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Director’s Desk: Inside Our Amazing Profession

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by Angela Bole, CEO, Independent Book Publishers Association


Angela Bole

When you’re overburdened with e-mail and cranky people make it their job to interfere with your day; when your printer messes up your order, your distributor doesn’t stock enough books to cover your author tour, you’re late on one deadline or another . . . again; or [insert your current stressor here]; are you able to take a deep breath and get a bit of perspective in appreciation for the amazing profession we’re engaged in? I hope so.

Recently, I took a poetry workshop at the Esalen Institute, a learning and retreat center in Big Sur, CA. Over the course of six days, I wrote three poems and listened to dozens of others, including original works from each of the other 12 participants. If you’re a lover of words and metaphor as I am—and I’m fairly certain most of you are—you can appreciate what a transcendent experience this was.

Esalen draws people interested in exploring deeper spiritual possibilities and forging new understandings of self and society. The original poems developed during that experiential workshop were confessional, passionate, and profound. Being moved, I offered to collect them and publish a chapbook. Although I’ll make the book available for purchase and work out requisite royalty calculations, I don’t expect to make any money on the project. My only objective is to be sure the good work developed in that small room during that concentrated period of time finds a place to exist beyond the pages of our ragged notebooks.

Anyone paying attention knows there’s no guarantee of success in indie publishing—however you define success. Ours is a wild and often frustrating business. The rules continuously change. Today your print-on-demand books are listed in-stock; tomorrow, who knows? Today anyone can review a book on Amazon; tomorrow, not so much. Is it any wonder so many people cycle in and out of indie publishing? Even if everything goes completely right, we’re playing a game of long odds.

And yet, here we are.

IBPA member Nancy Gee, author/publisher of The Secret Drawer, tells us, “My grandchildren loved to hear the story over and over and told me I should write a book so that this amazing story could be shared with all children. And that is what I did!”

And IBPA member Garry Rogers, an advocate for nature in fiction and nonfiction, says, “At first, I wrote and published to report my discoveries. Then, I began writing and publishing to inspire emotion. Now I do both.”

These quotes come from the Featured Member section of the IBPA website (ibpa-online.org/about/featured-members). Over the past two years, this has become one of my favorite places online; I visit often. When I read about the motivations, success stories, and aspirations shared here, I am inspired by the ways members of IBPA’s community have taken on the weighty privilege of bringing stories written with intention and fearlessness to the minds and hearts of readers.

If you’re an IBPA member, I hope you’ve shared, or will share, your publishing story in this space. In doing that, you join healers, educators, bridge builders, comedians, therapists, and others committed to bravely communicating their very human desires, identities, politics, struggles, and joys to the greater world. It’s a powerful place.

What It Means to Members

The standard definition of publishing is the business of producing books, magazines, and so on to sell to the public (per Merriam Webster). In the end, this seems an inadequate definition, doesn’t it? “It took me two years to show a profit,” says IBPA member Barbara J. Genovese of Kolorwacks. “But this wasn’t about monetary profit. It was more intangible than that—and something that money couldn’t buy—the soul of an artist. It was also about having compassion for myself. Without rendering that for yourself, you’re lost.”

Before reading about Brenda’s motivations, I hadn’t thought of publishing as a means of rendering compassion for oneself. Now, this idea is integrated into the complex way I understand what it means to be successful as an indie publisher. I’m grateful for the additional perspective.

So, when the daily stressors seem to be closing in and you feel as if you might be losing the long game, I hope you’ll take that deep breath I mentioned before and check in with that part of you that knows it’s a magical and wonderful thing to be able to publish.

To help, I leave you with further thoughts and inspirations from members of the IBPA community. Enjoy! And don’t forget to share yours at (ibpa-online.org/about/featured-members).

“Publishing my first book and the overwhelmingly positive feedback I received boosted my confidence. Now I have all kinds of subjects that I want to write about.”—Helen Raleigh, author/publisher of Confucius Never Said

“Publishing is undergoing tremendous ‘climate change.’ I like the challenge of adapting and thriving.”—Dave Bricker, PubML

“It is important to me to be of service to others by sharing a new perspective on parenting, one based in spiritual ideology.”—Jeanmarie Wilson, Parenting from Your Soul

“It’s extremely satisfying to see the finished product: a beautiful book full of helpful info or humorous stories that many people will see/read/enjoy.”—Lisa Nordquist, Love Yourself Fit

“Being a teacher has allowed me to see firsthand what is missing at home and in the school system. I wanted to publish books that encourage kids to be leaders and to devote more of their time to reading.”—Taneeka Bourgeois-daSilva, Building Voices

Just before Angela Bole became IBPA’s Executive Director, 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. Angela also serves as Treasurer on the Board of Directors of IDPF, the International Digital Publishing Forum.

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