President’s Report: Plans & Projects for the Year Ahead

October 2003
by Don Tubesing

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I’m pleased to report that PMA is in great shape. At the first meeting of the new fiscal year, held in August, the Board of Directors welcomed new members, reviewed the status of current PMA programs, reassigned committee responsibilities, and set priorities for the next 12 months.

By every measure, PMA continues to do an outstanding job serving the needs of its members and acting as the voice for independent publishers nationwide. This year, we will continue to offer our current member benefit programs, placing additional emphasis on increased visibility and membership growth; and also offer an expanded array of educational programs and develop innovative support strategies for our growing number of mid-sized publisher members.

Here is a summary of PMA activities and goals for the upcoming year.

Industry Relations

As our Executive Director, Jan Nathan meets regularly with other industry leaders and associations. Jan serves on the Book Industry Study Group board, and she is a regular advocate for independent publishers with wholesalers, distributors, and other major industry vendors.

PMA is also represented on the Media Coalition, which is currently defending free speech on several fronts. While these efforts are for the most part quiet and behind the scenes, it’s increasingly essential that the voice of independent publishers be represented, and I’m going to act as Board liaison for these activities.

New Activities

The Rest of Us 2003, the new PMA-commissioned survey of independent publishing, was released with its dramatic message through the September Newsletter and a special event in New York City on September 17.

In addition, other new activities include:

  • Hiring a public relations firm to increase visibility for PMA and its members
  • Meeting with executives at Publishers Weekly to discuss cooperative efforts with mutual benefits
  • Exploring additional program options with ABA and ALA
  • Advocating as necessary for fair and equitable contract terms with industry sales channels

Finance

Financially PMA had an excellent year and remains in good health. The expenses are in line and the cash flow is positive. The new budget has been adopted and the reporting systems are in place for the upcoming year. Mike Vezo of WestCom Associates is the Board Treasurer and chair of this committee.

Some new activities are:

  • Developing a modest restricted cash reserve to cover any unexpected one-time loss in program revenue (for example, PMA-U cancellation due to disaster)
  • Reexamining all internal procedures and all system software with an eye toward full integration and future growth

Regional Affiliates

PMA actively supports our 20+ regional publishing association affiliates by offering direct grants, membership discounts, scholarships to PMA-U, ongoing consultation, and on-site educational programs. Pat Bell of Cat’s-paw Press will continue to serve as the liaison for these relationships.

Some new activities are:

  • Completing and producing a PMA Affiliate Handbook
  • Organizing additional cooperative regional mini-universities and other educational programs
  • Attending–and exhibiting member products at–the fall regional trade shows

Membership

Some 3,700 publishers are now members of PMA. Member benefits include discounted freight/shipping, discounted work at Kinko’s, insurance programs (health, business, and liability), space advertising discounts in industry publications, dispute mediation, advocacy, education, and marketing. Florrie Kichler of Patria Press, Inc. is chair of the Membership Committee.

Some new activities are:

  • The goal of growing membership by 10%, with the focus on attracting the quality members who can benefit the most from PMA
  • Studying member retention. How many leave? And why? And is there any way we could be of additional service?
  • Exploring additional membership benefits that would allow PMA to serve independent publishers even better

Marketing Programs

PMA offers a plethora of marketing programs–coop mailings to targeted audiences, the trade distribution program, discounted participation and booth rental at major industry conventions, presence at regional trade shows, discount advertising, and many other opportunities. Liz Ziehl of Books Are Fun will serve as Board overseer of these programs.

Some new activities are:

  • Reviewing the participation in and the effectiveness of each program and determining continue/delete decision levels
  • Seeking out additional channels and options for cooperative marketing efforts

Annual Convention

Each year during the three days prior to BEA, PMA offers the Publishing University, presents the Ben Franklin Awards, and holds its annual meeting. This year, PMA-U included 70 courses, 500 attendees, 50 exhibitors, and 190 instructors. The Ben Franklin Awards program drew 1,600 entries in 50 categories, which were judged by 150 volunteer evaluators. Our annual gathering was once again a great success and unlike anything else in the industry–for education, networking, and celebration. Ilene Barth of Red Rock Press will serve as Board liaison for next year’s events.

Some new activities are:

  • Assembling a fresh slate of courses and presenters, and recruiting celebrity talent from the host region
  • Doing whatever work is necessary to continue this outstanding tradition (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.)

Publications

As an educational publishing organization, PMA naturally produces quality publications in many different forms. We aim to supply our members and the independent publishing industry with the highest quality and most definitive information possible. Publications currently include the PMA website, the PMA Independent Publishers Resource Directory, the award-winning PMA Newsletter, monographs and special reports, fact sheets/tip sheets on frequently asked questions, and focused issue papers. W. Paul Coates of Black Classic Press is chair of PMA’s Publishing Program Committee.

Some new activities are:

  • Making the industry and everyone interested in it aware of the findings in The Rest of Us 2003, the new study demonstrating the importance of independent publishing.
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of each PMA publication and making recommendations to the Board
  • Producing issue papers on publishing options (such as POD), and offering useful definitions of authors vs. publishers
  • Working with the staff and the membership committee to develop a new, updated PMA brochure and membership packet

Education

In a sense, almost all PMA publications and programs are educational in nature. The PMA staff spends about 60 hours each week on the telephone, one-on-one with independent publishers, educating, guiding, and encouraging. In addition to PMA-U, PMA regularly conducts various regional seminars, often co-sponsored with local affiliate groups. This year, a special committee headed by new Board members Sally Neher of Baker & Taylor and Marianne Bohr of National Book Network will spearhead an examination of the complete array of PMA educational programs.

Some new activities are:

  • Creating a matrix of current educational programs and analyzing it to find areas of overlap or gaps that need to be filled
  • Designing a concept for traveling, in-depth, single-focus seminars
  • Encouraging additional regional affiliate co-op seminars
  • Outlining a “Business Principles and Practices for Growing Publishers” course that would teach our members the nitty-gritty dollars-and-cents skills for maintaining profit margins and positive cash flow as they grow

Mid-sized, Experienced Publishers Initiative

Many long-term PMA members are growing up. They have now become ongoing, successful, mid-sized publishers. At the request of last year’s PMA Board, the PMA Past Presidents met under the guidance of Immediate Past President Linda Ligon of Interweave Press to explore ways in which PMA could better meet the needs of our more experienced independent publishers. The Past Presidents recommended that this initiative become a top priority for 2003-2004. The current Board agrees.

Jan Nathan has convened a blue-ribbon task force of mid-sized members to outline the membership criteria, cost, and offerings for a PMA Graduate School. This group will have Board representation and will be tasked to bring this new program online during the next year.

Literacy for Life

Our goal for this project is to collect and distribute a million remainder and hurt books to literacy programs during the next year. PMA members have offered the books. Literacy groups are lined up to receive them. We are currently exploring the mechanisms and potential partners that can make this project work smoothly and reach its goals. It’s not all that easy to give away this many books effectively. But your Board is determined! Mike Vezo is chairing a committee of several Board members committed to making this project successful.

Additional Key Issues to Address This Year

PMA Mission and Position:

We will be reviewing our mission statement and our organizational descriptive material updating these if necessary to position PMA for its next plateau of growth and visibility. All too many industry players are still surprised when they learn about the scope and quality of PMA’s various activities.

Used Book Sales:

What’s the prognosis for them? How will used book sales via the Internet affect our members? And what position should PMA take, if any?

Industry Contracts:

Some major players in the publishing industry are offering our members various unreasonable terms. Can PMA play a role here with education? With advocacy?

PMA Systems:

PMA management systems are superb. However, we want to see what additional staff, workspace, and systems will be needed to handle the additional workload as we grow over the next decade.

Manuscript Clearinghouse:

PMA could create an Internet listing to connect authors and publishers. The PMA staff sees an immediate need for this service.

Those are highlights of the work plan for this year.

In other words, PMA is a busy place. The PMA Board Meetings are busy occasions. Your 2003-2004 PMA Board is committed to offering PMA members an increasingly outstanding menu of services and benefits, and to leading this organization toward its positive future.

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