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Profiting from Publishing University: Members Share Valuable Lessons They Learned

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by Terry Nathan

Executive Director

Profiting from Publishing University: Members Share Valuable Lessons They Learned

Happy New Year! Have you made your resolutions yet? If not, let me help you out. I hereby challenge each and every one of you to get better at the business of publishing this year.

And what better way than by attending our 25th annual Publishing University, which will take place May 26–28, 2009, in New York City? There is plenty of time to make your plans, but don’t delay. I have never heard an attendee complain about the sizable return on investment.

After our 2008 Publshing University, I asked attendees to share the most valuable things they learned, and now I’m about to share some of their very interesting responses with you. My goal is not only to encourage you to attend the 2009 Publishing University, but also to provide you with insights from your fellow IBPA members.

I have told people that I feel as though I got a Harvard MBA in publishing crammed into just a few days at Publishing University. It was total immersion learning that was sometimes so content-rich that I felt that my head was spinning.

But the most valuable thing I brought back was the feeling of being empowered. When I arrived, I felt like a very small fish in a very large pond; but when I left, I felt as though I could conquer the world of publishing, and that feeling continues. The friends I made were so supportive that I no longer feel as though I’m going it alone.

One of the smartest things I did was order the CDs of all the sessions. I now can take Pub U with me wherever I go, listening and learning as I work, drive, or wait in line. Each session is so laden with information that I often find myself stopping partway through so I can go back to take additional notes on things that that mean more in the light of information given later in the session. During the sessions, I didn’t have this rewind ability and often felt that I couldn’t take notes fast enough.

I know that I will be replaying the CDs for a long time. Each suggestion I use in my business leads me to search for further depth in the talks.

IBPA is the most supportive organization. I am already making plans to attend in 2009 in New York.

Peggy Gaffney, Kanine Knits

Two valuable things:

1. How RSS really works, and how people like me with their own blogs can easily syndicate information to their Amazon page (way cool!), Facebook, MySpace, etc.

2. The opportunity to interact informally, and that was invaluable.

Braun Mincher, Braun Media, LLC

I learned that I’m not a book publisher; I’m a packager of information. The university really got me to think, “How else can I use the information I’ve gathered to make money?” I developed a long list of ideas back then. Now I just need to make it happen!

Kristine Gerber, Eventive Marketing/Omaha Books

The best tip I heard came from Cynthia Frank during her session on book shepherding: “Honor your strengths and outsource your weaknesses.” Brilliant (not to mention comforting)!

Courtenay S. Brown, BuilderBooks.com

As a first-time author, I found the 2008 Publishing University definitely an eye-opener. My bad news, walking away with more questions than answers. My good news, finding out what I need to seek out and being exposed to subject-matter experts.

Arlene Johnson, Sinequanon Group, Inc.

The most valuable thing I learned is the most scary thing I learned—that the average return rate is 30 percent. The most valuable thing I heard was the scariest thing I heard—“We are here because we love books, not because we love to make money”—from a distributor. I did learn a lot and hope to return this coming year.

Matt Chalek, Odysseyworks USA

The most valuable thing I learned at the 2008 Pub U wasn’t from any of the classes, or at least not directly. I attended Speed-Dating Your Distributor because my company was searching for the “right fit.” Almost immediately, I found the distributor I wanted and asked for a personal appointment. I ended up waiting all day, missing several classes, and looking like a complete loser, sitting in the ballroom by myself, just to speak with him. But he signed up the book I was pitching.

The whole Pub U was wonderful, but that one event made my week. So I guess I learned that patience and perseverance really are virtues, especially when you’re waiting for important people to notice that you’re still waiting for that meeting.

Carrie White, Glass House Press

Licensing was really a new area for me. I felt I learned a lot from the Advanced Track, and that was one of the most useful.

Shel Horowitz, Accurate Writing & More / AWM Books

The most important thing I learned at the Publishing University: People in the book industry did not like my cover—painful news but important.

Virginia Novak, Blinking Light Publishing

Here are the three most valuable things I learned at PMA University:

1. I learned what a distributor is and why I needed one. A distributor is a critical player if you expect to sell books through bookstores. I now have one, one I met at Publishing University!

2. I learned that there has to be ample time between requests for reviews and the official publication date. If there isn’t, you lose your chance for critical reviews.

3. I learned the critical importance of a good and effective cover design. And once I appreciated the amazing number of new titles out there each year and the tiny blink of time a book will be in the hands of a prospective buyer, bookseller, or reviewer, I understood that the cover creates the impression they are left with, no matter how good the contents are.

Oh yeah, one more thing. I learned that the people in the independent publishing world are extremely helpful and encouraging to everyone. Even though we are competing, there was a great sense of community that I found quite refreshing.

I extend my thanks to you, the IBPA staff, the instructors, and everyone who attended. I feel like I know what I’m doing now! At least a little bit.

Bill Hirsch, Dalsimer Press Inc.

The most valuable thing I learned was at the workshop on Word of Mouth Buzz Advertising—take the one thing that an author is strongest or most knowledgeable about and focus on that. And step outside of the box to be fun and exciting.

After learning so much at Pub U, I decided to work on blogging, my Web site, and emailing everyone I knew. Within one month, I had 400 hits on my site; my rankings were amazing on Barnes & Noble online; and I was booked for an NPR show with Dr. Barton Goldsmith, someone I met during my book signing at the IBPA booth.

Janet Spurr, Falmouth Heights Books

I enjoyed Pub U, although I wasn’t happy to hear that I’m going to have to expand my online presence with all these new networking tools. Can’t imagine where I’ll find the time. It helped to have people there to explain them.

Pat Ricks, Pemberley Press

As a newbie publisher attending my first Publishing University, what didn’t I learn! I’m only sorry I couldn’t have cloned myself so I could have attended more of the sessions.

The entire experience was amazing. I am most grateful indeed to IBPA and all the wonderful volunteers, staff, speakers, and exhibitors for giving me such an incredible opportunity, in such a totally supportive setting, to learn more about the publishing business.

If I had to choose the most valuable thing, it would be the early morning Ask the Experts sessions, where I was able to have virtually one-on-one meetings with a financial reporting expert, the editor-in-chief of ForeWord Magazine, the president of IPG, and several other experts.

Learning the basic economics of using a distributor for our books (e.g., as a rough rule of thumb, we can expect to gross only about one-third of the retail price after discounts and commissions, out of which we have to pay author royalties, printing, shipping, and marketing, and hopefully make a bit of a profit), and getting expert advice about which publishing and accounting software would be best for a company of our size, were the two most valuable nuggets.

But connections I made at Publishing University were perhaps even more important; one of them resulted in an offer from a national distributor to handle our books.

So, thank you, Terry and all of IBPA for being such a fabulous and totally amazing organization! I am looking forward to many more years of working with all of you.

Terry Tegnazian, Aquila Polonica (U.S.) Ltd.

A tough question but, overall, the reconfirmation that I can be a successful publisher, especially with the support of an organization like IBPA, was most valuable.

George Goddard, 29 Chances Press

At the top of the list: the opportunity to pick the brains of the experts in the areas where I most needed advice. For me, those were publicity and marketing. By seeking out publicists, I was able to get a consensus about the direction I should take with my one and only (so far) title.

A huge list of technical things I could do to pursue the publicity goals they suggested was next on the list. Those were provided by Lars Clausen, The Blog Squad, and Steve O’Keefe. I’m in better control of my Web sites and have become much more knowledgeable about finding my way around on Amazon and taking better advantage of Amazon’s various marketing aids.

Jean Boggio, Colerith Press

I got the most out of the On the Air class and especially appreciated the mock interview, which gave me an idea of how I needed to compress my answers.

Patricia Tsang, Balance for Health Publishing

I attended two printing workshops that quickly helped me make more informed choices for our book design and packaging. I feel I have a greater range of options now that I know more about what’s available. I’ve been in publishing some 20 years and appreciated the opportunity to hear the latest from the print industry.

Naomi Bradley, William Carey Library Publishers

The investment I made in attending the Publishing University will be repaid from the contacts I made and the information I received. I learned the importance of a good publicist and publicity. Publicity is the next step in my evolution as a publisher, and the individuals I met will help me achieve this goal.

Publishing University is a great program that condenses everything needed into a number of highly informative sessions.

John W. Schmid, Project Roar Publishing

The most valuable thing I learned at the 2008 Publishing University is that publishing is an art. What a joy to be reminded of that!

BTW, I loved Dominique Raccah’s presentation. That very early moment made me realize I was sitting in exactly the right place.

Marsha Hunter, Crown King Books



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