Behind the Scenes of the IBPA Independent Magazine
Thursday, October 24, 2019
Posted by: Christopher Locke
|Members of the IBPA Independent magazine team. Clockwise, from top left: Trecien Schultz, graphic designer; Alexa Schlosser, managing editor; Monica Roselli, associate editor; and Steve Biernacki, creative director.
IBPA members consistently rate the IBPA Independent magazine as one of the top benefits of membership. It’s a helpful resource that covers everything one needs to know about the publishing industry, from distribution to book marketing to new technology, and much more. The magazine is mailed to 5,000 readers bi-monthly. (It’s free for members!) We also post a selection of the articles from each issue on our website 2-3 months after publication.
Since the IBPA Independent magazine is such a popular member benefit, we decided to talk to Managing Editor Alexa Schlosser to get a look behind the scenes of how it all comes together, and what you can expect from upcoming issues.
IBPA: What are your main duties as the Managing Editor of the IBPA Independent magazine, and what was your previous work experience?
Alexa Schlosser (AS): I’ve been working on IBPA Independent since the August 2016 issue. I honestly didn’t even realize it had been that long until just now. I’m kind of a jack of all trades on the magazine, but my main duties are to develop content for each issue using the IBPA Editorial Advisory Committee as my guide, and make sure we meet all our deadlines. It’s a lot of me sending polite emails saying “…is your article ready yet?” and then a lot of editing and prepping to get everything to our designer to make it look good.
I’ve been working on various trade and membership publications for a little over eight years now. It’s a lot of fun for me to dive deeply into different industries and learn the ins and outs of what are usually extremely niche fields. I’ve been the editor of peer-reviewed health care publications, tech-heavy user group journals, and even one focused on the demolition industry. In college, I worked at the student newspaper as the copy chief, so I’ve always been really involved with media publishing, especially the editing side.
IBPA: Can you walk us through the general process of how an issue comes together?
AS: About three months before the issue is scheduled to hit mailboxes, we hold an Editorial Advisory Committee call. These content development calls are pre-scheduled for every other month. So, for example, we met the first week of October 2019 to discuss the January/February 2020 issue of the magazine, which should reach subscribers on Jan. 16, 2020.
The week after the committee call, I begin reaching out to people who were suggested as potential sources or contributors. If the committee suggested a topic but no author, I might do some investigating on who might be an expert I could reach out to. Contributors get three to four weeks to write the article. Once I receive the draft, I review to make sure it hits the mark. Articles for IBPA Independent need to appeal to author publishers, independent publishers, or, ideally, both! Once I’ve looked over the content, I pass it on to another editor, Monica Roselli, to do a thorough copy edit. She will also suggest sidebars and potential pull quotes. If we’re missing a bio or headshot for the author, that will be noted for follow-up. I do another edit of the Word documents before I compile everything for our designer. This is the stage where I come up with the main headlines for the cover of the issue. For example, “Print Responsibly” was the cover line for our issue with the cover story on eco-friendly publishing choices. Sometimes the cover lines refer directly to the main story of the issue; other times, they are more encompassing of the issue’s theme.
The designer, Trecien Schultz, takes about two weeks to lay out the first draft of the issue. For the most part, Trecien comes up with all the designs without my input. I may suggest a few aspects we’d like to see, but I leave most of that creative aspect up to her. In general, IBPA Independent steers clear of stock imagery with people in it and uses more illustrative concepts. The art director, Steve Biernacki, takes a look at the issue before it comes back to the content team for proofing. The content team usually goes through a few rounds of review, cleaning up typos, making sure the formatting is right and there are no missing pieces. Once final, we send it to our printer, who readies the files for printing and shipping. This part takes about five business days. We provide our subscriber list, and it gets sent out! Mailing usually takes five business days, as well.
IBPA: How many people are on staff?
AS: On the content side, in addition to me, there’s an associate editor, Monica Roselli, who performs mostly copy editing and page proofing; and there’s Deb Vanasse, who reports on and writes our cover story for each issue. Ted Olczak handles advertising sales; Trecien Schultz is our graphic designer who lays out each issue; and Steve Biernacki is the creative director who makes sure everything looks right before we go to print. Then, of course, the IBPA Editorial Advisory Committee, which isn’t technically staff, is paramount to the magazine coming together in terms of ideation and sourcing. That includes Angela, Terry, and all the volunteers on the committee, too. It takes all of us!
IBPA: Some articles in the IBPA Independent magazine are written by you and your staff, and the rest are written by others, so how is it decided who writes which articles?
AS: As I mentioned, Deb Vanasse writes all of our cover stories. The rest is on an issue-by-issue basis. I usually prefer to include the voices of IBPA members in the magazine, so if there’s ever a chance to have an author publisher or independent publisher write an article, I prefer that. However, sometimes it does just make sense for me to write an article. If, for example, it’s a profile of a cool startup company or specific person who is doing something innovative, I might do the interview and write it myself. An outsider perspective is OK in those instances. Also, if there’s a topic we really want covered and we just can’t find anyone to write it, I might tackle it myself. We have such a good pipeline of potential contributors, though, that it rarely happens!
IBPA: Are there any themes for issues that the magazine does annually or that you repeat?
AS: We do sometimes repeat themes, such as our design and marketing issues, because those are such large topics in the industry. However, we make sure to cover different aspects and angles of the topics. So, for example, we won’t redo an article on choosing the right book cover image unless we have a different perspective on it than last time. It’s always nice to introduce a new theme into the mix, though, so we usually try to have at least one of the six themes per year be new from the previous year.
|The September/October issue of IBPA Independent magazine
IBPA: Have there been any recent articles or issues that received a great deal of positive feedback?
AS: Some of the recent reader favorites have been Ron Mumford’s “Break All the Rules and Go for the Dream” from the Sept/Oct 2019 issue. The article included how to pitch your book as a movie concept. Our July/Aug 2019 “Publishing and the Planet” cover story also received praise. Also, any time we do anything on crowdfunding, it’s usually a hit.
IBPA: Is there a specific theme that tends to go over well in general?
AS: To be honest, we don’t get as much feedback as we’d like on a per-article basis, but anecdotally people really seem to like metadata tips, as well as how to use Amazon to your advantage. Anytime we do case studies that show book makeovers, we get positive feedback, too. If there’s a particular topic you’d like to see more of, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IBPA: Can you share any themes/articles for upcoming issues that you’re looking forward to?
AS: The issue I’m working on right now is themed “Partnerships & Collaboration.” This is always my favorite issue to source because collaboration is so important to independent publishing. So many indies are scrappy, and it shows in their innovative ideas and partnerships. When people can figure things out together and do something cool, it’s so inspiring to me.
IBPA: Are there any article ideas/full issue themes that you’d love to do one day that are not currently already planned?
AS: I’m always trying to think out of the box and do something fun with the magazine. Print publications are such an old medium, but they don’t have to be old-fashioned. I want to continue to play with the medium and do unexpected things. This might mean some day using special paper, or embossing on the cover, to showcase different design and packaging trends. Indie books can look good, and so can the magazine that talks about indie books.
IBPA: After spending so much time brainstorming ideas for the articles and themes it must be rewarding to see the finished issues. Can you share how you feel when you receive the finished issue in the mail?
AS: I have the issue sent to both my office and my home address. When it comes to the office, I don’t think much of it, but when I am going to get my regular mail at home and I see an IBPA Independent in there, I get this whoosh of “Oh, yeah, this is a real magazine I work on.” I try to look through it from the perspective of someone who hasn’t spent the past three months focusing on it. It’s hard to take that step back and look at your work from the viewpoint of your end-user, but it’s a rewarding feeling.
IBPA: How can people pitch an article idea for the IBPA Independent?
AS: Yes! We love pitches. I would say that at least one article per issue comes from a cold pitch. And even if we don’t take a pitch’s exact angle, we may use that person as a source in the future, or find another way to include them in the magazine. As for the format of the pitch, I prefer receiving at least a one-or-two-sentence explanation of what the person is thinking of writing, but if they just have a random idea they want to brainstorm on, I am always happy to pick up the phone and talk it out with them. It could always turn into something! You can also submit already-written articles, but I prefer to work one-on-one with authors to craft something specific for our IBPA members since our audience is so unique. And I’m always looking for article topics. Specifically, we have an upcoming issue on “Marketing & PR.” If you have any great marketing tools or case studies of marketing or PR gone right, I’d love to hear from you: email@example.com.
IBPA: How can someone advertise in the magazine and what are the benefits to them advertising?
AS: Absolutely. Your advertising dollars keep IBPA Independent running. It’s expensive to put together a magazine. Many of you know this too well having put together your own projects. When you advertise with IBPA, you’re reaching 5,000 readers. Most of them are independent publishers, but they are also author publishers, publisher partners, and future publishers. If you’re interested in advertising in the magazine, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
IBPA: Anything else you’d like to add?
AS: IBPA Independent is my favorite magazine I’ve ever worked on, and I’ve worked on dozens. I learn something new every issue, and I have met some truly amazing and hardworking people over the past few years.
IBPA: Thank you, Alexa, for giving us an inside look at all the hard work that goes into putting the IBPA Independent magazine together. And a special thanks for everything you do to create such an informative and thought-provoking resource for anyone interested in our independent publishing industry.
Click here to read past articles from the IBPA Independent. If you’re not an IBPA member and would like to receive the magazine, you can order a non-member subscription by clicking here.
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