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Program Previews: Conversations with Three Key PMA-U Speakers

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Recently, I had an opportunity to interview the speakers for three valuable special sessions at this year’s PMA University. One thing I learned is that all attendees will benefit from these sessions. Whether this is your first time attending PMA-U or you’re a University veteran, you’ll take away information that you can put to use immediately. Here’s a preview.

John Kremer: “Outsell the New York Times Bestsellers Without Breaking a Sweat” (Tuesday, June 1, 3:00—5:30 p.m.) and “What I Have Learned in 20 Years of Book Marketing” (Wednesday, June 2, 4:00—5:30 p.m.)

In his address to the first-time attendees, John Kremer will present the basic principles a publisher needs to follow to create a bestseller. John–the author of 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, Book Marketing Made Easier,and Mail Order Selling Made Easier– says, “The big publishers are spending tens of thousands of dollars to get books on the New York Times bestseller list, but you don’t have to.” Most of Kremer’s recommendations to achieve bestsellerdom rely more on smart, hard work than on big promotional dollars.

One common misconception among new publishers, John points out, is that all bestsellers skyrocket to success. “Just the opposite is more often true,” he says. “Many bestsellers start locally and grow to grand proportions over time.” One of the greatest mistakes a publisher can make is to think Ad?? all the promotional work needs to be done in the first week of launch. Publishing a book is a lot like having a baby and raising a child. You have to work on the publication every day and grow it step by step to maturity.

John will also talk about the top 10 do’s and don’ts of bestseller publishing. These are things that he knows really work to make a book a bestseller, and new publishers can start using these tips immediately as they get ready to launch their first lists.

John’s second presentation, “What I Have Learned from 20 Years in Book Marketing,” is designed both for experienced publishers and first-timers. His premise is that “90 percent of the marketing efforts put forth by publishers are wasted.” John will talk about specific techniques and principles you should use to change the way you market books. “Once you know the 10 percent of marketing activities that are successful and you devote more time and resources to them,” he says, “you will begin to see significant success with direct sales and sales to booksellers.” John’s talks always include numerous examples and case studies from real companies as well as realistic advice.

Marcella Smith and the Barnes & Noble Buyers: “Meet the Barnes & Noble Buyers” (Thursday, June 3, 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., and 4:00 p.m.)

Marcella Smith–director, small press and vendor relations, Barnes & Noble, Inc., and formerly a PMA board member–will be back with a new PMA-U Meet the Barnes & Noble Buyers program. As in the past, the event is bound to be informative and educational for both buyers and publishers. Marcella reports, “In every session, we always find at least one title whose market opportunities we have not maximized.”

Marcella says publishers typically have questions about the best way to do business with Barnes & Noble, so a good portion of this session will be devoted to explaining B&N’s business goals and presenting a picture of where B&N is today and where it sees itself going in the next year or two. As Marcella puts it: “Here’s your chance to download the latest bookstore and publishing drivers!”

Last year’s Meet the Barnes & Noble Buyers program attracted more than 400 attendees. Each of its sessions is packed with valuable intelligence for everyone involved in publishing and bookselling. Topics to be covered this year include:

  • B&N sales in 2003
  • The big-picture approach to bookselling
  • Factors that contribute to success
  • Category and format trends
  • How buyers handle trends and make buys for the future
  • The impact of BarnesandNoble.com on the bookselling environment
  • Predictions for 2004

Plus, you’ll be able to ask questions and get answers.

“There’s a twofold benefit to these PMA sessions,” Marcella explains. “Publishers come away with a better understanding of where they fit in the overall business environment of retail bookselling as well as what is going on in Barnes & Noble bookstores. At the same time, as a result of the interaction with PMA members, our buyers come away with a better appreciation of what it takes to be a small publisher. We listen to publishers’ struggles and challenges and make every effort that we can to work with them.” Experience shows that the Barnes & Noble buyers are responsive to publishers who consistently produce titles with compelling jackets, competitive prices, and target-marketing plans.

Jonathan Kirsch and Lloyd Rich: “Publishers’ Personal Legal Clinic” (Thursday, June 3, 4:00—5:30 p.m.)

Jonathan Kirsch–the author of Kirsch’s Handbook of Publishing Law (watch for a new edition this fall)–and Lloyd Rich, a publishing attorney who specializes in rights and permissions, have been conducting publisher legal clinics for many years. They know how valuable it is for publishers to hear answers to their own legal questions as well as solutions for other publishers’ legal problems. New publishers and veterans alike come away with information that will help them run their businesses more effectively. And there’s a twofold benefit here as well. Jonathan and Lloyd say the clinic helps them gain insight into current topics and identify trends on which to focus in future PMA University programs.

“Publishing law has changed dramatically in the last 10 years,” Jonathan says. “New technologies and new markets have created a revolution in the field. Publishers today who operate from basements and spare rooms in their homes across the country can conduct business globally. As a result, there are simply many more legal issues to deal with than ever before.”

Because new technology has created a whole host of new rights and new risks, publishing law and publishing agreements are changing as rapidly as the technology. “If you haven’t attended a legal update in the past three years, you owe it to yourself to come to the Publishers’ Personal Legal Clinic,” Jonathan says. “We’re writing new legal language for publishing agreements every day, and publishers who fail to stay current place their companies and themselves at great risk.”

Current knowledge is what you’ll get at this legal clinic. It’s a quick and easy way to avoid trouble and make sure you’re up to date on legal issues you must understand in order to run a successful publishing business.

Robin Bartlett is director of sales and new business development for the American College of Physicians in Philadelphia. A past member of the PMA board of directors, he is the chair of PMA University. Robin can be reached at rbbartlett@aol.com.

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