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DIRECTOR’S DESK: That Big Week Coming Up

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by Terry Nathan

That Big Week Coming Up

As you read this, many of you are planning your trip to Los Angeles at the end of the month, when people from publishing companies across the country will converge on the city, ready to reconnect (or establish) their industry networks, and hopefully sell some books along the way. Along with BookExpo America at the Los Angeles Convention Center May 30 to June 1, many other events will be taking place, including our 24th annual Publishing University on May 27–29 at the Wilshire Grand Hotel, and the Benjamin Franklin Awards at the same place on May 29 at 6 p.m.

PMA’s original mission was to offer low-cost marketing opportunities to help small publishers be more competitive. It quickly became obvious that it was equally important to offer educational seminars that would help our members become better at the business of publishing. And offer seminars we have! As many of you know, what began as a few sessions the day before BEA has blossomed into the source of education for independent publishers.

Over the years we have had some of the biggest names in the world of independent publishing share their priceless wisdom and inspiration. Last year’s keynote address, one of our best ever, was by Robert Kiyosaki, author of the bestseller Rich Dad, Poor Dad, which started out as a self-published book. Other people who have inspired us over the years include Ian Ballantine, founder of Ballantine Books; Walter Mosley and his publisher, Paul Coates; and one of my personal favorites, John Kilcullen, founder of the Dummies series, who told us how every major publisher in the country slammed the door in his face, saying his idea would never work.

The slate of speakers at Publishing University 2008 is our best yet, with keynote addresses on each of the three days, by Dominique Raccah, founder of Sourcebooks, one of the most successful independent publishers; Sara Nelson, editor in chief of Publishers Weekly; and David Steinberger of Perseus Books with Johnny Temple of Akashic Books, who will talk about New Vistas in Independent Publishing.

For more information about this year’s sessions on the nuts and bolts of publishing (marketing, publicity, sales, editorial, production, and general business issues) and on the latest ways to sell books creatively, see “Why We Keep Coming Back” by Robin Bartlett, in this issue; and pma-online.org.

To learn about this year’s Graduate School program, see “Midsized Members” in the April issue.

And the Winners Are . . .

Each year at this time, we have the exciting honor of notifying more than 150 publishers that they have been named as finalists for Benjamin Franklin Awards in their categories. It is one of the best parts of this job, as you might imagine, and feeling the excitement burst through the phone line or email never gets old.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have many difficult phone calls to make as well. Publishers believe in their books, and most believe their books are better than any other. That is a good quality, and one I would never want to diminish.

Titles are judged for their overall editorial and design excellence. The judging pool includes a wide variety of industry professionals: bookstore buyers, wholesalers and distributors, reviewers, acquisition librarians, editors, designers, and artists. Each category has three judges who judge independently and return judging forms to the PMA office for tabulation. Three finalists are announced in each category, and the one with the highest total points becomes the winner.

To help contestants become better publishers, we send them the judging forms after the winners are announced. Judges are encouraged to make comments on the forms to assist a publisher in developing a line of titles, and the practice has paid off. Over the years we have seen steady improvements in books competing for the awards, and we are always happy to see books from PMA members than can compete with books from any other company in the industry.

This year, we received more than 1,800 entries, and we are looking forward to the gala celebration on May 29 when the finalists and winners will be honored.

Advice About Allocating Time

This will be my 17th consecutive year at BEA, which was ABA when I went for the first time. I will never forget that first year, mostly because I can see what I felt then in the eyes of PMA members attending now.

In 1992, the ABA show was at the Anaheim Convention Center and was crawling with booksellers. The aisles were alive with energy, and the buyers were very focused, placing orders on the floor and happy to get the show specials that exhibiting publishers were offering. Some industry professionals who weren’t booksellers also attended, but for the most part this was the show for connecting with bookstore buyers.

Today’s show attracts fewer booksellers; but more international publishers, rights agents, librarians, educators, and TV and film professionals attend.

Networks of professional contacts (and friends) are created and refreshed every year at BEA. But a full, intense week is more than most mere mortals can take. I recommend that you attend as much of the Publishing University as possible, and at least one day of the BookExpo America show. Believe me, all that will be worth its weight in gold.

I look forward to seeing you soon here in sunny Southern California.



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