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Dan Poynter Tribute: Honoring an Indie Publishing Industry Icon

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by Darhiana Tellez, IBPA Independent managing editor

Darhiana Tellez

In November 2015, the IBPA office received the sad news that long-time friend and self-publishing guru Dan Poynter passed away. We will miss him. Dan was a founding member of IBPA (then known as Publishers Marketing Association), joining in 1983 and participating as an active member ever since. He served on IBPA’s board of directors and participated as a speaker at most of our Publishing Universities. His sessions were often standing room only and what he discussed was always relevant and helpful. To honor his long-standing support of indie publishers, he was awarded IBPA’s Benjamin Franklin Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992. Below, IBPA members reminisce on Dan Poynter’s soaring career and legacy.


Dan Poynter was a founding member of IBPA and past recipient of IBPA’s Benjamin Franklin Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dan Poynter changed my life and has been a dear friend (and mentor) since we met in 1972 when I introduced him to hang gliding and he introduced me to writing and publishing books. I’m privileged to say that I had the distinct honor, unbeknownst to either of us at the time, to have been his very first student and mentee. His passing is incredibly sad news, as I (as well as my wife and publishing partner, Marjie) loved Dan very much.

Dan called us in June 2015, sharing with us about his horrific fall and his extended hospital stay, telling us how stupid his falling off the wall was. To which we responded, “Stay off walls!” He also shared how much he was enjoying David McCullough’s new bestseller, The Wright Brothers… Dan loved skydiving and flying, and he knew I loved flying and was a student of the Wright Brothers. During the conversation, I finally told him that every time I heard Elton John’s 1973 song “Daniel,” it made me think of him and always brought tears to my eyes, and I could tell he was moved. We then sent him an exact-scale model of the Wright Flyer, for which he was most grateful and touched. We’re so happy we were able to do that for him while he was still alive.

Dan’s positive, affirming spirit was empowering and edifying. He always gave us the inside scoop as to what was happening and predicted what was coming in publishing. He enabled dreamers to go from the idea of writing and publishing to actually doing it with his instruction and encouragement.

–Mike and Marjie Markowski, Markowski International Publishers

Dan was there at the beginning. He was a tireless advocate who applied his master public speaking talents to galvanizing audiences wherever he spoke. With his own publishing company, Para Publishing, he produced almost 80 books, mostly on publishing, imparting practical information on how to get your book noticed.

Dan was a very private person, and though he circled the globe as a lecturer many times, his heart was in his hilltop home and well-organized office in Santa Barbara, with his cat, skydiving passion, and his partner in life.

He was also a modest man, although he was outspoken and assertive in his beliefs about sharing as little of the margin on a sale with intermediaries. He did very little self-promotion outside of his regular newsletter and appearances, where he was never short on “leave behinds” and clever business cards showing him stacking piles of books. His reputation was his greatest sales weapon.

Dan was a remarkable man in our midst. He must have trained or inspired thousands of authors to become publishers—all of whom will remember his warm smile and gentle way of pressing his point. To Dan, information was out there for one purpose: to be shared. His free newsletter was available to anyone who wanted it.

Dan has been so much a part of our independent publishing scene, it is hard to imagine IBPA workshops and regional publishing meetings without him on the program.

I came to love the man. But though he is gone, he leaves behind so many good works, loyal friends and followers, and a legendary reputation.

–Eugene G. Schwartz, Worthy Shorts

I first met Dan at his house in Goleta overlooking the Pacific Ocean in 1983. I had only just joined McNaughton & Gunn and he was very gracious to this particular greenhorn. Soon thereafter, we started working together and printed The Parachute Manual for Para Publishing.

In those days, he was very instrumental in an organization called PASCAL which ultimately evolved into PMA and then IBPA. They used to have monthly meetings at the “illustrious” Proud Bird Restaurant by LAX [Los Angeles International Airport] and the energy was palpable. The self-publishing movement was taking off in the early 80s, and Dan had a constant flock of rookies soaking up information. He always had time and energy for each and every individual.

As the saying goes, Helen of Troy was the face that launched a thousand ships. As far as the self-publishing industry was concerned, Dan was the man that launched a thousand (and many more) books. He was his own man, an inspiration to many, certainly a maverick, and an icon in our industry.

Mitch Albom wrote the book called The Five People You Meet in Heaven. I suspect at this time that there are a bunch of folks up there (people who either wished they had written a book or renowned authors in their own right) seeking advice from Dan. He will never be alone at the dinner table.

–Frank Gaynor, McNaughton & Gunn

I was saddened to hear of Dan’s passing. Indeed, he helped many thousands of us as we got started in publishing. His book was so helpful to all of us as newcomers.

A fun memory of Dan: One time at a PMA university, we went around the room,

with each person telling something important they had learned over the past year. I still chuckle at what Dan said. He said he had “learned to never fry bacon in the nude.” That had to be 20 years ago, and I’m still chortling over it.

Thanks, Dan, for all you gave us!

–*Rod Colvin, Addicus Books

DanPoynter_Book1I met Dan in the early 80s, and his self-publishing workshop and book were instrumental in my first book. I remember being in his house north of Santa Barbara with its magnificent views. He held up his The Parachute Manual and said, “This book paid for this house.”

We also served on the PMA (now IBPA) board in the earliest years of the organization. He loved sharing his newest ideas as the association and publishing world changed. He could be stubborn at times and had strong opinions, but he was also incredibly visionary and inspirational.

My 35-plus year career in publishing would not have existed without him, as I not only learned about creating books but also modeled our very successful consumer catalog business based on a concept he had tried and then abandoned.

–Leigh Cohn, Gürze Books, IBPA past president

Dan meant so very much to so very many people in so very many ways. Whatever each of our experiences have been with him, we will all miss him tremendously. My lasting memory of Dan will be the evening that Jan Nathan and I presented him with IBPA’s (PMA’s) Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grand Hyatt in New York the early 90s. To say he was surprised would be an understatement as he was very emotional and appreciative of the ultimate award. He was speechless, which was not normal for Dan Poynter! See ya later, my friend! — *Bob Erdmann, Columbine Communications and past president of IBPA

DanPoynter_Book2Carolyn and I are devastated by Dan’s passing. We first met him at the Los Angeles ABA (BEA) Convention in 1979, when we were promoting our first book and Dan had a table in the Small Press Section at the back of West Hall promoting the first edition of his book, The Self-Publishing Manual. That summer, we began attending his COSMEP Chapter #1 meetings that he started at his home in Santa Barbara to bring together indie publishers in Southern California.

We served together on the PMA (IBPA) founding Board of Directors. I have visited him through all these years, stayed at his home, and shared booths and many boozy meals at book shows around the country.

And we saw him through various accidents and illnesses, including the latest in January.

Dan was always cutting edge, ahead of the curve. He worked constantly, wrote more than 130 books and 800-plus articles on independent publishing, parachuting, skydiving and related sports. He introduced us to do-it-yourself desktop publishing (beginning on a Xerox word processor) at the birth of personal computers. He located an affordable home-office copy machine (it was the size of a desk) when most were the size of small cars, and priced about the same. And he wrote what became the bible of self-publishing. To my knowledge there was only one so-so book on the subject before Dan’s The Self-Publishing Manual. He was the bedrock of the independent publishing movement, always exploring new ways to publish and market, and always generous and giving of his time and knowledge. Dan was a true friend to all and we miss him.

–*Alan Gadney and Carolyn Porter, One-On-One Book Production and Marketing, founding board members of PMA

I met Dan in the late 1970s, when I was a fledgling publisher and he was the master of the universe when it came to his love for, and his involvement with, self- and small publishers. Dan’s The Self-Publishing Manual was already the bible of the industry and provided clear and sound advice to anyone who read it. The irony is that his book, and his focus on self-publishing, is more relevant today than at any time since it was originally published. Not to mention his willingness to share his immense knowledge of the greater world of publishing with anyone who approached him with a question.

I will miss Dan’s smile and his wisdom, and thank him for all he gave to the publishing industry and to those of us who choose to spend our time in it.

–*Thomas Woll, Cross River Publishing Consultants

At a time when it was thought that you needed a publisher to be legitimate, Dan Poynter was the one who consistently pointed out the beauty and benefits of self-publishing. A closer connection to those you wrote for and the ability to update and refine your message being just a few. If you were willing to put the work in, the opportunities were waiting for you. Years ago, I took a two-day course from him in Santa Barbara and got to see firsthand his excitement, drive, and love of what he did. He was a jewel.

–*Alison Bishop, Boot Camp for New Dads

I met Dan in the early 80s at Santa Barbara Writers Conference. Through the years, he continued to influence and offer me advice like he had nothing else to do that day. What a love. Then on Sept. 12, 2001, I was waiting for my luggage in Memphis when I spotted him next to me at the next carousel.

We hugged and cried for our country and the families affected and how our lives would never be the same.

Each time I sent him a book to review; he was so real and kind and often sent me personal advice on how it could be an even better book.

He’s putting on his parachute right now…

–*Joyce Spizer Foy, Author, Screenwriter, Producer

*Repurposed from the IBPA blog

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