What did you think of the ABA? This is the second year we’ve attended the
convention, and for us the essence of the ABA will from this time on be
associated with PMA.
The PMA Publishing University was held this year at the Hyatt-Regency whose
sky-lit, many-storied, inner courtyard invites you to toast and converse with
PMA contacts and new friends. The hotel rises above Wacker Drive where the
high road intersects with Lakeshore Drive. There you are only two blocks from
Chicago’s lacy white jewel, the Wrigley Building. At the corner of Michigan
and Wacker, you can look along the whole expanse of “the greatest skyline in
For out-of-towners, it’s always difficult to decide whether it’s worth it to
spend the $150 per night hotel fee and other expenses to attend the PMA
Publishing University and ABA Convention. We debated for months, finally
signed up in April, arrived in Chicago still skeptical, and attended the PMA
University for the second year in a row.
We went to workshops on influencing book buyers, getting reviews, dealing
with copyright issues, designing covers, building ties with book reps and
distributors, and coping with disasters in your publishing business. While
many topics were the same as last year, and many experts came back to give
talks, all were new, fresh, different, stimulating, educational, wise, and
provocative. We came away in wonder that we were lucky enough to attend.
PMA provided all the food too: breakfast, lunch, and huge tables of evening
hors d’oeuvres-fruits and dips, cheeses and breads, veggies and canapes,
Chicago hot dogs, cold cuts and rolls, and an array of petit fours and other
sweet morsels. We talked to the PMA staff, known to us before only through
faxes, newsletters, and business correspondence. They are as admirable in
person as on paper, and as likable.
We also met fellow PMA members who in two days became close friends, ones we
will remember and whose fortunes we will follow. We exchanged books
(exclaiming over these titles with other PMA members), secured each other’s
phone numbers, and traded solutions to problems.
PMA’s booth at the ABA convention prominently showcased the books of PMA
members and was among the livelier attractions at the show. This year PMA
invited publishers to host their own stall for a half hour or more, at a cost
of $50 per half hour. We displayed a poster, gave out treats, played music,
dressed in costume, and generally had a fabulous time interacting with show
attendees who came by the booth in good numbers. Three extremely important
foreign rights representatives from different countries stopped at our booth.
We had talked with only one of them over the phone prior to the ABA.
PMA presents an island of pragmatism at the convention where an atmosphere of
elitism tends otherwise to prevail. Small bookstore owners, librarians, and
independent publishers receive less attention at the ABA than the large,
powerful houses, wholesalers, and bookchains. The show was smaller this year
because the ABA has introduced a lawsuit against three of the major
publishers, St. Martin’s Press, Penguin, and Random House, for unfair
business practices-i.e., giving discounts that disadvantage some booksellers.
PMA gives the impression of being above the row. In our every encounter with
the PMA staff, we note an aristocratic flexibility-a quality that will give
long life to the organization and create more and more influence in an
industry burgeoning at a rate of 10,000 new publishers a year. We came home
with the impression that PMA knows how to make friends in the industry and
how to keep them. We urge you to attend the PMA Publishing University next
year. It’s a vacation you do not want to miss!
Linda Donelson is the Publisher at Coulsong, a publishing company which she
founded in January 1995. She is also the author of Coulsong’s first book, Out
of Isak Dinesen in Africa: The Unknown Story. She is proud to announce that
this title has just won the Grand Prize in the Writer’s Digest National
Self-Published Books Awards.