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Director’s Desk: Advocating Fairness with IBPA’s Industry Standards Checklist for a Professionally Published Book

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by Angela Bole, CEO, Independent Book Publishers Association –

Angela Bole

IBPA has been championing independent publishers big and small, self and otherwise, since 1983. That’s over 30 years of advocating for indie voices in the traditional publishing industry. Over this time, we’ve seen a thing or two.

Recent changes in the publishing industry have created enormous opportunities for self-published authors. It’s now possible to produce a professional quality book outside of the Big Five conglomerates. Unfortunately, this opportunity has come at the cost of a deepening divide between how traditionally published and self-published authors are treated. Too often, IBPA has noticed a bias against self-published authors, independent publishers, and hybrid presses when it comes to choosing titles or authors for review consideration, book award contests, association memberships, and inclusion on independent bookstore shelves.

There is no reason for this bias. While it’s true that not all books are created equal, when they are, it’s important that the industry treats them as such.

That’s why IBPA’s Advocacy Committee recently published an Industry Standards Checklist for a Professionally Published Book—a two-page document developed to support independent publishers and self-published authors, but also to urge an industry in flux to acknowledge that books ought to be judged on their substance rather than their business model.

If used appropriately, the checklist gives both authors and book industry professionals an at-a-glance method by which to gauge the professional presentation of a book. The goal is that the checklist becomes a future guide that reviewers, contests, membership associations, and bookstores turn to when deciding which authors merit consideration.

You can download the checklist here.

During BookExpo last June, I had the privilege of discussing the checklist with other industry organizations. I met with the American Booksellers Association, the Authors Guild, Publishers Weekly, Foreword Reviews, and many more. I’m glad to say the reception was warm. Those industry professionals paying attention know they’re missing quality books by using gatekeeping tactics attached to business models; they just haven’t figured out how to consider these books without opening the floodgate to unprofessionally produced content, as well. They seemed to appreciate that the checklist is a needed first step toward figuring this all out.

IBPA’s Call to Action

Today’s independent publishers and self-published authors represent a diverse array of voices and backgrounds, often speaking about specialized issues that are marginalized by larger presses, often because their books are being judged on the business model and not on what matters, which is the content of the books. Just as publishers, self or otherwise, are responsible for producing books that adhere to industry standards, the book industry as a whole is responsible for creating an environment that allows for equal evaluation of all published works.

You can join IBPA in its pledge to help reduce bias against independently published books by signing on in support our Industry Standards Checklist for a Professionally Published Book. Please visit ibpa-online.org/standardschecklist for more information.

Just before Angela Bole became IBPA’s Chief Executive Officer, she was Deputy Executive Director of the Book Industry Study Group, Inc. (BISG), which fosters conversation and consensus across all sectors of the book business. Before that, Angela served for two years as BISG’s Associate Director and two years as its Marketing and Communications Manager.

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