by Terry Nathan
The PMA Office: A Flurry of Activity
The PMA office is humming this time of year. Phones are ringing. People are coming and going. Trucks, filled with books, are lining up outside the door. Emails fill our inboxes.
What is happening? This is our busy season, and all the actions we’re taking reflect the numerous programs we offer our members. Here is a sampling of what is causing the stir:
The Benjamin Franklin Awards
For the past few months, we have been receiving entries for this year’s Benjamin Franklin Awards. The deadline for registration was December 31, and of course most of the entries arrived here between Christmas and the first week of January. The office was quickly transformed into a book warehouse, with books stacked wall to wall.
For this year’s competition, we have a total of 1,800 entries for the 52 categories. Each entry means five copies of the book, so we have 9,000 books on hand. At one point I was a little concerned that our system of stacking the books all over the office might not be the most efficient. But then I recalled my visit to the offices of Publishers Weekly, our industry’s main trade magazine, where I observed that they use the same storage system. What a relief.
We don’t keep the books for long; we quickly ship them to the 156 book professionals who serve as judges for the awards.
The Trade Distribution Program
For many publishers, connecting with a national trade distributor is a challenge. With roughly 90,000 publishers in the United States today and only a handful of trade distributors, it is difficult for a small publisher to get a valid shot at a distribution program. That’s why, 15 years ago, we and the Independent Publishers Group (IPG) put the Trade Distribution Program in place. Over the years, hundreds of PMA members have been selected for distribution through this program, and we are sure to add hundreds more in the future.
Books are considered for the program twice a year, and each time close to 200 books are collected, boxed up, and sent off for the committee to review, along with information about marketing plans that their publishers supply.
Believe it or not, we are preparing for four major trade shows as I write. These include the Public Library Association Show (St. Paul, MN, March 2008), BookExpo America (Los Angeles, CA, May 2008), the American Library Association Annual Conference (Anaheim, CA, June 2008), and the Frankfurt International Bookfair (Frankfurt, Germany, October 2008). At each of these shows, we not only display members’ books in the PMA racks; we also reserve a block of booths for PMA members who want to set up their own displays.
Publishers Weekly Advertising
In conjunction with Small Press Month, celebrated each year in March, we purchase advertising space in PW that includes the front cover and the opening pages. Typically, 100 to 150 members participate in this ad package, which, in most cases, provides the only opportunity our members have to see their books featured on the cover of our industry’s largest magazine.
Small Press Month
To help promote Small Press Month, we work closely with the New York Center for Independent Publishing (formerly the Small Press Center). Let us know if you’d like Small Press Month posters.
Our flagship event each year is the PMA Publishing University, which is held during the three days just before BookExpo America starts. This year’s event—May 27–29 at the Wilshire Grand Hotel in Los Angeles—is sure to be our best ever. Four keynote addresses are planned, and more than 75 seminars will be offered over the three days. The office has been a beehive of planning for the past few months, and we are always excited about the University, knowing how many publishers, new and old, we will be helping.
Other Educational Offerings
Our group’s original mission was to bring affordable marketing programs to our membership, hence the name Publishers Marketing Association. Over the years, education has become at least equally key to our mission, and this year we are fueling up to keep the educational engine going. Our monthly Web seminars deliver the educational experience in the comfort of your own office or home. We have an exciting slate of sessions already planned, and more to come.
Over the past few years, the PMA board of directors has been working diligently to offer interesting opportunities to midsized and larger publishers. One of these offerings is our annual PMA Grad School, which will be offered on May 29, 2008, in Los Angeles. A professional facilitator will lead the group through many interesting topics of special interest and value to larger publishers.
This year marks the 25-year anniversary for PMA. We are planning some large celebrations that will take place during Publishing University and BEA. Stay tuned . . .
Who Is Making All This Happen?
In the midst of all this activity, there still is calm. Beautiful calm. And that is thanks in large part to the people working here.
Lisa Krebs has been working with PMA now for close to 10 years, and she is involved with many of the office responsibilities. For many of you, she is the voice you hear on the phone when you call us with questions or challenging situations. In between the myriad of calls and emails, she maintains our Web site and interacts with our Web host. She also watches over the marketing programs, organizes and hosts the Online University courses, and keeps the staff up to date on the many programs, both old and new, offered here at PMA. She stays busy from the minute she walks through the door and is always easygoing and compassionate.
Susan Nicoletti came to work with us about four years ago. Early on, she directed the activities of the Lifetime Literacy Foundation, the charitable arm of PMA. More recently, she began reporting on the achievements of our members in the Member News section of PMA Independent. She is a natural, making the hard work that goes into writing seem effortless. In between phone calls and emails, she also has taken charge of all our catalog mailings over the past few years. Last year she added music to our Benjamin Franklin Awards celebration, and truly brought the Awards program to a new level. Susan is a very talented person, and we are lucky to have her working with us.
Andrea Nathan has been working with PMA longer than anyone else. She started back in the early 1990s, and has done just about everything here. She is now responsible for Vendor Relations, keeping you informed of the services offered by suppliers to our business. She works with people who advertise in the Independent and the resource directory and on our Web site, and also arranges all the exhibits for our annual Publishing University. Andrea is by far the most organized and reliable person I have ever worked with. She is also calm and level-headed when most people would crumble under the pressure. And I’m not just saying that because she is married to my brother. A lot of what I do, I learned from her.
April McDuffy has been working with us as an administrative assistant for just over a year now. It seems longer than that because she already knows a bit about everything. She approaches her work with enthusiasm. April is one of the first voices many of you hear when you call the office, and from what I have seen, she is very helpful to most who call.
Kirstin Tombar, who recently started working with us, jumped right in, opening boxes, answering phones, opening and processing the mail, and showing a willingness to do anything. I am sure she will be a wonderful addition to the staff and I have a feeling she will be answering many of your questions for years to come.
Along with these folks, we have some excellent independent contractors working with us. John Webster and Francie Droll of Abacus Graphics have been our designers for more than 10 years now. They design all our publications and marketing materials. I would be lost without them. They are invaluable as a creative team.
Robin Bartlett, our educational chairperson, continues to do a spectacular job. He is a master at making people want to volunteer and then getting those volunteers to perform. Events such as PMA University would not exist without the volunteer work of dozens of industry people. Robin has been successful in growing the University program, continually developing new courses. Also, he has recently taken on the responsibility of developing the PMA Grad School, and I know his efforts will yield growth for that program in the years ahead.
We are in the process of bringing on a new full-time staff person responsible for marketing and publicizing PMA to the publishing industry. We believe that the person who fills this position will enhance public awareness about our excellent offerings.
I love this time of year. There is so much happening here at PMA, and it is obvious to me that the world of independent publishing is thriving!