by Linda Carlson
Closeup: Kelly Gallagher
IBPA board member Kelly Gallagher has been vice president, content acquisition, at Ingram Content Group for the past year. This means he and his sales team are working with publishers, author services companies, and self-publishers—even corporations that publish such material as training guides.
It’s a long way from this Chicago native’s first college major—geology—but a lot closer to his fifth and final major, English and technical writing, when he earned a degree at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. Gallagher started his career as a technical writer in the aerospace industry, and after five years moved to Beacon Hill Press in Kansas City, MO, a transition that he jokes took him from selling a few units for several million dollars each to selling millions of units for a few dollars each.
After a decade at this midsize Christian publisher—six years as marketing director and four as publisher—Gallagher returned to Arizona as head of business development for the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, a position that involved providing the same kind of education and consulting that IBPA provides through Pub-U and mentoring.
Given that kind of street cred in publishing, we can see why R.R. Bowker, one of his vendor contacts, invited him to join it as vice president, publishing services. He spent seven years at Bowker before joining Ingram in its New York City office.
One of Gallagher’s most interesting comments when we talked recently was a warning against overstating the importance of e-publishing. Publishers have been striving to define their digital strategy, he points out, but it’s vital to consider it as only one of the choices to offer consumers. “E-publishing numbers have moderated in recent months, indicating that consumers expect both print and digital options,” he says.
Gallagher’s other advice for publishers includes: Determine whether you’re committed to good content. If you are, as a small publisher you must assess what you can do well, and what you need to work with industry partners to deliver. Obviously, industry partners may include companies that do print-on-demand, e-publishing, or distribution.
When you’re considering content, Gallagher recommends being aware that the attention span of the average reader is declining, partly because of technology. “After all, when you’re reading on a device that also offers you Facebook and Angry Birds, it’s easy to be distracted,” he says.
Readers’ preference for shorter pieces means that “chunking of content is a reality,” Gallagher notes. So is customization of content, which may mean creating special compilations of material—previously published academic pieces, for example. Or it may mean the kind of customization that IBPA member Sourcebooks is now introducing with Put Me in the Story children’s books.
Gallagher stressed four important points for smaller publishers who want to be financially successful:
- Research and really understand underserved markets.
- Assess these markets in terms of your ability to reach them and in terms of conferences, associations, and other established connections that will make it easier to sell to them.
- Consider localized publishing of titles in a unique niche.
- Stay connected to IBPA, because it offers networking opportunities and educational opportunities, and it speaks for your industry. Paraphrasing the famous John F. Kennedy maxim, Gallagher said, “Ask not only what IBPA can do for you, but what you can do for indie publishing.”
Learning About Selling to Libraries
A few months ago, I used IBPA’s LinkedIn group to ask members what they had learned through their publishing startups. “What do you wish you’d known in advance?” was my question.
Among the valuable responses was: “How difficult it is to get a book into libraries,” from Susan Wittig Albert of Persevero Press in Bertram, TX, whose books include several mysteries issued by Berkley.
Her forthcoming historical novel, A Wilder Rose, is about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. “It is one that libraries should want, and my books are held (usually in multiple copies) by most U.S. libraries,” Albert says. “But getting the word out is a lot harder—and a lot more work—than I anticipated.”
Among the hurdles she’s struggling with: getting the book reviewed by the periodicals that librarians refer to, including those, such as Publishers Weekly, that have reviewed her mysteries. Booklist and Library Journal seldom review author-published work, she’s discovered. (Although their submission criteria do not exclude self-published books, their customers generally like to deal with distributors, so both publications ask for distributors’ names, which is problematic for single-title publishers working without distribution partners.)
Lack of reviews in these periodicals means few purchases by libraries, Albert says, confirming what many other IBPA members have learned.
The lead time for obtaining reviews adds to the challenge. Booklist, for example, wants galleys at least 15 weeks prior to publication. Some IBPA members report that they have lost the chance to get important reviews and awards program publicity by not planning ahead. For instance, Jackie Mancuso of La Librairie Parisienne in Pacific Palisades, CA, says: “I wish I’d known to submit my first book for reviews much earlier.” And Janet F. Williams of Good Day Media in San Marcos, CA, says she learned of some awards programs too late to submit her first book.
Major Media Bump(s)
An August issue of the Wall Street Journal carried a page-long review of a University of Washington Press book—A Principled Stand: The Story of Gordon Hirabayashi vs. United States—which compares the Japanese-American who challenged the World War II internment of citizens of Japanese heritage to the Chechens who are charged with the Boston Marathon bombing.
Although the extensive review resulted in “nothing wildly impressive,” Rachael Levay, the press’s marketing and sales director, reports, “We have experienced a bit of a sales bump—wholesalers, online retailers, and indies have all placed small-to-medium orders. This mirrors our experiences with a lot of major media coverage: a small bump, but nonetheless very important to what we do.”
Even prior to the Wall Street Journal review, which appeared four months after publication, 175 libraries around the world had acquired the title.
Special-Interest Media Spurring Sales
“A Pop-Up Book You Won’t Put Down” in the summer 2013 issue of Trustees for the Parks, a newsletter from the National Parks Conservation Association, showed the cover and three interior photos from America’s National Parks: A Pop-Up Book, published by W.W. West.
Within days, publisher Don Compton reports, he got phone calls ordering the book for DNC Parks and Resorts stores in the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Parks. “Getting a title in these park gift stores is really a major event,” Compton says, adding that both customers mentioned the NPCA newsletter.
Linda Carlson (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes the Spotlight column from Seattle, where she is researching Advertising with Small Budgets for Big Results: How to Find and Buy Print, Broadcast, Outdoor, Online, Direct Response and Offbeat Media.
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