My first encounter with PMA was in 1988. ABA (now BEA) was in San Francisco, and I got wind that there would be some seminars for small publishers. Small I was; I had just barely grown from publishing a small magazine produced on my diningroom table to a small magazine and a few small books in a small actual office in my small town of Loveland, Colorado. Small was beautiful, but not necessarily easy. I needed help.
The session I remember so well from that first PMA University was the free-for-all book critique, in which other small publishers vied for the chance to present their titles to a panel of experts. These experts did not hold back in giving advice. “Nobody’s going to be able to read that spine on the shelf in a bookstore. Here’s what you should do.””Did you forget the ISBN number? Here’s where you get one, and here’s where you should place it.””This book has great potential for premium sales, and here’s who you can talk to about that.””The cover is eye-catching, but the title will confuse a potential buyer. Why don’t you try this?” And so on. Real, nitty-gritty, smart, specific advice. That one session was worth a million bucks to me—not just for the know-how I picked up, but also for the experience of being among other people with the same problems, concerns, and passion for publishing.
Fifteen or so years and a couple of hundred titles later, it’s payback time. As the newly elected President of the PMA Board of Directors, I’m in the lucky position of having a chance to work with an amazing network of board members, regional affiliates, member publishers, service providers, and an Executive Director who works miracles on a daily basis. All of these people are devoted to promulgating excellence in independent book publishing through a spirit of sharing.
Since my early first encounter, this organization has grown to have a membership of more than 3,500 and a vast array of programs and services. We have a presence in the world of publishing far beyond what most of us would have predicted in those early days. Our opportunities for continued education, industry research, information-sharing, and mutual support are boundless. If you’re a seasoned member of PMA, you’re probably in the habit of making your thoughts and needs known; reticence isn’t generally a trait of independent publishers. If you’re a newer member—maybe feeling a little shy because of a lack of experience or your company’s small size, get over it! PMA is about empowerment. Use the programs, check the Web site, get in touch with fellow members, write, phone, e-mail, volunteer. Let’s make good things happen together.