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The Sharpest Tool, Left Unused, Is Worthless

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The Sharpest Tool, Left Unused, Is Worthless

by Stephen Blake Mettee

In 1882, licensed steamboat pilot and failed miner Mark Twain is said to have told a young audience, “A man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.”

If you’ll excuse me for it, I would like to paraphrase Mr. Twain: An IBPA member who does not use the many IBPA member benefits has no advantage over the publisher who is not a member.

No Caesar Salads

When we met on a sunny Portland, OR, day this past August, your assiduous board of directors agreed we should do something to make sure each IBPA member knows of and is using the numerous membership benefits to the most advantageous degree possible.

To this end, we agreed to do two things.

To illustrate the first, let me tell a possibly mythological story about a former CEO of Southwest Airlines who was fond of keeping things simple and focused. This CEO often reminded his Southwest employees that the key to the success of their company was that it was “the low-fare airline.”

As the story goes, Tracy from Marketing walked into his office and said, “Our surveys show that our passengers might enjoy a light entree on the Houston to Las Vegas flight. All we offer is peanuts. I think a chicken Caesar salad would be popular.”

“Tracy,” the CEO retorted, “will adding that chicken Caesar salad help make us the low-fare airline from Houston to Las Vegas? Because, if it doesn’t, we’re not serving any damn chicken salad.”

Using this profound story as our guide, we agreed, for the next year, to pass each decision we made concerning staff time or finances through a kind of prism. We would ask ourselves, “How does this help our members use our benefits?” The answer would drive our decision-making process.

Here’s an example. IBPA has hundreds, if not thousands, of Independent articles archived. To convert them all to be searchable on the new IBPA Web site—watch for the upcoming formal announcement!—would cost quite a bit.

We asked ourselves if spending this money would help our members use the Web site, one of IBPA’s most beefy benefits. The answer was, of course, a no-brainer, and we approved the expenditure.

The other thing we agreed to do was write this new “Tool Chest” column featuring one aspect or another of a member benefit every month. A sign-up sheet with a list of article submission deadlines for the next 12 months on it was passed around, and each board member signed up next to a date.

I don’t recall; maybe I got up to refill my coffee cup, but somehow I ended up with the first article—the one you’re reading now—which was due within two weeks.

Leaving the board table during a meeting is a dangerous thing to do. I once volunteered to be treasurer while I was out of the room taking a phone call from my grandmother.

What Our Benefits Survey Showed

Lisa Krebs, IBPA assistant director, recently conducted a member survey to ascertain which benefits members were aware of and which ones they used. She also asked survey participants to list any benefits not offered that they would like to see offered.

According to the results of the survey, the top five benefits used by members are:

FedEx Office. IBPA members can save 10 to 20 percent on all the printing, copying, and finishing services at any FedEx Office outlet.

Publishers Weekly Subscription.PW is the premier publication for the book publishing industry. IBPA members get to save one-third on new subscriptions and when renewing. IBPA members also save 50 percent on PW advertising and $50 on a PW Select Supplement listing.

Ingram Access. Even one-book publishers can benefit from the distribution strength of the largest wholesaler in the nation via this IBPA benefit.

Baker & Taylor Discount. Wholesaler B&T offers IBPA members a $50 discount on the company’s two premium programs. Libraries and retailers buy from B&T.

Copyright Clearance Center. As an IBPA member, you can preauthorize your titles free of charge in all Copyright Clearance Center’s programs. Preauthorizing your works with CCC allows content users to get instant copyright permission while enabling you to retain control of your work and set your own royalty fees. Revenue from the reuse of your material is like found money. If you aren’t using the CCC benefit, check it out.

The top three items mentioned in response to the question “What benefits should IBPA offer?” are:

• a beginner’s guide to publishing

• health insurance

• e-book conversion services

You can bet Lisa and the rest of the staff are all over this. Watch this space for further developments.

To learn about the latest IBPA benefits, see “IBPA Ask the Experts Online: Now Open for Members” in this issue. To find a complete list of benefits, go to ibpa-online.org and click on the Member Benefits button. Spend a few minutes getting acquainted with each one.

Stephen Blake Mettee serves as chairman of the board of IBPA and is the founder of Quill Driver Books and The Write Thought. He sporadically blogs at TheWriteThought.com/blog.

Advice, Inspiration, and Industry Issues

One of the most popular IBPA benefits is the one you’re holding, the Independent, brilliantly edited by Judith Appelbaum. Each month it brings you practical, up-to-date information on how to cope with this ever-changing industry.

Howard Straus, president of Totality Books, recently dropped IBPA assistant director Lisa Krebs a note praising the Independent: “I read the Independent cover to cover as soon as it arrives. I am mostly a one-man operation, so any clues, hints, or tips are very helpful. I also carefully read and note the ads for services that I can or might use in the future.” Mark Twain would be proud.

If you read the August 2011 edition, you learned:

• how publishers are making use of QR codes

• when e-book conversion makes sense and what your options are

• answers to questions you probably never thought to ask (but should) about copyrights

• what issues to focus on in considering the development process, costs, and benefits of creating

a book app

• seven things you definitely should never do when networking online

The Independent also delivers a healthy dose of inspiration each month. The August 2011 issue includes a wrap-up of a four-part series on IBPA members’ bestsellers and how they came to be bestsellers.

Advocacy, the Hidden Benefit

The Independent Book Publishers Association mission is “to advocate for, support and educate our members, and to improve the standards of independent publishing.”

A lot of the advocacy is done in ways that don’t show up on the radar.

For instance, IBPA president Florrie Binford Kichler serves on boards of book business organizations such as the Book Industry Study Group and the Book Expo America Conference Advisory Board, representing the interests and concerns of independent publishers.

And IBPA executive director Terry Nathan regularly steps in with a kind of one-on-one advocacy, mediating issues between members and printers, wholesalers, distributors, retailers, and other industry participants.

He says, “Advocating for our members’ rights takes many forms, whether it is just teaching a member the realities of the business (without squashing their dreams), or working with a major company to encourage change.”

Terry serves on the Book Expo America Executive Steering Committee.



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