IBPA Incoming Board of Directors Spotlight: Brattle Publishing’s Richard Lena
Thursday, June 20, 2019
Posted by: Christopher Locke
IBPA Incoming Board of Directors Spotlight: Brattle Publishing’s Richard Lena
This is the seventh and final article in IBPA’s series where we shine a spotlight on our seven esteemed incoming Board Members for fiscal year 2020 and 2021. All seven of these candidates were voted in by members during the IBPA Annual Meeting & Luncheon on Saturday, April 6, 2019 at IBPA Publishing University. The two-year term for these newly-elected Board Members will begin July 1, 2019.
Today, we highlight Richard Lena who is the President & Publisher for Brattle Publishing and has already served his first two-year term on the Board of Directors.
“Being a member of IBPA has been a rewarding experience for Brattle Publishing and for me, personally and professionally,” says Richard. “My career has been about learning. When I joined the Board two years ago, I viewed it as one more learning experience and I continue to approach my tenure on the Board from that perspective. Each board meeting and project are approached with a thought in mind, ‘learn at least one new issue and/or piece of information, and possible solutions for addressing the problem(s).’ I do this by talking with and listening to the other Board members and by not being afraid to ask questions. Being part of the board for me is a fantastic opportunity to work with an amazing group of patient professionals. I see them as the organization’s best assets. Staffed by skilled and knowledgeable publishing professionals, the Board has a depth of knowledge that I have rarely encountered. In addition, the Board functions as a team and effectively troubleshoots issues that impact indie publishers and authors such as the decline in distribution options, Amazon’s increasing growth and how it impacts small publishers, and establishing standard guidelines. I am excited to serve another two-year term as part of this team, but I am also excited to bring some new items to the Board.“
IBPA: What are some of the accomplishments that you are the most proud of from your first two-year term on the Board of Directors?
Richard Lena (RL): The Board has worked on several initiatives over the past two years. We’ve made important statements and decisions regarding Amazon, BookExpo, hybrid publishing standards, and the publishing process. I think this work has been critical in raising the profile of our community in the industry and has certainly been to the benefit of our members. We have also increased the education options and benefits package of our members making membership priceless. Regular webinars, informative and strategic sessions at IBPA Publishing University, and web-based resources are all educational options our members can tap into.
IBPA: What are some of the things you are interested in working on as a board member for this new term?
RL: In the next term, I am interested in bringing issues that impact indie educational publishers to the Board. These include a crowded market regulated by competing constituents, complex sales cycles and distribution options, and disappearing professional expertise. There are a substantial number of small educational publishers, that like their trade peers, struggle with the issues above and must compete in a crowded market dominated by large publishers. I would like to see some of this brought to the Board’s attention to determine if there are positions the association can take to help its educational publishers.
IBPA: What is your background in the publishing world?
RL: My career started in 1993 in Houghton Mifflin Company’s School Division. That early position helped me to combine my two passions—a love of reading and books and my love of education. Over the past 26 years, I have worked with large publishers such as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Pearson, Cengage, and Scholastic; supplemental publishers such as Rosetta Stone and Istation, and international organizations such as USAID. I’ve created print and digital products for diverse audiences, and with each of these clients, I worked on products that educated younger generations and created tools that our teachers, students, and parents could use every day. In recent years, Brattle applied our talents to its own line of early learning products. As I kick off Brattle’s second decade, I plan to focus on building out and expanding on our Brattle brand of educational products.
IBPA: How does your background in the publishing world bring a unique perspective to the Board of Directors?
RL: In my second term on the Board, I will be one of two members with an educational tilt to their company mission. Being in somewhat of a minority, I hope to build more bridges between publishers of trade materials and those from small indie educational publishers. I hope that my experiences working with customers and publishers alike, in a very different facet of the industry, will help to broaden the association’s perspectives on some of the unique needs of educational publishers.
IBPA: How has it been beneficial to you to be a member of IBPA?
RL: Having come from a very specialized segment of the market, membership in the IBPA has given me a broad education of the entire publishing industry, including retail trade. I am also grateful for the chance to utilize the many benefits that we offer members. From development resources to review services, our benefits package has something our members are certain to need at some point.
IBPA: How do you think it would benefit independent publishers and author publishers to be members of IBPA?
RL: The IBPA offers several advantages to membership. First and most important, is the association’s role in providing community. I find the community to be a collective of dedicated, creative, and thoughtful people who are committed to producing quality literature and other products. In addition to the educational resources mentioned above, tapping into this community allows us all to find people with whom we can collaborate, learn best practices, and share our own lessons learned. The association also provides us with a collective voice that we can use to advocate for small publishers in a market dominated by large corporations. IBPA’s Advocacy Committee has been on the forefront of issues and continues to push against industry practices that do not promote and, at times, openly disadvantage small publishers and authors. Additionally, IBPA’s Member Benefits Committee continuously vets and promotes new member benefits including dozens of development-oriented benefits such as reduced fees for editorial and design services. These three advantages plus many more, make IBPA membership a must for any small publisher.
IBPA: Can you share three key lessons you’ve learned about how one can succeed as an independent publisher?
RL: The three key lessons I learned in the past decade of running my own small pushing house are:
- Always have your customers conceptualize your product. Listen to your customers and address their needs by having them tell you the problems that they face and the products they need to solve them. This can apply to a retail trade product as well as an educational product. As publishers, we all have product visions and think we may know what is best, but if these are not grounded in consumers’ needs, then they are not likely to capture attention in market.
- Find collaborators (authors, designers, editors) that share your values, visions, and drive, but also bring some new energy and talent to the mix. If you continue to work with the same people, your products might be perceived as “cookie-cutter” and repetitive. Introduce a new writer, designer, or illustrator to your team. You should definitely be faithful to your company’s design and branding standards, but new team members can help you push the parameters and build new energy.
- The third lesson is related to the second. It’s the idea of reinvention. Reinvent, reimagine, and recreate your company, your products, and yourselves. Focus on the market three to five years from now and plan for that market as you look at your organization and products.
|Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna
IBPA: What inspired you to work in the publishing industry as a career?
RL: When I was a child, I struggled with learning to read. I eventually overcame this learning challenge, but it taught me to recognize the effort involved in education and the value of quality products. As an adult, I studied educational research and learned that research-based instruction can be used to design all products—entertainment as well as education. That combination of experiences, coupled with a love of books, pushed me into educational publishing.
IBPA: What is your favorite book?
RL: The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver and Letters, And Why They’re All for You by Chloe Frayne.
IBPA: What was your favorite book as a kid?
RL: I really can’t recall my favorite book as a child, but I can say as a young adult that I loved The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway.
IBPA: Thank you, Richard, for sharing your story and expertise with the IBPA community! We look forward to the continuing contributions you’ll make on the IBPA Board of Directors!
We hope you enjoyed learning more about Brattle Publishing’s Richard Lena. Check out the other profiles we’ve done so far on the incoming board members:
You can also read a short introduction to all seven incoming Board Members here!
Share your own publishing news with the IBPA community! Send news about events or accomplishments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep in mind that we reserve Spotlights for major news (such as, you’re a cookbook author who won a national cooking competition), unique news (such as, you wrote a book about cycling and now you’re riding a bike across the U.S. for your book tour), or human interest stories (such as, you visit shelters every weekend to read books to the dogs and cats there).
Though launching a new book isn’t the focus of our Spotlights articles, IBPA is happy to share that exciting news on social media. Please contact email@example.com with the launch date, your book cover, your book title, a link to where readers can learn more about your book, and your Twitter handle.