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PRESIDENT’S REPORT
Opportunities and Challenges in 2006

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PMA members were asked
recently to share their thinking about 2006. What opportunities and challenges
will the new year bring? What initiatives are planned? How will innovation and change
affect us?

 

Here’s what I learned from the
roughly 75 responses:

 

The newer publishers are the most
optimistic, and this reminded me again that those of you who write, publish,
and market your own books have extraordinary energy and resolve. Optimism is
part of that.

 

Abrendal Austin Smith at Black
Penny Press, Riverside, CA, who is working on a sequel to her self-published
first novel, A
Fugitive’s Wife
, says her outlook is 10 on a scale of 10 for
optimism “because that is the only way I can do it.”

 

More experienced publishing
professionals are optimistic too, but more cautiously so. They believe future
success can be achieved by doing what they do either better and smarter or
differently

 

Not one publisher told me that
they expect major growth in sales to traditional trade markets in 2006. Not
that you are giving up on the trade, but the growth—if it
comes—will be elsewhere for many of you. Publishers and authors are
redoubling efforts to develop nontraditional markets and to find new opportunities
combining niche content, new digital formats, and different ways to make a
sale. These initiatives are not all that new, of course, but I sense that our
attitudes have shifted. Internet sales are increasing, and we are putting more
time and money into our Web sites and online marketing. We are seeing that
digital options have become more practical and promising.

 

Likewise, neither did any
publisher foresee higher sales driven by traditional publicity.

 

“Publicity is harder to get today
(more publishers chasing fewer publications and fewer book-oriented broadcast
programs), and it’s worth less—fewer people read newspapers, and the
broadcast audience is so fragmented it’s hard to get a critical mass for any
one program unless you hit the big time with a program such as <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Oprah
,”
observes Linda Carlson, who handles marketing and media relations for Parenting
Press Inc. in Seattle. Traditional publicity can still be obtained, she says,
but you have to work much harder for it.

 

Publishers still learning the
business face a special challenge because the business is changing. “My
greatest challenge will be to continue to accumulate new knowledge in areas I’m
weak in, so those areas can become strengths,” says Dr. Donna Schwontkowski of
MDM Publications in Carmichael, CA. “The funny thing is that we never know what
those areas will be until they’re upon us.”

 

Janet Reinhold, editor at Future
West Publishing in Covina, CA, is keenly attuned to changes in communications
technologies, for good reason—her company markets time capsules. “We
advise customers to be aware of the changes in technology,” Reinhold says.
“Those who placed videotapes in capsules just a few years ago will find it a
challenge to watch them even 5 years from now, let alone 25. Could books soon
go the way of the videotape? Some 50 years from now, when all of us old folks
have died off, many will be reading on a machine instead of a book. Is this a
good thing? I’m not the one to answer that.”

 

At Somatic Digital LLC in
Cincinnati, OH, Jason Barkeloo sees his mission as working to hasten the
arrival of the future. His company is developing new ways to combine
old-fashioned paper books with digital content. This year, he says, “we are
hoping to lead an industry change by providing the tools to publishers to become
paper/digital hybrid text and supplement providers.”

 

Several publishers are expanding
into digital formats, reexamining multimedia options, seeing new opportunities
at Amazon and Google, and closely watching new technology.

 

Creative Health Care Management of
Minneapolis, a health-care consulting firm, is looking to move all its titles
into electronic formats, including e-books, audiobooks, and “online learning
modules,” according to the company’s resources director, Chris Bjork. The
initiative was undertaken, he says, after the company asked itself, “How can we
deliver the same content without the costs associated with printing a book?”

 

Mike Van Horn with the Business
Group in San Rafael, CA, publisher of business books and workbooks, has set an
ambitious goal for 2006: “We’re dividing our existing books and workbooks into
slim, single-topic exercises, adding templates, and selling them online for a
few bucks each.” Van Horn says this is a challenge, “because I can’t find a
good mentor in this area.”

 

Janice King, author and publisher
at WriteSpark Press in Sammamish, WA, is keeping a close watch on Amazon’s plan
for selling access to a book’s individual pages or chapters. “College courses
are one market for my books,” King says, “and I think this feature might
encourage more use of my text in courses because it will be simpler than
obtaining permission and making the paper copies for course packs.”

 

Fred Zimmerman, an author and
blogger at Nimble Books LLC in Ann Arbor, MI, sees the same opportunity. “What
if publishers begin bringing out books that are designed from the git-go to be
sold via Amazon Pages program?”

 

Dar Hosta of Brown Dog Books in
Flemington, NJ, sees her biggest opportunity as “capturing a piece of the
Amazon action, a feat whose success still eludes me. My biggest challenge will
be in figuring this out.”

 

Kieran O’Mahony of Educare Press
in Seattle is excited about working with Google as well. “I think there is a
real opportunity to get more exposure without it costing an arm and a leg,” he
says.

 

New Ambitions Abroad

 

Meanwhile, some are looking beyond
U.S. borders for 2006. One publisher mentioned Canada, another South America,
as sales targets. This goes beyond a token presence at Frankfurt. These
publishers are taking the time to understand international markets and the
opportunities they offer. “We need to identify the most efficient and effective
system for publishing to different international markets,” says Anne R. Fenske,
publisher at Advanced Learning Press in Englewood, CO.

 

Jim Wortham at Marathon
International Book Co. in Madison, IN, believes “this will be by far our best
year in publishing due to international book sales via the Internet.” The Web
is the source of 95 percent of his sales. The key, he believes, is providing information
that international buyers want, such as that found in his bestselling title, <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Forget the Gas Pumps:
Making Your Own Fuel
. This year, he expects more than 30 percent
of the orders for this book to come from outside the United States.

 

Adelea Josue Polin of Henderson,
NV, is developing a joint project with a Shanghai-based multimedia and Internet
development technology company to co-publish a Chinese edition of her <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Corporate Circus

next fall. The book is a fairy-tale soap opera based on office life; its theme
is stress in the workplace, seen with a sense of humor.

 

As publisher and consultant Dan
Poynter observes, “There is a worldwide thirst for information. Title output
was up 11 percent last year and will probably be even higher this year,” he predicts.
“With 200,000 titles being published annually in the United States alone,
authors and publishers should focus on narrower subjects so as to cater to the
reader’s individual needs.”

 

All things considered, independent
publishers are positioned pretty well these days, according to Curt Matthews,
CEO of the Independent Publishers Group in Chicago, a former PMA president, and
author of the Trend-Spotting article in this issue.

 

“It seems to me that major market
trends greatly favor the prospects of independent publishers,” Matthews writes.
“The small stores have learned how to understand and cater to the very specific
interests of their customers. The chains work hard at customizing the title
selection for each location. The Internet makes even the most esoteric titles
easy to find. It used to be that niche titles got lost among the bestsellers.
Now they are in plain view.”

 

 

My thanks to others who gave me
ideas for this column: Martha Alderson, Illusion Press; Dawson Church, Author’s
Publishing Cooperative; Jennifer Elin Cole, Cookie Bear Press; Genene Miller
Coté, DPP Press; Frank Gromling, Ocean Publishing; Patricia Lesko, Part-Time
Press; Tom Mach, Hill Song Press; Jean Purcell, Opine Publishing; Richard
Salva, Crystar Press; Brent Sampson, Outskirts Press; David Shields, Three
Story Press; Coco Tralla, Reality Fiction; Russell Vassallo, Krazduck
Productions.

 

 

I welcome your comments and ideas
for PMA. Contact me at gksturgis@earthlink.net.

 

 

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