Get to Know Lindy Ryan: Incoming IBPA Board of Directors Spotlight
Thursday, June 18, 2020
On April 4, 2020, at IBPA’s Virtual Annual Meeting of Members, members voted to approve the six candidates for the IBPA Board of Directors (four incumbent and two new). We thought it would be helpful and interesting for members to get to know the two amazing new Board Members, so this first article will focus on Black Spot Books president Lindy Ryan and the second (coming in a few weeks) will focus on Foreword Reviews magazine founder & publisher Victoria Sutherland.
Below, Lindy explains what she hopes to accomplish as a Board member, shares tips for how independent publishers can thrive, and more!
IBPA: Why are you excited about the opportunity to serve on the IBPA Board of Directors?
Lindy Ryan (LR): The IBPA is an organization that puts the values of service, leadership, independence, and inclusivity at its core. It focuses not only on being a leader within the independent publishing community, but on serving that community and doing so through a lens of inclusivity, advocacy, and empowerment. It’s this perspective on service and servant leadership that most appealed to me when I first sought to join the IBPA Board of Directors. I believe very strongly that the independent publishing community deserves a voice in the larger literary landscape, and I appreciate IBPA’s position of providing independent publishers with the tools, knowledge, and access they need to succeed in the literary market.
IBPA: What are some of the things you are interested in working on as a board member?
LR: One of the most urgent and critical areas of need I see in the literary community—and one area that I am very excited to work on as a board member—is that of diversity, equity, and inclusion. This includes everything from giving underrepresented and marginalized authors, particularly those in the Black community, the opportunity to write, share, and be recognized for their contributions, to providing publishers from populations underrepresented in the industry with the tools, knowledge, and education they need to be successful, to mentoring and empowering the next leaders in publishing—and more.
Additionally, coming from a background in academia, I have a soft spot for helping others to achieve efficacy through tools, skill-building, and knowledge transfer. I’m a publisher by day but a teacher at heart, and helping IBPA to continue to educate its membership is one of my priorities.
IBPA: What is your background in the publishing world?
LR: I founded and opened Black Spot Books, a traditional small press specializing in speculative fiction, in 2017. As publisher, my goal was (and still is) to bring genre-bending, innovative fiction to market from fresh new voices, particularly debut and underrepresented authors.
In 2019, Black Spot Books was acquired by book-to-film multimedia corporation Vesuvian Media Group, and I moved from the role of Owner/Publisher to President of Black Spot Books. As an imprint of Vesuvian we are now able to provide additional opportunities to our authors and expand our titles into the world of entertainment through film and television adaptation.
Just this month, Vesuvian Media Group announced a new division, Rosewind Books, which will focus on clean, contemporary, historical, fantastical, and holiday romance. Going forward, I am excited to split my time between leading Black Spot Books and serving as the chief content officer of Rosewind. This new position gives me the opportunity to continue to bring engaging, culturally diverse, and relatable stories to market from even more incredible authors.
IBPA: How does your background in the publishing world bring a unique perspective to the IBPA Board of Directors?
LR: I am hopeful that my background as a small publisher brings an additional layer of authenticity and firsthand experience to the table. Growing a successful publishing company from the ground-up has given me the chance to discover, practice, and learn many important lessons that are fundamental in this industry.
IBPA: How has it been beneficial to you to be a member of IBPA?
LR: One of the most beneficial aspects that I personally (and we at Black Spot Books) have gained by being a member of IBPA has been the opportunity to build solid professional relationships in the independent publishing community. As members, we’ve been able to connect with, learn from, and partner with so many—from service providers, to librarians and media professionals, trade partners, and even other publishers who share similar goals, opportunities, and challenges.
IBPA: How do you think it would benefit independent publishers, author publishers, and publisher partners to be members of IBPA?
LR: There are so many benefits! From learning new information, to listening to new ideas, to finding resources, it doesn’t matter if you’re a first-time author publisher or a seasoned publishing professional, there is value in being a member of IBPA. Speaking from experience, there has a never been a time in my professional development that I didn’t benefit from IBPA membership. From coming in as a “future publisher” to participating in the recent member roundtables and seeing how others are protecting and sustaining their business during unprecented times, I have always left an interaction with IBPA having gained something. That said, getting the most of your membership with IBPA is directly correlated to how much you put into it. IBPA is not a professional organization to sit on the fences of, but a community where you can directly interact and engage, and that is one of its most rewarding functions.
IBPA: Can you share three key lessons you’ve learned about how one can succeed as an independent publisher?
- Be adaptable. Things change, they’re fluid, and sometimes they don’t go as expected. One of the biggest pros of being a small press or independent publisher is the ability to be adaptable and able to take advantage of opportunties or, likewise, step back and pay attention to timing.
- Be strategic. Find partners and suppliers that not only meet your current needs, but are well positioned to support your future growth and aspirations. It’s easy to fall into the tactical trap of finding a Right Now Solution, but try to shift your perspective to What’s Next.
- Which brings me to: think long-term. Success doesn’t happen overnight. Define your vision for what you want to accomplish in the next few years, and then do a little every day to help you get there. The path changes, but if you don’t know a general direction you may miss opportunities as they come up.
IBPA: What inspired you to work in the publishing industry as a career?
LR: My hometown newspaper ran one of my short stories when I was thirteen as part of a local showcase, and the moment I saw my words in print, I was hooked. I was captivated by the “publishing process”—from acquisition to editing to production and, ultimately, that blissful moment of publication. (The first job I applied for was in newspaper delivery—I didn’t get it.)
My love for reading blossomed into a love of writing, and later morphed into a deep curiosity about writers. Eventually, this moved me into researching writers and the business of writing, which culminnated in a double-major in business and literature in college. I was endlessly fascinated by the nuts-and-bolts of publishing, and because I must always know how things work and why they work that way. I continued my academic journey into research, and then, because I am also endlessly eager to share the incredible things I learn with others, eventually into education. Ironically, academia led me right back to publishing when my graduate thesis was published, followed by several more academic papers, my dissertation work, and more.
It was being published that led me to the publishing industry as a career. I authored my first textbook in 2016 and another in 2018. At some point, between book one and two, I realized I was tired of sitting on the sidelines of the publishing process. Sure, I was the author, but these were major publishing houses and I didn’t get to touch all the things I truly wanted to be a part of! I also realized I didn’t love the experience of being published as much as I’d thought. I felt lost in the shuffle, a box on someone’s checklist. I remembered how I’d felt as a bright-eyed, ambitious young writer with a story in the local paper—and lameted how I no longer felt the same with a list of writing credits under my belt.
As I reflected on this experience, I realized there were many others who felt this way—authors with stories to tell who wanted to be part of their publishing process rather than just another title to pump out. I decided I wanted to support fresh new voices who had amazing stories to tell and were struggling to find their home in a very competitive literary market.
After many, many conversations with friends who were authors, editors, agents, bookstore owners, and the like, I built the original business plan for Black Spot Books in late 2016. A few months later, I hired Smith Publicity to help me get my footing, acquired my first titles, and got to business. Two years, over a dozen titles, and a roster of fresh new authors of incredible new stories later, Black Spot Books was acquired by Vesuvian Media Group, a books-to-film, multimedia corporation. Today I am just as fascinated by the publishing process as ever, only now not only do I get to be a part of it, but I get to shepherd other writers through it. And I continue working to support, encourage, and help authors stay as hooked on books as I always have been—and make sure they are not lost in the shuffle.
IBPA: One of the biggest issues facing independent publishers right now is the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses. Can you share advice for independent publishers about how they can weather the impact of this health crisis on their business?
LR: It’s hard to offer practical advice on an unprecedent problem, but what I think is important for us all to remember is that despite how challenging, uncertain, and downright harrowing things are right now, this too shall pass.
For now, what we can do is insulate our businesses. Spend wisely and cautiously. Be conservative in our forecasting. Support local bookstores. And don’t give up too quickly. Books and stories provide bright spots during dark days, and audiences are hungry for content.
That "key lesson" I noted above about adaptability is also especially germaine right now. One of the things Black Spot Books has been doing to stay afloat and engaged with our readership during COVID-19 has been prioritizing digital products (ebooks, audiobooks), shifting in-person events at independent bookstores and libraries to virtual events, and finding new and fun ways for our authors to interact directly with readers.
IBPA: What is your favorite book?
LR: Choosing a favorite is nearly impossible and quite honestly something of a harrowing task to even consider. But, if I must, it would truly be a three-way tie between She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb (the book that taught me to accept myself), Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice (the book that taught me to love the history of the area I grew up in), and Practical Magic by Anne Hoffman (the book that made me see the magic in everything around me). I first read all three of these in my youth, and they are the three books I have consistently returned to over and over again in the years since—they’re also three of my absolute favorite authors.
More recently, I’ve been reading a lot of Grady Hendrix, a new-to-me author that is quickly becoming a favorite.
IBPA: What was your favorite book as a kid?
LR: There is a picture of me as a girl, sitting on my parent’s living room sofa, totally entranced by the Sunday paper. Whether it was the tacticle feel of newsprint, the glossy pages of the weeky sales fliers, or the Sunday comic strips, it’s fair to say I was hooked on reading before I ever even learned how to read!
Truthfully, I come from a long line of bookish people. I was also extraordinarily lucky that the readers in my family not only supported my interest in reading, but gave me opportunities to truly discover my love of books. With three generations of home libraries available to me, a youth membership at my local library, and a neighborhood used bookstore brimming with twenty-five cent paperbacks, I always had my nose tucked in the pages of a book as a kid.
I read indiscriminately—and totally uncensored. I inhaled every Baby-sitter’s Club and Goosebumps book I could get my hands on. Anne of Green Gables, Treasure Island, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland formed the basis of my love for classics; strong, determined characters; and all things whimsical. The mother’s and grandmother’s bookshelves introduced me to everything from V.C. Andrews to Stephen King, as well as helped me develop a deep appreciation for memoir and narrative non-fiction. I sought out novels that had been adapted to the screen and read in tandem with films, jotting down notes in the margin until I discovered I could actually read plays and then I did that. I read and re-read The Hobbit until the cover fell off. Somebody gave me a copy of Frankenstein for my eleventh birthday, and it’s now one of over a dozen copies, analyses, and manuscript reproductions of the same on my bookshelf.
But my all time—all time—favorite book as a kid? Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald, who said, quite memorably, "There's nothing as cozy as a piece of candy and a book."
IBPA: Thank you very much for sharing your book publishing journey and expertise, Lindy! We’re excited to have you join the IBPA Board of Directors.
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