by Terry Nathan
The Name Has Changed, but the Soul Remains the Same
In 1983, a group of 15 southern California publishers got together with the beginnings of a wonderful idea. None of them could afford to attend the annual convention of the American Booksellers Association, which was out of state that year, so they decided to pool their funds and send my mother, Jan Nathan. Off she went with all their books, and guess what? It worked!
She returned from the show excited about possibilities, and the Publishers Association of Southern California was born. The acronym PASCAL was quite hip in the early ’80s. The group began with many local meetings and quickly saw that national marketing was one of the largest challenges each local publisher faced.
The concept of cooperative marketing became the backbone of the association, and shortly after my mom returned from the ABA show, the board of directors got to work on identifying useful marketing programs. PMA continued attending the major industry trade shows, including ABA, ALA, and Frankfurt, and also tested other shows, both inside and outside the book trade. In due course, direct mail programs to bookstores, libraries, and book reviewers proved successful, as did advertising in major trade journals such as Publishers Weekly and Library Journal.
Name Change #1
The group quickly gathered steam, and as it rolled out of southern California and across the country, the PASCALboard of directors found itself facing a challenge: changing the name of the group to better reflect what it was and what it did. After exhaustive exploration, PASCAL became the Publishers Marketing Association (PMA).
We continued to identify new programs and perfect the marketing programs being offered, and we quickly realized that educational opportunities were equally important, if not more important. Our monthly publication has been the most useful tool for educating the membership on a regular basis, and our annual Publishing University has been one of the most popular educational events anywhere in the industry. Today, as the Benjamin Franklin Awards celebrates its 20th anniversary, we offer one of the most respected awards programs in the book world.
Also, we’ve been passionate about defending and advocating for the rights of small and independent publishers. When distributors were unacceptably slow in paying, we weighed in with a collective voice. When we discovered a publisher repackaging our members’ titles illegally, we had the practice stopped. We have opened doors at national distributors and wholesalers that otherwise would not have given our smaller members the time of day.
Over our years of doing business, we have become known as one of the most influential groups in the publishing industry. Today we work hand in hand with many influential people and groups in the book-publishing industry, with a seat on the board of the Book Industry Study Group, and support for the efforts of the Media Coalition.
And Now . . .
Well, you know what has happened yet again. You got it. Our name no longer properly reflects our association’s work—and impact—and, for the second time, we have faced the challenge of finding a name that better reflects what we are doing. Only this time, the decision is quite a bit harder.
A few years ago, we decided to change the name slightly, to PMA, the Independent Book Publishers Association. Now we are officially dropping “PMA.” Soon we will be known as the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), which is a much better reflection of who we are and what we do.
You will have to forgive me for using “we” and “PMA” interchangeably throughout this column. But please understand, I grew up with PMA. This year I will be 45 years old, and for more than half my life I have been living, eating, and breathing PMA — first from afar, and then, starting 16 years ago this month, from within.
This name change has been a very painful process for me, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. I believe we are now holding back the potential of this wonderful group and, while I (understandably, I guess) have been resistant to this change, the time has come.
Regardless of what we are called, we will continue to work hard to level the playing field for small and independent book publishers. We will do that through low-cost marketing programs, educational opportunities, and advocacy, as well as by simply being a place to turn to when you have a question.
The industry has changed quite a bit since 1983, and so have we. I applaud the board of directors for changing our name, although the new one still feels awkward to me, and I have a feeling it will for a while. I feel as if I am saying goodbye to a lifelong friend who is moving away. But I know that, just as a friendship can continue after a move, PMA will always live inside IBPA as the heart and soul of this group.