PMA members appear to be
optimistic about the future of independent book publishing, even if they are
somewhat less positive about their own enterprises, according to the results of
a new membership survey.
The survey was part random sample,
part voluntary, and conducted this summer through SurveyMonkey.com. We created
a random sample from the member database, then invited the selected publishers
to answer questions on a confidential basis. As of this writing, about 3.5
percent of the membership have answered nearly 50 multiple-choice questions
designed to elicit material about member publishers, ideas about how PMA might
serve its members better, and information about readership of <span
Here’s a summary of what we
about the future of independent book publishing
· Negative, 0 percent
· Somewhat negative, 16 percent
· Somewhat optimistic, 40 percent
· Very optimistic, 37 percent
of respondent’s enterprise
· Healthy and fulfilling its
mission, 54 percent
· No longer growing, but still
fulfilling its mission, 6 percent
· Struggling to fulfill its mention,
· Unable to fulfill its mission,
struggling to survive, 3 percent
Respondents said their biggest
challenge is in marketing—primarily obtaining reviews and publicity and
finding effective trade distribution. Ranked second were financial
issues—primarily receivables and related cash-flow problems.
The PMA membership is a mix of new
and experienced publishers. If these results accurately profile the entire
membership, as I believe they do, about 20 percent of you have been publishing
less than a year. The biggest segment consists of those of you who have worked
in publishing for two to five years, and about 30 percent of you have been in
the field for more than a decade.
you got started
Two out of three publishers who
took the survey got into publishing by founding a new press. More than 80
percent self-financed their growth. About half are self-publishers, and about
one out of three describe themselves as niche publishers.
More than 95 percent of the
respondents publish traditional ink-and-paper books, but close to 20 percent
also publish Web-based content and e-books. Specific areas most often
mentioned, in order, were general nonfiction, children/juvenile, fiction,
self-help, and academic/education.
More than 60 percent reported
having 1 to 5 titles in print. Judging from other responses, I suspect the
average number within this response group is closer to 1 than to 5. On the
other end, close to 15 percent reported having more than 26 titles in print,
with about 7 percent having more than 100.
About 80 percent report publishing
fewer than 5 titles a year, and about half the responses from that segment are
from publishers who said their annual average of new releases was “fewer than
1.” At the other end, 4 percent said they publish 26 to 100 new titles a year,
and about 3 percent publish more than 100 new titles annually.
Based on the survey results, it
appears that more than 90 percent of you run profit-seeking enterprises, though
you’re not necessarily making a profit. Slightly less than half of you reported
making a profit in 2004. About 50 percent reported sales of less than $10,000;
about 30 percent reported sales between $10,000 and $100,000; and the balance
reported sales in excess of $100,000, with about 7 percent reporting sales in
excess of $1 million.
Asked the question, In the context
of your own enterprise, how many copies sold of your own edition(s) represents
“best seller” status? about half of you said 5,000 to 20,000 copies; about 15
percent said 20,000 to 50,000 copies; and 5 percent said 50,000 to 100,000.
Many said the question was not applicable.
The regional breakdown of
membership: 35 percent western U.S., 27 percent northeastern and mid-Atlantic
U.S., 18 percent midwestern and central U.S., 16 percent southeastern U.S., and
a small percentage of Canadian and other outside-the-U.S. members.
Clearly, PMA’s membership is
growing. Nearly one in four members joined during the past year. The largest
response, about half, was from publishers who had been members 1 to 5 years.
About 5 percent of you have been members 10 to 20 years.
10 programs and benefits
Respondents rated the value of
specific PMA programs and benefits as follows:
Cooperative marketing programs
Benjamin Franklin Awards
Affiliate support programs
PMA-staffed exhibits at BEA
Here are the top six priorities
that respondents mentioned when asked what PMA can do to become more valuable
· Add more cooperative marketing
· Offer interactive, Web-based
· Plan more regional training
· Add more discount programs
· Help establish more affiliate
At one place in the survey,
respondents were given space to “share in more detail any suggestions you may
have how PMA can better serve its members.” Although most comments were
positive, and the overall results indicated a high level of satisfaction among
PMA members, still, there was some grumbling.
Complaints from individuals
costs and results of the co-op marketing programs.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> I believe these programs are priced fairly, for the
most part, but PMA is reviewing them to weed out those that are not working.
The staff plans to begin conducting instant surveys of publishers who take part
in co-op marketing programs to get more immediate feedback.
and content of the PMA Web site, <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Upgrading the Web site within the next year is a high
priority for PMA staff, with the goals of making it more user-friendly and a
more effective research tool. An index to PMA Independent<span
class=95StoneSerifIt> may be
added to help members access archived articles more easily.
costs of PMA’s Publishing University.
Jan is painfully aware of this issue. You would not believe the hotel charges!
We’ve thought about moving PMA-U to a less expensive city, but the problem is
that we recruit speakers who can volunteer their expertise only because our
event is tied to BEA in terms of time and place. Thus, any saving that resulted
from moving it would be eaten up by having to pay expenses for speakers. Still,
Jan is investigating new ways to hold the line on costs. Also, please know that
one of the board’s highest priorities is to develop a program of low-cost,
Web-based training for all members.
About 60 percent of the survey
respondents said PMA
Independent is their “primary source of news” about publishing,
with a combination of Web-based newsletters and e-forums, and <span
coming in a distant second and third.
About half the respondents read
the newsletter “always” and another 30 percent read it “most of the time.” When
asked, Do you trust the accuracy of information in the PMA newsletter? 36
percent said “always” and another 61 percent said “most of the time.”
These 10 subjects were ranked the
· Articles about marketing,
publicity, and promotion
· Bylined articles by guest experts
· Roundups of reports by PMA members
on experiences and strategies for success
· Columns by PMA executive director
· Articles about editorial and
· Columns by the PMA president
· Articles about publishing
· Information about co-op marketing
· Articles about design and
· Articles about financial
The survey also contained this
question: Reviewing your experience working with book printers, how satisfied
were you? Nearly 80 percent reported being “satisfied” or “mostly satisfied.”
When the results were filtered to show responses of newer publishers, the
satisfaction level was lower, suggesting that training new publishers to work
with printers should be an ongoing task for PMA.
As always, I welcome your comments
and ideas for the association—on this subject and any others. Please
contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.