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Director’s Desk: Helping Each Other Achieve and Succeed

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by Terry Nathan

Executive Director

Helping Each Other Achieve and Succeed

Helping each other achieve and succeed: This has been our motto for the last 20-plus years, and we have never needed each other more than we do during these challenging times. Your board and staff have been working hard over the past few months to improve our marketing and educational programs, and all our member benefits. The new programs and benefits are soon to be unveiled and are sure to save our members thousands of dollars per year.

You probably know this, but I will say it anyway: There is extraordinary power in numbers. When we approach a company for an association discount, we are representing all of you—more than 3,600 publishing companies across the country. This is attractive for many suppliers to the industry, and as a result we receive substantial discounts on your behalf. I hope you will find our new benefits package useful, and I also hope you will let us know of any benefit or program that may be missing. We are here to serve you, and to do that we need to hear what you need.

When I think of our motto, the extraordinary volunteers who serve as your board of directors immediately come to mind—15 individuals who represent the best this industry has to offer. These hard-working folks are at the helm, guiding the current and future direction of the Independent Book Publishers Association. The road we have navigated over this past year has been anything but ordinary ,and I applaud each and every one of them for keeping us on course. What I bring to the table is service to the board over many years along with the administrative support necessary to bring its great ideas to fruition. It has been my honor to be a part of this group for the past 17 years.

Our board of directors is much more than just a group of professionals guiding the business of the association. We work so hard and so closely together throughout the year that it is difficult to consider ourselves anything but family. We are a family, and I am proud to call myself a member of that family. I cannot think of a single board member who does not tell me they get more out of serving than they bring.

Each board member serves a two-year term, with an option to serve two consecutive terms. As a result, each year we must bid farewell to a few members of the family, which is no easy task. This year it is especially hard as I say “See you soon” (not good-bye, mind you) to two of my favorite board members of all time: Frank Gromling and Steve Carlson. What follows tells you just a little about their contributions.

Frank Gromling, Ocean Publishing, Flagler Beach, Florida. Frank has been one of the most productive board members of all time. Certain board members bring a lot of great ideas to the table, and others bring an ability to make things happen. Frank brings both, and I am selfishly sorry to see him go because he has made my job so much easier. He has taken some of the most complicated tasks, broken them down into simple pieces, and carried them out. I have a feeling that without him we would still be talking about some of these projects instead of seeing them in action. Thank you, Frank; I have learned a lot from you that I will incorporate as I move forward.

One of the more noteworthy projects Frank fostered is our very popular Publishing University Online. These seminars, which began in the fall of 2006, bring education into the comfort of your own home or office. This is what being a board member is all about: delivering a main part of our mission—in this case, education—in new and innovative ways. Frank has also worked tirelessly over the past year on educating our board and staff about being better representatives of the association as a whole. His final act will play out in the form of a detailed campaign to bolster membership, offering new programs and benefits to make our members better at the business of publishing. This campaign will continue long after his term on the board is up, which is a perfect reflection of the impact his improvements have made on our association.

He has accomplished all this while running a successful publishing company (ocean-publishing.com), and he has just finished his term as president of one of the most active regional publishing groups in the country, the Florida Publishers Association. How do you do it, Frank?

Steve Carlson, Upper Access, Inc., Hinesburg, Vermont. Steve cares. He truly cares about the rights of independent publishers, large and small. And he always brings that to the boardroom. Whether we are discussing issues that involve our small-publisher members or our midsize-publisher members, Steve fits right in and offers insights at the appropriate level. He has been in this business for a very long time and it shows—he is knowledgeable about just about every topic ever discussed.

I can always count on Steve to help me identify organizations that are not treating our members fairly. Recently Steve was instrumental in bringing to light the Abebooks practice of selling ARCs online. Under his watchful eye, we let Abebooks know of our dissatisfaction, and as a result Publishers Weekly picked up on the story and let the publishing world know about it.

Steve is also generous—very generous! Several years ago, the then PMA president, Don Tubesing, proposed donating a million books in support of adult literacy. It sounded like a great idea, but we wondered whether members would be willing to contribute that many copies. As it turned out, getting the books was not the problem; delivering them was.

The Lifetime Literacy Foundation was founded as the charitable arm of our association and we hired an executive director to manage it. She worked closely with Steve, whose company (upperaccess.com) generously donated the design and framework of the Web site used to streamline the distribution of these books. Hundreds of hours were donated, and the program still exists, although distribution challenges remain. I am sure Steve and the leaders of the Lifetime Literacy group will one day be able to deliver these much-needed books in support of adult literacy.

As we all go on and on with extraordinary ideas during board meetings, Steve keeps it real. He participates in every conversation, and whatever he has to say is worth listening to. Thank you, Steve. Your genuine desire to help publishers large and small is infectious, and I will do my best to spread that “disease” to others around the table.

Seeking New Board Members

Nominations for IBPA board members are being accepted between now and the end of February. The seats held by Frank Gromling and Steve Carlson must be filled by publishers. You can nominate yourself or someone else, and you can get a nomination form from the IBPA Web site—ibpa-online.org—or by calling the IBPA office.

The board meets four times a year. One of the meetings is usually by phone. The other three are in person, and each lasts a day and a half. Between meetings, there is a fairly vigorous interchange of emails and phone calls.

Of course, you can also be active with IBPA without being on the board of directors. For instance, you can volunteer to be on a committee. If you’re interested in doing so, please send me a note by email, outlining your area of interest. I can be reached directly at terry@IBPA-online.org.



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