This year’s Publishers Marketing Association University (PMA-U) is in Los Angeles. I live in Connecticut. Still I’m going to attend. Why, you ask? Because I went to last year’s PMA-U in New York City. Is the hassle of getting the time off from work, buying a plane ticket, renting a hotel room, and flying across the continental United States worth it for a three-day seminar? You betcha, I say, and here’s a list of reasons:
Inspiration comes from seeing others with a special glow in their eyes that says they’re doing something they love. Inspiration is also stirred by seeing tables full of beautifully crafted books made by independent publishers.
PMA University provides an opportunity to experience three days filled with people telling you over and over again that they have succeeded, and that you can too. We all have times when we think to ourselves, What am I doing? I’m going to die with 3,000 books in the garage. PMA-U cures that negativity. You’ll be thinking afterward, How can I not succeed? You’ll get frustrated, not because you have no idea how to get your message out to the masses, but because you can’t imagine how to reach and exploit all the opportunities.
Tell a random stranger at PMA-U about your baby, and they’ll almost always have a great place, event, or association where you can sell your book. At times during the University, I felt that I could go sprinting out the revolving doors of the Grand Hyatt and sell books to the next million people I met.
Anytime I get down-and-out during the year, I’m going to dig up that feeling and ride a wave of confidence until I find another opportunity.
Info for Building Your Business
Great, you say, inspiration is all grand and wonderful but I need more than that to sell books. Yes, you need knowledge, you need facts, and you need rock-solid proven techniques that not only get a quality book printed but also get it made cheaply enough so that you can turn a profit. Publishing is a business after all. What you need is… Information.
PMA-U will load you to the eyeballs with useful tips, advice, rules, ideas, do’s, and don’ts. Seminars will cover the whole spectrum of publishing. The only limits on what you can learn will be time and the scientific law that says you can’t split yourself in two.
You’ll want to be everywhere, which can be a bit frustrating. But, never fear, when you register, they slap a 3-pound, 14-ounce spiral notebook in your hands that gives you an overview for each of the classes along with some handouts to start you off in the right direction with aspects of publishing you’d like to know more about. And don’t forget there are lunches, dinners, and cocktail gatherings where you can track down speakers you missed and grill them.
There’s a Far Side cartoon in which a student raises his hand and asks the teacher, “May I be excused, my brain is full.” That’s what I felt like. I was exhausted when the University was over. But I had ideas on how to succeed that were bouncing around in my head like popcorn. Healthy popcorn too. Smartfood.
The idea of popcorn bouncing and shooting around leads to the last and most important reason you’ll want to attend PMA-U in Los Angeles–Introductions and Networking.
You can’t go it alone in this business. You don’t want to go it alone. Why? Because you won’t know everything even after attending the University. I most certainly don’t know everything, but I now know people who do.
Some day, you’re going to have a problem, a question, an idea you want to check out. It’s important to have other people you can call. At PMA-U, you’ll meet people from across the country. Each one has had experiences that are different than yours but similar enough so that what they’ve learned can help you.
Let’s say you’re planning a trip to a distant city. Wait a moment! you think. I met so-and-so from that very same city at PMA-U. You call the person, re-live good times from the University, and then ask your friend where you can get a list of local media, bookstores, schools, associations, you name it. Well, guess what? So-and-so has already compiled all that info. She’d be more than happy to e-mail it to you, and don’t hesitate to call if you have any more questions. The hours upon hours of tedious searching you just avoided will pay for half your plane ticket, at least. Buy your friend dinner or a bottle of wine to say thanks.
What’s even more fun is that you might be able to teach her something too. Basically, it seems as though the sum of all publishing experience and knowledge is gathered into this one place called PMA-U. Probably nothing can happen in the publishing world that someone there hasI Q##146;t experienced, and that’s just the other students.
Tons and tons of wonderful teachers and speakers come to this event. Find them. Hound them… politely. They’re all volunteers. They’re walking libraries of information. Walk up to them, talk to them, ask them questions, get their business cards, and ask them if you can contact them if you run into a problem you don’t know how to handle. Bet they say yes.
You’ll even find vendors you can network with. Yes, they’re trying to sell you something but, as an independent publisher, you are eventually going to need a specialist. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that when you need a printer, book designer, or whatever, you’ll have met such a person face-to-face and been able to get a feel for their services directly? I know that I feel more comfortable shelling over a hunk of cash to someone I’ve met personally.
After you leave PMA-U, you’ll be a walking library of inspiration, information, and networking possibilities yourself. When you go back home, pass along some of your new wealth of knowledge. It’s so great to be talking to colleagues and have the answer to their problem or to give them the name of someone who does. Their eyes open wide for a moment, and you can see that a missing piece of information suddenly found a home.
Even I had the pleasure of giving out an informational cookie. I didn’t develop the marketing blitz for the next life-changing literary masterwork, but I did make a savvy promotional suggestion that helped a fellow publisher live his dream of selling his book.
See you in LA?
James Dongweck owns Golden Monkey Publishing, LLC in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. His first children’s picture book, “The Dragon Cant,” will be delivered by stork right before PMA-U. He will be a volunteer panelist on the first day of classes in Los Angeles and invites everyone to come by with any questions or just to say hello.