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President’s Post: A Compelling Force

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Florrie Binford Kichler

Florrie Binford Kichler

Leadership is influence.—John C. Maxwell

Why did you join IBPA?

To take advantage of benefits that save you money, marketing programs that save you time and make money, education that does all those things, and more?

If you answered “Yes,” than you are in good company, as those are the most common answers I receive when posing the question. And certainly those are clear and tangible rewards that your IBPA membership brings to you.

But something more sets IBPA apart.


The dictionary defines influence as “the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions of others.” I define IBPA influence as “the capacity or power of IBPA to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions and policies of all segments of the book industry for the benefit of the independent publishing community.”

What does that mean?

Influence is your IBPA president serving on an industry board as the voice of independent publishing, and your IBPA executive director solving disputes between publishers and service providers.

Influence is a reporter from a major media outlet calling IBPA for a comment on a publishing story.

Influence is IBPA’s ability to open and maintain personal communication lines with the largest vendors in the business, including Apple, Amazon, and Google, to ensure that the interests of independent publishers—your interests—are served.

Influence is intangible, but palpable. To paraphrase the famous quotation by Justice Potter Stewart regarding pornography, influence is difficult to define, but we know it when we see it.


Following are three qualities that characterize this elusive X-factor:

Presence. Woody Allen said that 80 percent of success is showing up. As IBPA’s president and voice on industry boards—including the board of the Book Industry Study Group, the BEA Conference Advisory Board, and World Book Night Advisory Council—my job is to represent the independent publishing community at meetings.

And since a silent voice is useless, “showing up” also means engaging actively in the business at hand, whether it be advocating that the annual compilation of industry book sales must include the millions sold by smaller and independent publishers, or, as was the case just recently, participating in a “summit” meeting of the heads of all book industry associations to discuss common issues facing our members and how we might be able to work together to address them.

Another facet of presence is position, or the space a person or organization occupies by virtue of history or role. It would be difficult (if not impossible) to find another organization serving independent publishers with the longevity and consistency of mission that have earned IBPA the respect of the industry.

The credit for that goes to founding and long-time executive director Jan Nathan, who, assisted by a dedicated staff and board of directors, guided IBPA for more than 20 years to a position of strength. There is no more important task for today’s IBPA leadership than building on that strength—and influence—to effectively serve the independent publisher of the 21st century and beyond.

Promotion. Influence requires care and feeding, and consistent and thoughtful advancement of a cause is the required nourishment.

Public speaking is the easiest (yes, really) and most obvious means of promoting independent publishing, and those of you who have attended or will attend regional educational events in New England, Colorado, California, and the Midwest, as well as IBPA’s Publishing University and BEA’s uPublishU, or have listened to a Webinar or the recent IBPA teleconference with Mark Coker of Smashwords, are probably wondering if I will ever stop talking.

The answer is no—and not just in public. As important as public appearances are in keeping IBPA and its members at the forefront of industry consciousness, it is no less critical to build one-on-one relationships with colleagues IBPA can work with for the welfare of independent publishers.

Attending industry conferences and events is certainly important for staying informed about both the present and future states of the book business. However, it is at least as essential to extend the web of IBPA channels of communication one person at a time, which is why I spend just as much time outside session rooms as in, conversing with people in the hallways, at the lunch table, in the registration line.

No matter how big or small the issue, whether it affects one IBPA member or 2,000 of you, I want to make sure that a live person representing every major player in the industry will take a call from IBPA.

Perseverance. Influence requires presence plus promotion, but without perseverance, the first two won’t be effective.

One speech, one conference, meeting one or two new colleagues does not a lasting impression make. The adage in advertising is that it takes multiple exposures to even start to get a consumer’s attention. The same holds true with building influence—presence and promotion need to be ongoing and constant through all channels available, in print, online, and in person.

Just as authors must always add to their platforms to sell books, writing a monthly column, commenting on industry blog posts, participating in Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, in addition to public speaking and individual networking, are just a few examples of continuously shaping IBPA’s platform to strengthen independent publishers’ influence.


A Means to an End

What’s important is not garnering influence for its own sake but knowing how and when to use it for yours. Finding a solution for an individual IBPA member’s problem with a vendor may require just a little friendly persuasion, while other larger issues affecting IBPA’s members may call for compelling force. Recognizing the difference, and resolving the issue no matter what its size, means IBPA’s influence is working for you.

Follow Florrie and IBPA on Twitter at twitter.com/ibpa, and on IBPA’s blog at ibpablog.wordpress.com. Join Independent Book Publishers Association–IBPA group on LinkedIn (linkedin.com).


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