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Get to Know IBPA Affiliate Midwest Independent Publishers Association

Thursday, February 20, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Christopher Locke
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Midwest Independent Publishers Association vice president Paul Nylander is pictured with a 2019 Midwest Book Award winner, Jeannie Piekos, author publisher of Buoyancy, at the MiPA booth at the Twin Cities Book Festival in October 2019.

IBPA is proud to be affiliated with 20 regional and specialty independent publishing associations across the United States. IBPA members find that networking within these groups benefits their success in the independent publishing industry, and helps them build connections on a more local level. As a nice bonus, when you’re a member of an IBPA Affiliate, you receive $30 off your IBPA annual membership!

This month, IBPA is showcasing Midwest Independent Publishers Association. We spoke to MiPA’s Vice President Paul Nylander to get an in-depth look at their association:

IBPA: How long have you been with Midwest Independent Publishers Association?

Paul Nylander (PN): The Midwest Independent Publishers Association was founded in 1984, but I joined fairly recently. I first attended meetings in 2017 at the invitation of another member, and officially joined the organization in 2018. I was elected vice-president and joined the board for a two-year term starting in the summer of 2019. I am both a fine press printer and publisher, as well as a commercial book designer, working on covers as well as interiors and ebooks.

IBPA: What are the benefits for independent publishers/author publishers to being a member of MiPA?

PN: First and foremost, MiPA is a source of firsthand information. While there are a number of online resources, we provide the opportunity for publishers (and future publishers) to interact with one another, and learn directly from each other. Often you learn most from the questions others ask.

There are a number of author and writing organizations in the region, some of which touch on various facets of publishing. But MiPA is unique in really targeting the growing, new, and prospective publishers with core business and practical operational information to help define and find their success.

IBPA: What is the cost of membership? Is there an additional cost to attend meetings?

PN: An annual membership is $60, and there is no charge to attend our meetings as a member. You also receive a $30 IBPA membership discount as a MiPA member, offsetting half the cost for people planning to join IBPA anyhow, as well as a discount on our annual Midwest Book Awards.

IBPA: How can one sign up to be a member? Does someone have to live in the Midwest region to be a member?

PN: The easiest way is to sign up online on this page of our website. You can pay online when you sign up, or mail your payment to us at P.O. Box 580475, Minneapolis, MN 55458-0475. You can also bring your payment to any one of our meetings. We do not restrict our members to hailing only from the 12-state Midwest region, but in a practical sense they all do.

IBPA: How often do you have meetings and what do you normally do at meetings?

PN: Meetings are usually educational in nature, covering a variety of topics especially relevant to new, small, and growing publishers. For example, at the beginning of 2019, we started with a discussion of legal issues (copyrights & trademarks, and permissions), a social media panel, and at a recent meeting, we reviewed IBPA’s Industry Standards Checklist for a Professionally Published Book and tips for evaluating your own publishing program. In 2020, we’re diving in with video for marketing, a book reading panel, agents, publishing finances, and a look at recent changes to the bookseller industry.

We typically meet on the first Tuesday of each month during the academic year, although December’s meeting was replaced by a holiday social. Because we find many members want more social interaction (publishing can be lonely, after all), we open a little before the scheduled programming with some social networking time.

IBPA: How is it beneficial for an independent publisher/author publisher to be a member of BOTH MiPA and IBPA?

PN: Our two organizations really go hand-in-hand. While MiPA covers the entire 12-state Midwest region, most of our members attending our monthly programming are in and around the Twin Cities metro area. The human interaction element is a big part of that. IBPA provides a very complimentary membership by providing the deeper information resources and the higher-profile national convention (IBPA Publishing University) that it wouldn’t be practical for MiPA to provide. I consider them to go hand-in-hand, and in fact look forward to improving this interaction and interface for our members in the future!

IBPA: Were there any new initiatives or events in 2019 about which you were particularly proud?

PN: We launched a new visual identity in 2019, and have been working to update and refresh the tone and energy in our communications and programming. It is part of a longer-term revamp of MiPA, from the website through the programming and communications, and thus far has been very well received.

We also worked to up our game in our annual Midwest Book Awards program. 2019 was the 30th year. Book Awards chair Jennifer Baum has brought a lot of new ideas and energy to the planning and promotion of this event, in addition to extending the new branding identity to the awards. We updated several things for the 30th annual book awards, including aggressively recruiting judges from area librarians, as well as adding some new categories and sponsorship opportunities. And we have additional ideas in the works for the 2020 awards program already!

IBPA: On Nov. 12, you had the event, “Self-Evaluating Your Publishing Program for Maximum Success,” with speaker Karen Pavlicin-Fragnito (who is founder and publisher of Elva Resa Publishing and a current IBPA Board Member). Can you share three tips for how someone can self-evaluate their publishing program for maximum success?

PN: The meeting with Karen was excellent! Her experiences from early involvement with MiPA when she was first starting out, to growing Elva Resa, and now as an IBPA board member, provide a huge range of examples and “lessons learned” which she shared with the group.

Her central message is for any publisher, or publishing author, to ask themselves, “Why do I want to be a publisher” and “What do I want to accomplish? What is my mission as a publisher?” She pointed out that people often bog down in the details without first understanding their mission.

Like the operation of any business, a publisher must make many different financial choices, evaluating the costs against the market potential. As a traditional publisher, she has set a threshold for each project—a dollar amount which she is willing to risk to cover editing, design, and production—and asks herself if she believes in the project enough to lose that much money to make it happen. Of course, her goal is to recoup the initial investment, but this little test really forces her to consider her own conviction to a project. It is much the same question an author-publisher has to (or ought to) ask themselves.

Time management was the third key message. She has a great technique of organizing each week into five themes, each with its own list of no more than five actions. But whatever technique a publisher uses to organize their time, the time commitment must be there as much as the financial commitment. This means for authors (whether they are publishing themselves or not), dedicating a minimum of 5 hours to promotional activity, every single week.

IBPA: The deadline for the 30th Annual Midwest Book Awards was on Dec. 31. Can you tell us more about the awards program?

Some of the Midwest Independent Publishers Association team and members pack books to mail to the judges for the 30th Annual Midwest Book Awards in January 2020.

PN: For 30 years now we’ve used the Midwest Book Awards to encourage and recognize quality independent books from the Midwest. Any publisher from the 12-state region may apply (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, or Wisconsin).

We currently have 33 categories, including four design and illustration categories. For each category, through a panel of three judges per category, we come up with at most three finalists, who will be announced in the spring. The winners are then announced at a gala awards dinner in the summer (the 30th Annual Midwest Book Awards Gala will be on June 27, 2020). It is really an exciting event, and a great way to meet other publishers, authors, and service providers throughout the region. In addition, each entrant receives the judges’ feedback—so even if someone isn’t selected as a finalist, they come out ahead with the critical feedback.

Finalists and winners also get the benefit of our own promotional work to recognize the books and publishers, not to mention bragging rights!

IBPA: Can you share a few tips for other associations about how to retain and grow membership?

PN: I don’t think this is a secret: you have to be relevant and connected with your audience. And what you do in your programming, what you offer as an organization, must rise above the daily noise of information overload which we are all subject to. It means you cannot possibly be all things to everyone, but you must focus on the needs of one or two of your key constituencies.

In our case, with our meetings, we know that small publishers are seeking useful and actionable information. We can provide that in the form of programming, but also by providing a social network of colleagues and resources.

IBPA: If someone visits the Midwest region, what are some fun things to do?

PN: Ha! I could fill a book with all the great things to do in the Midwest! We know that for much of the country, we are considered fly-over country. But there is a rich tradition of printers and private presses in the Midwest that is very much worth the trip (or a layover).

Speaking specifically of my own hometown of Minneapolis, I encourage visitors to check out the programs and equipment of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts (paper making, hand binding, and letterpress printing) and the rare book collections of the Hennepin County Central Library in Minneapolis, the Minnesota Historical Society in Saint Paul, and the University of Minnesota’s own collections, especially of rare children’s books, nestled between the two, along the banks of the Mississippi.

IBPA: Do you have any upcoming events?

PN: Our programming chair, and past president, Sybil Smith of Smith House Press has done a great job of reaching out and setting up speakers. During our board retreat this past summer, we outlined our programming plan for the entire year and Sybil, with the help of other board members, have been working to find suitable speakers for each event. You can see the full list of upcoming speakers by clicking here.

IBPA: Thank you, Paul, for giving us insight into IBPA Affiliate Midwest Independent Publishers Association.

Click here to learn more about Midwest Independent Publishers Association!

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