in the July PMA Newsletter. Copies of the report will be available as a download file from the Web site.)
21st-Century Signposts

By the year 2000, the Benjamin Franklin Awards had 53 categories, which remains the number today, and Linda Ligon (Interweave Press

) became PMA President. In her first message to the membership, Linda Ligon stated her goal, which she worked toward and achieved throughout her tenure–”Let’s make good things happen together.”

During that year, the Newsletter ran more and more articles on e-commerce and e-publishing and covered lots of new opportunities for publishers. Independents rushed to embrace it all. In the November 2000 Newsletter, Linda Ligon wrote about “Illiteracy: What Should We Do About It?” and that was the beginning of what has now evolved into Literacy for Life, a charitable nonprofit group begun by PMA. This group’s first project will be the distribution of a million books from our members into the hands of those wanting to achieve literacy. That same issue saw a cover article by our current President, Don Tubesing (then Pfeiffer-Hamilton/Whole Persons Associates), about BookSense and how it can work to help independent publishers and independent bookstores develop best-sellers.

By April 2001, the PMA Publishing University had again grown to two and a half days. This time, it included a free half-day seminar for first-time attendees and PMA members, and 72 seminars with the theme “Pathways to Publishing Success.” The Newsletter had expanded yet again, to 48 pages each and every issue, and Judith Appelbaum had become its Editor at Large. Robin Quinn was promoted to Technical Editor, and I became the Publisher of the Newsletter.

The 2002 Benjamin Franklin Call for Entries became a collector’s item, sad to say. Since we were going into New York City for the following year’s awards program, our designers developed an incredible poster with Ben Franklin’s image looking down out of the moon on a nighttime-lit Twin Towers. The poster still hangs on my office wall.

What’s Next

When Linda Ligon’s term in office ended in June 2002, her outgoing message focused on the fact that PMA at 18 has grown from one booth at ABA/BEA to 56 and from a handful of California publishers to an international alliance of more than 3,500. “During my tenure on the Board,” she wrote in the Newsletter, “I’ve seen more dynamic and strategic growth… than I would have believed possible, always driven by the core value of ‘helping each other to achieve and succeed.’ Boards and Board Presidents come and go, but that core value, that founding vision, endures.”

And now we’re into 2003. Don Tubesing is PMA’s President, again bringing ideas and innovation into our group and encouraging all members to share their thoughts and opinions with him and others on PMA’s Board.

The PMA Board and its Presidents reflect the entire membership of PMA. We would all be remiss if we did not recognize the following people who have helped your PMA to become what it is today. These people gave up a good part of their lives to work on the PMA Board as volunteers over the years, and surprisingly many (more than 95%) are still in the business. So a warm “thank you!” to all the past Presidents and the current one as well as to the following PMA previous and current Board members: Judith Appelbaum, Ilene Barth, Robin Bartlett, Patricia Bell, Julie Bennett, Gene Booth, Larry Bram, Rita Broderick, Joe Bruchac, Elise Cannon, Joyce Carlisle, Paul Coates, Elizabeth Crary, Wendy Crisp, Amy Davis, Don Ellegood, Alan Gadney, Peggy Glenn, Sidney Goldstein, Johnny Hamilton, Dennis Hayes, Harry Helms, Justin Herrold, Ken Hoffman, Fran Howell, Evelyn Kaye, Florrie Binford Kichler, Joe Kulin, Jim Levitt, Ken Luboff, Sandra Martz, Amy Mascillino, Ron Mazzola, Tim McCormick, Brenda Mitchell-Powell, Mark Ouimet, Keith Owens, Diane Pfeiffer, Michael Powell, Dan Poynter, Kiran Rana, Ray Riegert, Dick Roe, Larry Rood, Bill Russell, Bill Sanders, Gene Schwartz, Stan Schwartz, Les Smith, Marcella Smith, Vic Spadaccini, Timothy Staveteig, Kent Sturgis, Phil Tamoush, Joey Tanner, Michael Taylor, Carolyn Threadgill, Aron Trauring, Michael Vezo, Fran Vick, Kelly Wardzala, Michael Weise, Kathleen Welton, Doug Werner, Mary Westheimer, Eugene Wheeler, John Williams, Cheryl Willis Hudson, Tom Woll, and Liz Ziehl.

 

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