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PRESIDENT’S REPORT
Bulletins from the Board Meeting

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Working with Amazon

 

A face-to-face meeting with a
delegation from Amazon was a highlight when PMA’s board of directors gathered
in November in blustery Seattle. This surprisingly friendly and constructive
session may yield new ideas for improving communications between Amazon and
independent book publishers and addressing mutual problems more quickly and
effectively.

 

I say “surprisingly friendly”
because the delegation from Amazon, led by Ed Moninger, senior manager for
vendor management, might have anticipated a bit of a critical attitude among
PMA directors in light of problems some publishers have had as well as
difficulties communicating with the giant online bookseller. And I must confess
we did come with a laundry list of issues.

 

Because few of us had dealt with a
live human being at Amazon, we had wondered if its representatives would be
willing to engage in a serious discussion about real issues beyond a Power
Point PR presentation. Willing and able they were, and the two-hour session
created a lot of positive energy and ideas for cooperation between Amazon and
PMA that our executive director, Jan Nathan, will pursue with Erin Eaves,
Amazon’s manager for small-publishing sourcing.

 

I am optimistic. Positive
developments will, I believe, come out of this breakthrough meeting. One quick
agreement was to add a new feature, “Ask Amazon,” in <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>PMA Independent
,
which will provide timely feedback on important issues straight from the horse’s
mouth. Look for an invitation soon to submit your questions.

 

Selling at Abebooks

 

Every bit as valuable in Seattle
was a meeting with representatives from Abebooks, “the world’s largest online
marketplace for books,” with more than 70 million titles listed. The British
Columbia–based bookseller has specialized in rare and used books for
nearly a decade. Last year it began adding new titles, and sales in that
segment are growing fast.

 

Abebooks is asking publishers to
list titles. Publishers will join more than 13,000 independent
booksellers—professionals with retail locations, not “private
sellers”—who fulfill direct orders generated on the site, paying Abebooks
an 8 percent commission on top of a monthly fee determined by the number of titles
the seller posts. Abebooks does not maintain inventory. You are responsible for
fulfillment. You set the shipping charges. And you won’t believe the terms.
Abebooks pays in seven days!

 

PMA directors saw an exciting new
sales opportunity for members in an impressive presentation from Lisa Stevens,
Abebooks’ vice president for marketing, and Sue Conners, its director of sales.
The two will work with Jan Nathan to negotiate special treatment for PMA
members in deference to our large numbers.

 

One issue facing publishers is
having to compete against bookstores selling the same titles. Stay tuned for
more information, and if you want to get a jump on this, explore <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>www.abebooks.com
.
Be sure to identify yourself as a PMA member.

 

Making Ben F Better

 

PMA directors have expended a fair
amount of hot air and a considerable number of emails this year discussing
whether limitations should be placed on who may enter the annual Benjamin
Franklin Book Awards competition.

 

Some directors believe that major
players in our industry are winning too large a share of the BF awards (about
10 percent of the 2005 awards went to large publishers). According to one point
of view, these honors should be reserved for independent publishers, as our
name suggests. Another view holds that a competitive awards program is healthy
for our members, who compete just fine against the big publishers, thank you.

 

We never did define what an
independent publisher is. Most definitions included more large publishers than
they excluded. The more complicated the proposed definition became, the less
practical it was in terms of having to screen Ben Franklin nominations. At the
Seattle meeting, there wasn’t enough support for changing entry qualifications
to make that happen.

 

We did decide, though, to review
all elements of the book awards program, and Rod Colvin of Addicus Books in
Omaha, NB, is leading that effort. His committee will look hard at the
categories, how the program is positioned in the industry, how it is
publicized, when and where the award ceremonies are held, and how to make award
presentations more entertaining.

 

A survey of PMA members’ opinions,
attitudes, and experience will be crucial to this review. Look for an email
announcement inviting you to take part. We urge you to take a few minutes to
tell us how important the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards are to you, and how we
might improve the program.

 

You’re Invited to Santa Fe
in February

 

More than 50 publishing houses
were represented at “The Business of Books,” the Seattle conference co-sponsored
last month by Book Publishers Northwest and PMA, the Independent Book
Publishers Association. Congratulations to Rosemary Jones of Healing Pages,
Lani Jacobson of 74th Street Productions, and Duse McLean of Thistle Press for
this well-run, informative conference. It created a lot of enthusiasm and good
will.

 

The format for the one-day
conference tied to a PMA board meeting was revived in Florida last winter,
brought to Seattle in October, and will move in February to Santa Fe, NM. The
concept is simple. PMA schedules a board meeting in a city where an affiliate
organizes a regional conference. PMA pays all its own expenses, including
travel and lodging for its directors, who stay an extra day to participate as
needed in the local program—without charge. This outreach is part of the
PMA mission, “helping others to achieve and succeed.” Collectively, the 16 PMA
directors have several hundred years of experience in all aspects of book
publishing. For its part, the affiliate organization bears the cost of the
regional conference, but keeps all the revenue.

 

Contact Jan Nathan if your
affiliate organization is interested in co-sponsoring a regional publishing
conference in late 2006 or 2007.

 

Short Takes

 

<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Director Carlene Sippola of Whole Person Associates of
Duluth, MN, is organizing the first-ever training conference for leaders of PMA
affiliate organizations, to be held in January or February near the PMA office
in Manhattan Beach, California. For more information, email Carlene at <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>carlene@wholeperson.com.

 

<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>New on the Web! Weekly profiles of member publishers
are being added to the PMA home page. Look for these profiles at <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>www.pma-online.org.
You’ll find instructions there about the information needed to create a profile
of you and your press. A similar feature profiling affiliate organizations will
follow soon.

 

<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Expect more requests this fall and winter from
libraries along the Gulf Coast for donations of books to replace damaged and
destroyed collections. These requests will be passed along to you from PMA,
which is working with the American Library Association on this project.

 

<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>A new email PMA newsletter will appear in your mailbox
soon.

 

 

As always, I welcome your comments
and ideas for the association— on any of these subjects or others. Please
contact me at gksturgis@earthlink.net
.

 

 

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