It’s been 20 years now since that little group of publishers banded together to form the Publishers Association of Southern California (PASCAL), a group that later changed its name to Publishers Marketing Association. What’s not so widely known is that many of PMA’s affiliates are celebrating similar anniversaries. So I asked the Affiliates how long they’ve been around and what stands out in their history. I found that the groups vary but there are some common threads. For example: they all benefited in the beginning from the desktop revolution that lowered the threshold to book publishing; many changed their names as they grew because the original names didn’t accurately describe them anymore; and the organizing meetings and/or early regular meetings were often over food!
The 20-Year Class
Among the “old timers” of the affiliates are the Midwest Independent Publishers Association (originally the Minnesota Independent Publishers Association), the Northwest Association of Book Publishers, the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (originally the Marin Small Publishers Association), and the Florida Publishers Association (formerly the Florida Publishers Group).
The Minnesota Independent Publishers Association began with a tiny handful of publishers, including Sybil Smith (Fins Publications), an early President who has continued to be active and is serving as President again. It incorporated in 1991 as the Midwest Independent Publishers Association; its name change, like that of PASCAL/PMA, reflected its widened geographic range of members.
As Pete Masterson (Aeonix Publishing Group) recently noted, the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association goes back well over 20 years–”our newsletter is in its 22nd volume and the organization existed for two or three years previously before being incorporated and before a regular newsletter was established. It was originally called Marin Small Publishers Association, but was renamed in the early 90’s to better reflect the geographical breadth of the membership and members’ independence rather than their size.”
The Florida Publishers Group began around 1982, according to a note from Sylvia Hemmerly (Publishing Professionals, Inc.), who “helped to get it rolling and invited anyone who was publishing anything in Florida to come to a first meeting. We met in Mount Dora, Florida, for lunch,” she remembers. “There were probably not more than six people in attendance. However, none of the people who participated is still in publishing so far as I know, except for me and Rainbow Books, Inc.”
Betty Fallot Wright of Rainbow Books, Inc., adds: “We had a marvelous, enormously vigorous organization and grew by leaps and bounds, and we became highly visible, not only in Florida, but nationally.” FPG reorganized as the Florida Publishers Association, Inc. in about 1988.
“Authors coming into independent publishing today have no idea how difficult it was 20 years ago,” Betty Wright says. “Without organizations like PMA and its affiliates, indie publishing would still be a dirty word. OK, so we still have an uphill battle, but the playing field is leveling. While it is still very difficult to get a review in a major newspaper, it does happen. My book was reviewed in the St. Pete Times. Book editors admit that they are still partial to mainstream published books, but they are beginning to recognize the fact that many indie pub books are every bit as good and, in many cases, better.”
The Northwest Association of Book Publishers began 20 years ago with seven people in Paulette (Hot Off the Press, Inc.) Jarvey’s living room, and Paulette is still a member, some 800 titles later. Today, she reports, “we are 125 members growing into the future. Although we have grown in numbers, the group has not lost its attitude of sharing with and helping fellow publishers succeed. Visitors often comment that they have never been in a more open and sharing group.
“This NWABP characteristic began with the founders and has been nurtured by all who have followed,” according to Barb Whitaker, who is the group’s Newsletter Editor as well as a longtime member, and Jarvey says she’s “so proud that they have kept the Association growing and serving its members; that sure feels good.”
Oldest of All
The real granddaddy among the Affiliates, however, is the Minnesota Book Publishers Roundtable. It dates from the 1960s, when a small group of publishers based in Minneapolis and St. Paul got together over lunch “to talk about publishing,” according to Harry Lerner (the Lerner Group), who was President of the group for quite a few years and whose son Adam is now on the Roundtable Board. The Roundtable still meets over luncheon (and the tables actually are round!).
Pat Bell is the Owner of Cat’s-paw Press, and the author of “Roughing It Elegantly: A Practical Guide to Canoe Camping” and “The Prepublishing Handbook–What you should know BEFORE you publish your first book.” A PMA Board member, she’s long been active in local affiliates.