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Get to Know Victoria Sutherland: New IBPA Board of Directors Member Spotlight

Thursday, July 30, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Christopher Locke
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On April 4, 2020, at IBPA’s virtual Annual Meeting of Members, members voted to approve six candidates to the IBPA Board of Directors (four incumbents and two new members) whose term began July 1, 2020.

This series of "Get to Know..." articles was developed to help the independent publishing community get to know the amazing new members of the IBPA Board. The first article, focusing on Black Spot Books president Lindy Ryan, ran on June 18. This second article focuses on Foreword Magazine founding publisher Victoria Sutherland. And in a few weeks, there will be a third article focusing on Publish Your Gift® founding publisher Tieshena Davis, who filled a seat vacated in May 2020 by Dayna Anderson, formerly of CamCat Publishing.

Below, Victoria explains what she hopes to accomplish as an IBPA Board member; shares helpful tips for how independent publishers can survive (and thrive!) during the COVID-19 health crisis; and more.


Listen to "Inside Independent Publishing (with IBPA)" podcast host Peter Goodman discuss trade shows, reviewing, and diversity with Victoria Sutherland of Foreword Reviews.


IBPA: Why are you excited about the opportunity to serve on the IBPA Board of Directors?

Victoria Sutherland (VS): Indie book publishers are entrepreneurs, and I find this extremely exciting company to keep as the industry continues to grow, overcome challenges, and celebrate wins from a diverse backdrop. As a board member, I’ll have more ways to give back to the community who supports us.

IBPA: What are some of the things you are interested in working on as a board member?

VS: My career has basically been dedicated to advocacy. Foreword Magazine was born in 1998 to give a voice to the underrepresented voices. That includes independent presses, self-published authors, and most university presses who weren’t getting much coverage in traditional trade magazines at the time. Now that indie presses are de rigueur so to speak, I’m interested in the next layer: building more inclusiveness, equity, and giving other voices in the room the chance to speak and really be heard.

IBPA: What is your background in the publishing world, and how does this background bring a unique perspective to the board of directors?

VS: I am the founder and publisher of Foreword Magazine, Inc., director of Children’s Books USA, and managing partner of Champagne Rights Agency. Throughout my professional life, I’ve concentrated on building communities through an advocacy/service approach: matching synergies and lines of support between publishers, vendors, libraries, booksellers, agents, and other key constituencies of the publishing and reading community.

My publishing experience includes twenty-five years of magazine publishing for consumer (Spirituality & Health) and business-to-business properties (Foreword Reviews, Independent Publisher), twenty-five years of book show management and selling translation rights, as well as a dedicated focus on independent publishers, small press authors and the books/business they’ve created, since 1995 (yikes, I’m aging myself here!).

I also have professional publishing certifications from Stanford, Yale, and New York University publishing courses, am a 20-year member of PubWest, and on the advisory board of the Independent Publishers Caucus.

IBPA: How has it been beneficial to you to be a member of IBPA?

VS: I have met so many inspirational people who continue to drive us to do our best work; I have learned so much from the board and members in the past in person and online. I have developed many personal friendships from my professional participation. Our company has been so appreciated and supported by IBPA, we could not have survived without it. In fact, the COVID-19 roundtables (now the IBPA Member Roundtables) held since March have been some of the most beneficial pieces for us recently, kudos to you all for pivoting as you must to satisfy so many members so well!

IBPA: How do you think it would benefit independent publishers, author publishers, and publisher partners to be members of IBPA?

VS: There is nothing better for growing a business than the community a professional membership organization provides. IBPA leadership is very accessible, and members are so generous with sharing. This can be so important, particularly at trying times like these, when the tendency is to feel alone in a small life raft in the middle of a turbulent ocean.

IBPA: Can you share three key lessons you’ve learned about how one can succeed as an independent publisher?

VS:

  1. If you are going to do it at all, do it well. Slow the project down if you can’t. Cutting corners on even one thing will mark you as an amateur and the industry will not support you with sales.
  2. Network. It is one of the most rewarding things about any job, and besides learning so much from others, you also make great friends.
  3. Be generous, without expectations. I find this mindset provides me with a lot more happiness than I could ever imagine. By coincidence, the adage seems to be true: I receive much more than I give.

IBPA: What inspired you to work in the publishing industry as a career?

VS: The people. Every day I get to work with the most creative, passionate, smart, funny, fun, thoughtful, book people in a variety of positions, who inspire the world to be a better place. Books can and do save the world. This has been recently illustrated in the demand for diversity titles helping us understand the roots of our racial issues across America.

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 this health crisis for their business?

VS: I recently published an article that identifies ten key points. Here is a summary:

  1. Cash is king. Simple cash flow projections will determine how your next 12–16 weeks might look in best/worst case scenarios. Update weekly, as things seem to change quickly. Presses are reporting that Ingram and Amazon continue to pay, but that some booksellers may not be. Take advantage of the government programs while you can, some can help pay your employees (PPP), and seem to be worth the frustrations of the application process.
  2. Play your offense. Now is the time to get your metadata in shape, particularly if you’ve changed any publication dates. Are your education, juvenile nonfiction, and children’s books Lexile leveled? It might also be time to explore alternative methods of content you’ve been putting off, like audio and ebook formats, which by the way, are seeing incredible sales right now.
  3. Save a tree. Another industry habit that might be worth breaking: limit/eliminate your catalog and ARC production. During the stay-at-home work orders, most trade journals are only accepting ebook submissions, and without trade shows or in-person sales calls, catalogs are having a hard time finding a home this year. I predict the extinction of these sales tools sooner rather than later as publishers depend on their distribution partners for customized digital sales presentations.
  4. Virtual Trade Shows are being held despite the cancellation of physical events this year. The Bologna Children’s Book Fair had an online event in May, ALAVirtual had their virtual event in June, and the Texas Library Association has had success with online author events. Kudos to these organizers for keeping us connected.
  5. Zoom, zoom, zoom. If my 82-year old father can do it, you can too! Haymarket Books hosted 17,000 people at a virtual author event shortly after shelter-in-place orders commenced. Thousands of readers from all over the world have joined Europa Editions on Monday nights for an “after dinner book club and watch party” featuring Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend. Your authors will also enjoy the effort, even if it’s just a simple FaceTime connect. Be brave and embrace technology, it can be a gamechanger.
  6. Love on your indie bookstores. Bookshop.org launched earlier than they planned due to the crisis, and is a way to support local indie bookshops that customers can’t physically patronize. Any sales help to keep the doors open/lights on during this pandemic is certainly appreciated.
  7. Love on your librarians. With economies tightening, public library funds derived from local taxes will follow suit. Notes from a Michigan Library Association roundtable I participated in recently outlined budgets for 2020 being dedicated to increasing digital resources. Are you prepared to sell digital books to libraries at price points they can afford?
  8. Pub date delays. Due to circumstances beyond your control, it may be wise to delay some releases until later this year, or even next. But be conscientious about the ramifications of your delays: the trade needs six months notice, and mass market merchants like Target, Walmart, and Costco are essential businesses selling books in great quantities and require nine months to get things in the supply chain. And once Amazon gets your metadata, we all know the nightmare it is to get things changed.
  9. Limit your media consumption. Especially during business hours, mental energy devoted to negative thoughts is not productive and can rapidly turn into quicksand. Easier said than done, I know. But instead of checking news feeds frequently, change your alert settings and maybe take a couple days off. Try to look for bright spots through the many magazines and other “fun” content feeds who have dropped their paywalls.
  10. Self-love. Go ahead and be generous with this one, your family and everyone around you will benefit from it. Instead of self-medicating, self-motivate and overwhelm your senses with a walk, an online fitness course, a second language tutorial online, or just go play with your fur babies. Or, of course, attack that stack and read a book!

IBPA: What is your favorite book?

VS: I really, really can’t narrow it down, even to two. I read 50+ books a year, and I have the opportunity to read only the best from indie presses. I will say that recently I finished The Eighth Life by Nino Haratischvili (9781950354146, April 2020, Scribe Books) and it was fantastic.

IBPA: What was your favorite book as a kid?

VS: Probably the very first book I ever checked out of a library, The Alphabet Bunny by Wanda Gag. I was in kindergarten and I carried it around for a week. The beautiful artwork grabbed my attention, and I recently tracked down a first edition.

IBPA: Thank you for sharing your publishing journey and expertise with the IBPA community, Victoria! We are honored to have you join the IBPA Board of Directors.


Don't miss this special discount for IBPA members! Make sure to check out the discounts IBPA members receive on advertising in Foreword Reviews, as well as the discount with Clarion Reviews from Foreword Reviews.


Share your publishing news with the IBPA community! Send news about events or accomplishments to christopher@ibpa-online.org. 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 christopher@ibpa-online.org 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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