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Board Member’s Memo: Note from Outgoing IBPA Board Chair, Brooke Warner

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Read Brooke Warner’s parting message to the IBPA community and get to know the new IBPA Board Chair and Board Members

Brooke Warner

Brooke Warner completes six years of service on the IBPA Board of Directors on June 30, 2020 (four years as an at-large board member and two years as chair).

Each outgoing chair is tasked with writing a parting message to the IBPA community. This is something I would have relished in normal times—what would have been a farewell message to my tribe on the heels of a successful Publishing University, a call for all of us to keep fighting the good fight that often goes hand in hand with being a struggling indie, a reminder of the force we all are, especially collectively, in this industry we all love.

But instead we are here, many of us facing the unimaginable. We are not buoyed by another Publishing University. Some of us have made sacrifices already in the form of layoffs and salary cuts. Some of us are postponing titles and trying to figure out the best next step in an unprecedented situation. Many of us fear our companies might not make it to the other side of this crisis.

I have spent six years on the board of IBPA, and most of the hours have been focused on advocacy. That has been my passion, a place where my fire gets ignited. During my tenure, IBPA created its Advocacy Committee, which started out with a handful of board members and grew to encompass individuals from the broader community of members. Completing the Industry Standards Checklist and the Hybrid Publishing Criteria list are two of my proudest accomplishments.

It’s human nature to rank things, in an effort to make sense of things by comparing. It’s been hard for me, therefore, to tap into all there is to celebrate about my tenure at IBPA as some of us confront our very survival as independent publishers. But I also know that through crisis we tap into our deepest resilience.

We will be different people on the other side of this.

We will be different publishers, different leaders, and a changed industry. This crisis calls for resolve, and it also calls for faith. I’m not a religious person, but my spirituality has long been rooted in the work I do. To work in the book industry means having an intimate and front-row seat in the arena of life. We know of stories beyond our own lived experience. When we read, we enter into the heart space of others. When we publish books, we are midwives of experience and knowledge and story. We are bearers of legacies. We are space-holders. We are validators.

I’ve spent my entire career championing authors, especially indie authors. What IBPA has afforded me over these six years is to champion indie publishers, because we deserve championing, too. We are out there in the trenches doing work we love, just like so many authors, with little to no expectation of gain or riches or fame. We are such an amazing community because our shared drive is such a tough thing to do, and even harder to be successful at.

I am deeply saddened not to have had the opportunity to say goodbye in person this year, not to have passed the torch to our new chair, Karla Olson, in the way I imagined I would. But one of the things I’m learning through this barrage of disappointments and loss is that there is much to be grateful for that we’ve inevitably taken for granted. A supportive community like the one we have at IBPA is not a given. It’s a gift. So I will be at next year’s Publishing University, where I will give hugs liberally. And I will continue to be an active participant of this amazing association that always goes above and beyond the call of duty to support its members as family. I am grateful beyond measure to my IBPA family and for all of you for these amazing six years.

Meet Your New IBPA Board Members

Victoria Sutherland and Lindy Ryan start a two-year term on the IBPA Board of Directors on July 1, 2020.

What is your current company and role, and how long have you been involved in independent publishing?

Victoria Sutherland

Victoria Sutherland (VS): I am currently the publisher at Foreword Reviews, having co-founded it in 1998 with two women editors. After 22 years, my role has evolved from master of all positions to becoming more focused on working directly with our customers creating marketing partnerships.

Lindy Ryan (LR): I am the president of Black Spot Books, an imprint of Vesuvian Books. Publishing is an industry I’ve been involved in for quite some time, but it was my experience working with a large, nonfiction publisher on my last textbook that made me take a closer look at the world of independent publishing, and in 2017, Black Spot Books was launched as a traditional small press focusing in speculative fiction. Our goal was—and still is—to bring fresh, debut, and underrepresented voices to market as we seek out genre-bending narratives that spark our fancy. Since being acquired in 2019 by Vesuvian Media Group, we continue to seek out those same innovative stories and voices, now with added focus on how those narratives translate from the page to the big screen.

What excites you right now about the industry?

VS: It is really inspiring for me to hear people adding more women, LGBTQ+, and people of color to their staff; then listening, and even acting on, their opinions/suggestions. It is not as pervasive an issue in the independent publishing space, but I believe that we will begin to see much more interesting options in books to read and examples of great leadership in the near future.

Lindy Ryan, Publisher, Black Spot Books

LR: I am always inspired by the endlessly creative pathways to storytelling that arise in publishing—from story reimaginations to new delivery media, including the advancements of audio, the surge of adult animation and graphic novels, and increased adaptation of books to film/television. Today, those pathways are becoming more accessible as the digitization of publishing continues to tear down walls that once barricaded the ivory towers of traditional publishing. Smaller presses have a faster to-market option, which allows them to react to changes in reader preferences and meet the needs of their readership. Readers, too, now have a larger voice than ever before, with more access to content and to content creators. This opens the gates of communication between author and reader, and propels the translation of stories as they are brought to life on the big screen with everyone from Hollywood to streaming networks to apps looking to the literary landscape for content.

What do you hope to bring to the IBPA board during your term?

VS: Our current international health crisis will certainly bring new challenges to our industry. I hope to help build on the list of resources that IBPA can offer to assist in their recovery and ongoing health, particularly from an advocacy perspective, working to give them the same advantages larger companies enjoy.

LR: What prompted my interest to serve on the board of IBPA—and what I hope to bring during my term—is a commitment to service. Launching, growing, and developing a small press from an idea to a functional, profitable business, and then negotiating our acquisition in our first two years of operation, has earned me valuable insight that I would love to share with the independent publishing community.

What’s your favorite book from the past year?

VS: How to Catch a Mole, an extraordinary look at nature through a memoir, by Marc Hammer from Greystone Books.

LR: Tough question! I’ve read so many fantastic books over the past year that it’s hard to pick just one. That said, one of my absolute favorites was Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton, an apocalyptic neat-future story told from the perspective of a rather foul-mouthed crow and other animals who have been left to reclaim the natural world in the absence of humans. Another favorite was Tim Waggoner’s The Forever House, which was a dark tale about a hungry evil that moved into a quiet cul-de-sac. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai, a moving and heart-wrenching account of Vietnam’s 20th century history that has left a permanent imprint on my heart.

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