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Independent Publishers Share Their Best Independent Publishing Strategies for 2020

Thursday, January 9, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Christopher Locke
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2020 has officially begun! One of the best ways to set up your independent publishing company for success is to create a strategic plan for the new year. That can consist of laying out a detailed marketing plan for each book that’s on your publishing docket or deciding if you should shift your budget to hire new members to your team. So for some inspiration and guidance, Independent Book Publishers Association reached out to our members with this query:

Please describe the independent publishing strategy that you are most excited to implement in 2020.

As expected, we received some clever goals that are sure to be of help to other independent publishers:

Kathryn Sparks
Think Bigger.

“Heading into the new year, my goal as manager of our parenting book line is to continue pushing the envelope and thinking BIGGER.

"Whether that involves expanding our acquisition efforts, being more open to cover design opportunities, or examining and refining our internal editorial processes, it is vital that we continue to move the needle on all projects.”

— Kathryn Sparks, Manager of Consumer Publishing, American Academy of Pediatrics

Jo Mach
Promote books into the education market.

“My challenge has been getting books into the education market. I've been searching for an organization or school that would take a chance on using our books to implement a program to promote inclusion.

After several failed attempts, I discovered out-of-school programming that includes any organization providing care to school-age students after school or in the summer. I've spent the last six months developing a relationship with the director of a Boys & Girls Club in Iowa. With her input, I co-wrote an inclusive STEAM curriculum for kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade using six of our books. In November, I met with her staff to train them on the implementation of the curriculum. They will be completing the pilot program this spring. We included pre- and post-surveys for both staff and Club members to gather data on the effect of the curriculum on inclusive thinking/acceptance of peers with disabilities. Also, they offered to take photos throughout the pilot program which they will be sending me.

“The staff seems very interested and excited about implementing the pilot program. KIT (Kids Included Together) a national organization for inclusive education is interested in our data. If we are successful in gathering positive results through the pilot program the curriculum could be used at other Boys & Girls clubs and lead to many book sales.

“I have lots of hope and excitement about this strategy.”

— Jo Mach, Publisher, Finding My Way Books

Rob Broder
Push the backlist.

“We will be pushing our backlist more in 2020. We are working on books for 2021, so we need to get creative and push our existing titles.

"Through social media, newsletters, and library outreach, we'll push these books that are already selling well for us. We'll find new homes and retail outlets that perhaps sell the themes to our books and build stronger sales. We'll attend conferences that help build our brand, and network stronger so we're better prepared for 2021.”

— Rob Broder, Publisher, Ripple Grove Press 

Cathey Nickell
Finish my middle grade novel.

“One of my most important goals for 2020 is to see my children's middle grade novel come to fruition. However, finding quality time to work on this project always seems to slip out of reach. Multiple obstacles and interruptions get in my way—sales goals, marketing, managing the publishing business, social media, school author visits, book signings, critiquing, proofing, attending conferences and industry-related events ... not to mention family and personal obligations. My tendency is to react to the fire right in front of me rather than stick to a clear time management action plan.

"In a tangible effort to shift that paradigm, I've decided to make the new children's novel my No. 1 priority for 2020. As such, I've established weekly goals and firm deadlines for the first six months of the year. I've also asked a fellow colleague to conference with me on a regular basis so that we can give each other ongoing accountability. And finally, I hope to hire an assistant who can help maximize my professional output as I wade down this next creative path."

— Cathey Nickell, Author Publisher, Yazzy’s Amazing Yarn and Arthur Zarr’s Amazong Art Car

Teri Case
Grow my mailing list.

“In 2020, I am excited about taking the steps to grow my mailing list and connect regularly with my readers AND other authors, sparking discussions about our existing novels and building excitement for our future works.

"I’ll also be focusing on advertising, because yes, advertising does work. I simply needed to stop, focus, and learn more about marketing.”

— Teri Case, Author Publisher, In the Doghouse

Lee Wind
Synergize, optimize, and innovate.

“Heading into 2020 I'm thinking about synergy, optimization, and innovation.

“Synergy: Like the old commercial, ‘I'm not only the hair club president, I'm also a client...’ working at IBPA as the director of marketing and programming while also being an author publisher member has given me the opportunity to do some of the really cool marketing programs IBPA offers.

“Optimization: I put my debut YA novel up for six months on NetGalley, and had 240 downloads from interested readers. But I didn't get 240 reviews. I got 47 - and that's great... But that means there are still 193 readers who were interested enough in my book to read about it and download a copy. In my quest for more favorable reviews (more social proof), these people are already interested! The question has been: how do I nudge them along?

“Innovation (and my strategy for early 2020): NetGalley just added audio previews for books that have audiobooks... and mine does! So, with my colleague Christopher's help (he runs the IBPA NetGalley program), now Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill has an audiobook excerpt on its NetGalley page. I plan to reach out via email to all the NetGalley readers who downloaded my book but haven't yet reviewed it, to let them know they can listen to the first five minutes of the book for free. The narrator, Michael Crouch, is a pro with a big following himself, and hopefully hearing the opening of the book will inspire more of those 193 readers to open the eBook file they already have... which in turn will (fingers crossed) net more positive reviews on NetGalley and beyond!”

Lee Wind, Director of Marketing & Programming, IBPA

Jason Paul
Make my books "mandatory reads."

“Now that Lightning Bug Lights is through production, my primary focus is implementing an effective and well-thought-out strategy to promote this book, build momentum and demand for the second book, while growing the Jason Paul brand. My current strategy is to make Lightning Bug Lights a part of the mandatory reading curriculum in elementary schools.

“My first step in achieving this goal has been to visit local schools, with no appearance fee, asking them only to purchase a specific number of copies of the book. For me, it is more important to share my experience with the world, and inspire our children to embrace whatever inspires their imagination and creativity. What better way to do that than by spending time and reading with our children?”

— Jason Paul, Author Publisher

Leslie Turner
Make 2020 the year of "Perfect Vision."

“2020 is the year of ‘Perfect Vision.’

"To improve our vision, we are remembering who we are, what our mission is, and getting back to our core competencies. To start the year, we have already begun giving priority to a couple of in-house projects we’ve put on the back burner for far too long. These projects have incredible potential to impact a lot of people and carry our mission forward. In this business, you have to make your own luck.”

— Leslie Turner, Founder & Publisher, Encourage Books

IBPA is excited for our members to have their best year yet in 2020. Feel free to reach out to let us know how we can be of service to make that happen!

If you have strategies of your own for 2020, leave them in the comments below. And for more strategy inspiration, read this article, “IBPA Members Share Their Best Independent Publishing Strategies for 2019.”

Share your own publishing news with the IBPA community! Send news about events or accomplishments to For more details about the types of stories we're seeking, click here.

Keep in mind that we reserve Spotlights for major news (such as, you published a book about space exploration and now it's being read in a live video feed by astronauts from the International Space Station), unique news (such as, you published a book about cycling and now the author is riding a bike across the U.S. for their 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 with the launch date, your book cover, your book title, your book's genre, a link to where readers can learn more about your book, and your Twitter handle.

For good news in general about your publishing company (your book received a wonderful editorial review, you have an upcoming speaking engagement, etc.), use the hashtag #IBPAmemberGoodNews on Twitter and IBPA will amplify your good news!

Whether you have news or not, all of us at IBPA are cheering you on!

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