You've decided to establish yourself as an independent publisher and start a micro press by self-publishing your first book. You've read the books written by the gurus in the industry, but you're just not sure where to turn to get the answers to questions that apply to your specific situation. You don't know where to find a network of people who have chosen the same path. And there seem to be so many different ways of conducting your business, that you've become overwhelmed by all the options.
- Where can you go to learn more about publishing?
- How can you, as a micro publisher, possibly market your books as successfully as the big guys?
- Who can help when you need support or advice about a problem?
If you have any of those concerns, there is a non-profit organization you need to know about: PMA-The Independent Book Publishers Association.
PMA was founded in 1983 as the Publishers Marketing Association and has grown their membership to over 4000 independent publishers. The organization provides cooperative marketing programs, education, and advocacy for independent publishers of all sizes and experience levels.
“…introduce your book to librarians, bookstores, reviewers, schools, and targeted markets…”
Cooperative Marketing Programs
At the cornerstone of PMA's inception, the cooperative marketing programs introduce your book to librarians, bookstores, reviewers, schools, and targeted markets through direct mailings. PMA maintains a presence at major book industry trade shows and provides visibility for your books by promoting them in their booth.
PMA's annual publishing conference coincides with the Book Expo America, one of the world's largest publishing industry trade shows. PMA-Publishing University is held for the three days prior to BEA in whichever city (NYC, Chicago, Washington D.C. or Los Angeles) is scheduled to host BEA that year. PMA-U provides educational seminar sessions covering a broad spectrum of publishing concerns. The various seminar tracks for 2007 included: general business advice, Internet, finance, legal, design and editorial, marketing, sales, and publicity.
At PMA-U this May, there were a total of 71 sessions to choose from the eight program tracks. This is a small sampling of the session topics: Building a Five-Year Business Plan, How to Have a Successful Bookstore Event, Creating a Book Hook, The A-Z Guide to Selling Rights, Creating Profitable Product Line Extensions, How to Get Booked on Radio and TV, P&L for Publishers and Acquisitions Editors, Advanced Internet Publicity: Online Author Tours, and Avoiding the Slush-Pile: Creating Media and Sales Kits That Really Work.
“…seminar tracks for 2007 included: general business advice, Internet, finance, legal, design and editorial, marketing, sales, and publicity.”
Without question, attending PMA-U was the single most beneficial investment I've made since deciding to start a micro press. It was an invaluable opportunity to find out about new trends in the industry, meet and network with other independent publishers, and learn more about the publishing industry than I ever could have done on my own.
During the year, PMA also arranges for monthly online/teleclasses on topics like those covered at the conference.
PMA also puts out a monthly, printed newsletter The Independent, which contains 48 pages of useful articles on various topics of concern to independent publishers.
The PMA member discounts are another exceptional benefit. There are significant discounts on shipping with Fed-Ex, discounts for Publisher's Weekly, the Book Sense “Advanced Access Program”, health and liability insurance, advertising, merchant credit card accounts, and a long list of other discounts that more than make up the cost of a yearly membership.
PMA has become a recognized and respected organization in the publishing industry and has recently begun building a program for publisher advocacy to assist members in dealing with problems involving larger corporate entities regarding returns and distribution.
The Ingram Wholesale Acceptance Program and the Trade Distribution Acceptance Program are the gateways to getting your book into bookstores. The Ingram Wholesale Acceptance Program allows for an independent publisher's book(s) to be listed in the database and stocked with Ingram, the major wholesaler who fulfills bookstore orders. The Trade Distribution Program places the publisher's books with a distributor whose sales team promotes and sells the publisher's books to bookstore buyers and assists in establishing national and international distribution to those markets.
PMA also sponsors the annual Benjamin Franklin Awards, an award for excellence in independent publishing.
“Information sharing is the #1 way to be successful.”
Regional affiliate organizations
There are over twenty PMA affiliates across the United States. Joining an affiliate group allows publishers to meet in person at monthly meetings to work together on cooperative marketing strategies, learn more about specific publishing topics from scheduled professional speakers, as well as, seek advice and professional relationships with other publishers living and working in the same region. In addition to PMA, I also belong to my regional affiliate, the Publishing Association of Los Angeles (PA-LA). The affiliate groups are quite active and valuable for staying connected.
Carlene Sippola, an independent publisher and PMA board member sums it up well: “Networking is key. You want to get involved with other small publishers who are doing what you are doing. Information sharing is the #1 way to be successful. It helps to be surrounded by people who have been where you are and are more than willing to share advice. That's what PMA is all about.”
If you consider becoming an independent publisher and decide to start your own micro press, I highly recommend becoming a member of PMA and your regional affiliate.
Annette Fix is a contributing editor for WOW! and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Annette is an author and spoken word storyteller based in Laguna Niguel, CA. An excerpt from her e-book, The Hungry Writer's Guide to Tracking and Capturing a Literary Agent was featured in WOW's September 2006 issue.
Annette's memoir, The Break-Up Diet will be available in early 2008 from her micro press Orange Curtain Publishing.