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President’s Post: A Sustainable Future Featuring Growth

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by Florrie Binford Kichler, Executive Director, Independent Book Publishers Association —

Florrie Binford Kichler

Florrie Binford Kichler

Several months ago, responding to a mandate from the IBPA board of directors, a strategic planning committee composed of four IBPA board members—Steve Mettee, Davida Breier, Peter Goodman, and Kelly Gallagher—and your IBPA staff—Terry Nathan, Lisa Krebs, and me—met for a day and a half to find the answers to these questions:

  • What will IBPA’s unique contribution to its members be in the next several years?
  • Can IBPA grow and build a sustainable future by positively leading and having an impact on the independent publishing community?

Given the upcoming change in leadership when I retire, and the velocity of change in the book industry, your board decided that we needed to create a plan to guide IBPA into the future. What follows is from the report of the planning process written by facilitator Dan Brokke of VisionServe, LLC, and incorporating input that committee members provided during approximately 20 hours of meeting time. As you’ll see, the report includes a proposed new mission statement, and that statement has now been formally adopted by the board.

Inside the Strategic Planning Process

The Strategic Planning Subcommittee identified current realities, threats, and critical issues facing IBPA and independent book publishing today; appraised IBPA’s competencies related to delivering value and impact; and formulated statements about mission, values, vision, and strategic initiatives.

Here are a few of the opportunities that emerged:

Membership. It could double. IBPA is in a perfect storm, as the segment the organization has traditionally served is growing exponentially. There is a leadership deficit in the market, and therefore an opportunity to lead.

Web-based and Webcentric expansion of services. Real help is possible and within reach. Our new Website lays the foundation for an aggressive and proactive feeding of information and vision.

Thought and knowledge leadership of independent publishing. IBPA can be the source. So many tools are at IBPA’s disposal that the organization could use strategically and effectively.

Standards of excellence and a high code of ethics. With the current unpredictability of independent publishing, there is a need for leadership. Articulating best practices, standards, and ethical behavior will enforce thought leadership, encourage quality, and keep the industry sane.

Communities. Communities can be nurtured around shared needs and interests. From editors to designers, from marketers to producers, repositories of samples of what has been done by others could establish a center of excellence for independent publishers.

Education. Education helps elevate IBPA as the source for information and help. The organization is able to leverage the expertise of members (and add value to membership); repurpose, organize, and make content useful; and offer creative and widely accessible Webinars and online delivery of help.

Partnerships. IBPA is barely scratching the surface. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Partnerships bring credibility and value back to members, bring prominence and exposure to IBPA, change and strengthen perception, and establish IBPA as a hub and facilitator of help.

Advocacy. Advocacy demonstrates leadership and value on behalf of the industry. It places IBPA more at the forefront on issues of value, and it lends weight to the role of thought leadership in defining the conversation on many issues facing the independent publishing marketplace.

IBPA mission. Assessment of the unique role that IBPA could play in today’s independent publishing marketplace reveals that there is significant need for a trusted, informed, and objective voice and advocate. With the Wild West landscape that independent publishing has become, the number of service providers has grown. New technologies and services have made getting a book produced and published easier, less costly, and more feasible for the individual author and small independent publisher. The barriers to entry have been lowered.

However, care for the independent publishing future is not on anyone else’s particular agenda. Many organizations and individuals respect and desire a healthy industry. But some others fundamentally see only an opportunity for profit, no matter what the implications. It is here that IBPA has an important and valuable mission to carry out.

So with these thoughts in mind, the Strategic Planning Subcommittee has submitted a draft revision of the mission statement to read: “IBPA’s mission is to lead and serve the independent publishing community by providing advocacy, education, and tools for success.”

IBPA values. IBPA has not operated with formally expressed statements of value. However, it is clear that implicitly understood and deeply held convictions have guided the spirit and nature of the IBPA board, staff, and volunteers. Passion for publishing and genuine care for the publishers are evident. Instead of drafting values statements, the Strategic Planning Subcommittee discussed words that reflect what is intuitively felt.

Several key concepts emerged:

Trust. Integrity, longevity, reliability, continuity, ethical behavior, and respect. There is trust in IBPA because of the willingness to openly share information and be objective. The fact that the main agenda is providing help comes through.

Service. Accessibility, compassion, care, always being there, connections, and tough love. It is evident that, for the IBPA team, being helpful (with no other agenda) is a genuine goal. This feeds trust and drives follow through, patience, and availability.

Leadership. Decisiveness, boldness, risk-taking, advocacy, knowledge, influence, flexibility, innovation, and professionalism. The role of IBPA in the past has included providing leadership and perspective; our role and contribution in the future demand stepping up to new levels of leadership.

A three-year Independent Book Publishers Association vision:

Thought leadership. An engaged CEO has created a fully unified team (board, staff, and volunteers) that is knowledgeable about industry issues and solutions and that advocates for the independent publishing community.

Education and information. IBPA is the go-to, one-stop source for information including best practices, standards, ethics, and education.

Web-based hub. The IBPA Website is a doorway and portal to independent publishing, engaged communities, and functionality in delivery of services.

Messaging and communication. IBPA communication programs leverage the most effective technologies to actively and passively reach and respond to IBPA’s diverse publics.

Membership. IBPA has products and services that make joining and renewing membership in IBPA a no-brainer for people in the independent publishing community.

What’s Next—and What It Means to IBPA Members

The work of translating the vision and opportunities into concrete initiatives for the benefit of IBPA members is ongoing as I write this and will be the charge of IBPA’s new leader.

Highlights of the preliminary tasks will be:

  • Evaluation of each of IBPA’s existing programs and services to determine any gaps in delivery and decide which should be retained as is, which should be retained with changes, and which should be dropped.
  • Evaluation of current educational programs to determine the same.
  • Research and recommendations about new programs, along with timetables for implementation.
  • Continuing assessment and improvement of the new IBPA Website.
  • Implementation of a comprehensive social media strategy to improve communication between IBPA and its members and among members.
  • And more.

Many questions were asked and answered during the strategic planning process. But one question trumped all the rest—and the answer determined the ultimate outcome for mission, vision, and strategy. It is the fundamental query that has contributed to IBPA’s growth since its founding 30 years ago and will continue to be the litmus test against which all change is measured and on which future growth depends:

Will this program, service, or benefit help IBPA’s members succeed?

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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