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Why We Keep Coming Back

by Robin Bartlett, with a little help from the Track Leaders for the 2008 Publishing University

Every year the Publishing University program becomes more robust. When I took over planning for it 15 years ago, it was a small, localized two-day program with 45 courses and about as many speakers. Today, it is internationally recognized, and it features three full days of programming, with 85 courses in eight tracks, four keynote speakers, early-bird sessions, and the Benjamin Franklin Awards ceremony. The organizational job has grown considerably and now requires the volunteer efforts of eight Track Leaders, 60 volunteer course organizers, and 170 volunteer speakers.

Year after year, the Publishing University planning team conducts member surveys, holds brainstorming meetings, contacts hundreds of volunteers, zaps out tons of email, makes programming changes, and looks forward to yet another Publishing University experience.

Why do we keep coming back and working for Publishing University? That’s the question I posed to this year’s Publishing University Track Leaders. Responses from them offer interesting insights into the program and help explain why it is such an exceptional learning event for new and experienced publishers alike.

It’s the Brain Food

Rod Colvin, publisher of Addicus Books and Editorial and Production Track Leader, has attended every Publishing University since 1995, partly because he knows he’ll get fresh ideas and new knowledge about publishing and marketing. “I have learned more about publishing from Publishing University than from all the other publishing courses and seminars I have ever attended,” Rod says. “Every year I make it a point to teach one or two courses and sit in on as many new courses as I can. I always come away from each year’s program with my brain jam-packed with new ideas and creative solutions to problems.”

Bob Baker, a recent newcomer to Publishing University, feels much the same way. Publisher of TheBuzzFactor.com, Bob is this year’s Internet Track Leader. “Attending Publishing University is the equivalent of cramming an MBA in publishing into your brain over a long weekend,” Bob says. Although he works in the field, he plans to attend several of the Internet courses himself, including Web Site Optimization, Web 2.0, Promoting and Selling E-Books, and Advanced Blogging.

Sharon Goldinger of PeopleSpeak, who organized the Advanced Track speakers and topics for experienced publishers, comes back to Publishing University because “you won’t find such a wealth of information and people in the publishing arena at one time anywhere else in the country.” She values learning more about independent publishing, picking up tips and tricks about a variety of areas from production to marketing (and everything in between), and talking with other publishers (both new and more experienced) to find the answers to questions such as:

How did you find working with this vendor?

Have you tried this marketing technique before?

What direct-mail program has been successful for your books?

Which printer did the best four-color job?

What was your experience with exhibiting at this trade show?

Might you be interested in doing some co-op marketing with my company and books?

Kate Bandos of KSB Promotions, who heads up the Basic Publicity Track, has attended Publishing University every year for more than 10 years. She likes to sit in on as many sessions as possible to hear what other experts, authors, and publishers are telling attendees and what attendees are saying to these experts. “Many times I pick up a new trick or two that I can pass on to better serve both our clients and the media. All the clients, authors, and publishers I talk with throughout the year always tell me how much Publishing University, the classes and contacts, mean to them,” she reports.

It’s Giving Back

Most of my career has been spent in publishing. I’ve worked in large companies and small, both profit and nonprofit. Along the way, there have always been people who have taken me by the hand, been my mentors, given me advice, and helped me achieve. So one of the reasons I keep coming to Publishing University is to give PMA members a little bit of what has been given to me.

Those who attend Publishing University find that this is not unusual. All the Publishing University speakers, course organizers, and participating members of the PMA board of directors are volunteers. No one is paid, and no one is reimbursed for expenses. All of us come and work in large part to give back to the people and industry that supported us when we got started.

It’s the People

Yes, there is one more major reason we keep coming back to Publishing University, and that is to meet with friends, people we have shared the podium with, stayed up late at night talking with, exchanged long phone calls with, people who have helped us learn our craft. Over the past 15 years, I have been fortunate enough to meet thousands of PMA members. The Publishing University attendees, speakers, course organizers, and members of the board are truly an amazing group . . . all with bright stars in their eyes, energy in their hearts, and high octane in their guts.

Marianne Bohr of NBN, the General Publishing Track Leader, shares my passion for the people at PMA-U. Remembering the first time she came, in the mid-’90s, she says she “was thrilled to find that there were so many other independent publishers just like me attending, all with the same problems and questions I had! I made several publishing friends at that first conference who are still close friends to this day.”

Although her role has changed now that she’s a speaker and organizer, she adds, “I continue to learn from fellow speakers and publisher attendees every year, and I’m always amazed to see how many innovative, refreshing titles come out each year from independents. Publishing has changed dramatically over the years, but it remains an industry filled with energetic, creative people from diverse backgrounds—and that is clearly evident at Publishing University.”

Brian Jud of Book Marketing Works, LLC, has also attended Publishing University for more than 10 years and stresses the benefits that come from networking with people who can help you apply the knowledge you have acquired. “Over the course of three days,” he points out, “you have the opportunity to meet distributors, printers, designers, editors, exhibitors, and others who can give you expert advice on organizing and implementing what you have learned.”

Publishers who have been chosen as Benjamin Franklin Award winners can also provide strategies for success, he adds, so it’s important to spend time looking at what they have accomplished. “Above all,” Brian says, “there are serendipitous meetings during classes, lunches, or breaks that can provide the spark you need to take your book to the top. You never know where or when your break will come, and Publishing University provides marvelous opportunities for building success.”

It’s Your Move

Now we have told you what keeps us coming back to Publishing University, but don’t take our word for it. If you click on the Publishing University link at pma-online.org, you can go through the class offerings in detail and see what’s in it for you and for the future success of your business.

If you’ve never attended Publishing University before, I assure you it will be the smartest money you ever spent on education for publishing. If you haven’t attended in a couple of years, it’s time for you to come back and plug into the new advanced track that’s been designed for returnees. And if you attended as recently as last year, you’ll be happy to know that 55 percent of the 2008 program is brand new. So, come, join us . . . you won’t be disappointed; I never have been.

Robin Bartlett, a senior account executive with the American Heart Association, is a frequent contributor to the Independent, a former member of the board of directors, and educational chair of Publishing University. To contact him, e-mail rbbartlett@aol.com or visit robinbartlett.com.

Robin’s Picks: Class Recommendations for Publishing University Attendees

For First-Timers

Classes with three-digit numbers take place on Tuesday; other classes take place on Wednesday and Thursday.

1B.Do It Yourself Author Web Sites 101, Bob Baker

5B.Blogging Basics for Authors and Publishers, Denise Wakeman

2C.Covers That Sell, Peri Poloni Gabriel

401.Speed-Dating Your Distributor, Marianne Bohr

1I.The Library Market, Sally Neher

601.Special Sales, Brian Jud and Dan Poynter

1E.Distributors, Wholesalers and Commissioned Reps, Davida Breier

1F.The PMA Basic Publicity Course I

2F.The PMA Basic Publicity Course II

503.How to Make Your Book a National Best Seller, John Kermer

5G.How to Be a Successful Publisher, Dominique Racah

6H.Create a Passion Plan to Sell Your Books, Kathleen Welton

1G.Budgeting, Marion Gropen

501.Top Ten Legal Issues, Lloyd Rich

For Returnees

4B.The Amazon Advantage, Bob Baker

602.Catching the Long Tail of POD, John Warren

4C.Between the Covers, Rod Colvin

1D.Transform One Product into Many, Paulette Ensign

702.Meet and Greet the Special Sales Buyers, Frank Gromling

3B.You’re On the Air! Brian Jud

2E.Marketing in Your Backyard, Dorothy Molstad

7B.Creating Hooks Beyond the Book, Antoinette Kuritz

4F.Online and Virtual Tours, Steve O’Keefe

5F.Media Relationships, Marika Flatt

3G.Get More Out of Your Amazon Page, Steve O’Keefe

2I.Trends in Bookselling at Barnes & Noble, Marcella Smith

502.Budgeting and Financial Planning, Tom Woll

2G.Fundamentals of Publishing Law and Update, Jonathan Kirsch

For Advanced Publishers (five-plus years)

Sign up for the Advanced Track Program on Wednesday; select classes marked “advanced” from choices offered on Thursday.

6C.Web 2.0 Book Marketing Strategies for Online Success, Penny Sansevieri

7H.Advanced Blogging, Nettie Hartsock

6D.Advanced Book Design, Peri Poloni Gabriel

7D.Build a Better Book, Bob Goodman

7G.Drill Down Deeper, Leigh Cohn

8F.All Booked Up, Paul Eno

5I.Harnessing the Power of PR, Nancy Hendrickson



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