As Angela Bole (photo below-right) is celebrating her first anniversary as IBPA’s executive director, we’re turning this column’s spotlight on her, to learn what impresses her about independent book publishing.
Her greatest concern for IBPA members: “Small publishers who jump into partnerships without first understanding all their options,” says Bole, who came to IBPA from the Book Industry Study Group. “The term independent really is a misnomer. Whether you’re a traditional publisher or a self-publisher, strong partnerships are key to sustaining your business.”
The best partners, she advises, are industry professionals “who are blatantly honest about what they can and can’t do for you. And, of course, what they can do for you should be something you can’t do for yourself.”
Finding the right partners to complement what you can do for yourself—whether they’re authors, editors, designers, illustrators, photographers, publicists, wholesalers, distributors, or retailers—increases the chances that you can develop quality content and market it to the right audience across multiple sales channels, that you can be competitive in today’s market.
“I believe very strongly that professionalism matters,” Bole declares. “It’s an exciting time to be an indie publisher; the technological barriers to entry have never been lower. The corollary to this, of course, is that an infinite array of con- tent is available to consumers. This means it has never been easier to publish, or harder to be discovered.”
Bole, who grew up in South Bend, IN, and earned a B.A. at Indiana University, got her start as a bookseller, with a year and a half at Main Event, a large Jackson, WY, and book and music store. “I loved working for Main Event,” she says. “Everyone in the book business should consider working in a bookstore. It helps you understand what consumers gravitate toward.”
Besides giving her a good look at customer preferences for books and for sidelines and music, “Main Event provided a gateway to everything in my career,” Bole recalls. “I was working there when I won an American Booksellers Association scholarship to BookExpo America.”
“Wow!” she says. “I’d never seen anything like it. I was such a tiny, tiny fish in that huge, huge sea. I knew nothing, and I wanted to know everything. A couple of years later, I moved to New York City to attend New York University’s graduate program in book publishing.”
Fast forward almost a decade. Bole is still excited by publishing. And she doesn’t sound one bit intimidated about the changes that seem to be coming faster and faster: “Every day of my professional career I’ve felt that we constantly have to innovate.”
One more major change in publishing may come when people who have grown up reading on digital devices begin developing both content and devices and managing the use of digital content. “I don’t think print books will go away— not at all,” says Bole. “But it will be interesting to see what happens when this new generation hits the workforce in meaningful management positions. Intuitive digital design is going to evolve in fascinating ways—and I’m looking for- ward to it!”
Shorter term, Bole is focusing on IBPA management challenges, including member benefit “For example, we migrated the library promotional catalog from print to an e-blast program. Now, any publisher who participates in our library marketing program can receive detailed information about the librarians who click on its titles.”
Another change: a Website for Benjamin Franklin Digital Awards program to showcase each honoree and connect each to social media platforms.
“And, of course, we recently launched a new cloud-based online learning platform that should help our members connect to quality educational content without leaving their offices,” says the executive director, who expects this to be a place for members to access content 24/7 in many diff rent categories—including but not limited to content about e-books, marketing, and distribution.
“Right now we’ve got all the basics in there,” she reports, adding, “It’s fun to know that it will grow as we move forward.”