We had a full house for our November meeting — more than 100 people at 11 am, and they kept streaming in. (The main attraction may have been the Writers’ World vendor fair in the afternoon — I’m writing here about our keynote speaker, Angela Bole, the CEO of IBPA.)
The International Book Publishing Association (IBPA), based in Manhattan Beach, California, is like a parent organization to BAIPA, thought not in any official way. BAIPA President Becky Parker Geist interviewed Angela Boles, and took questions from the audience. Below is a distilled version of their conversation.
Becky: Why is it important to be a member of both BAIPA and IBPA?
Angela: BAIPA is great as in-person networking. IBPA has the relationships with big players. We become the advocate for you in that space. For example, If you call the office and say Ingram Spark won’t talk to me, we can help with that.
Becky: What is the IBPA Publishing University?
Angela: This national conference is one of IBPA’s biggest benefits. We host it every year. Most IBPA members are in California. It’s a three-day program, unique because it focuses on the business of writing, not on craft. We talk to you as though you’re a publisher. You have to take your author hat off and put your publisher hat on.
We have a documentary this year about two kids who went into self-publishing. The realities and ups and downs of it.
Becky: Does IBPA provide access to resources not available to others?
Angela: Certainly we have discounts. We have real people who answer the phone every time it rings.
Becky: What does it cost to join?
Angela: Annual membership is $129. You get access to the magazine. Sixty discounts on services, including 15 percent off anything at Bowker. And you can call the staff and the people who work there.
Becky: Any newer benefits?
Angela: My mandate is for IBPA to have online networking. It’s really expensive to launch. We will have a new site that has social networking. With discussion forums, like All Things Amazon. People with their first book. This new benefit is called Social Link.
Mostly we want a professional publishing industry. We want the book industry to be flooded with professionally published books.
Becky: What do you see as the biggest mistake authors make?
Angela: Paying too much for services. And jumping in too quickly before understanding the landscape. If you’re finding yourself at a roadblock, who do you call?
Becky: Can you tell us about Net Galley? What is it and how are people using it?
Angela: It’s an outlet for digital galleys to professional readers. Net Galley says we have 300,000 professional readers. Not reviewers. It’s fantastic for reader reviews. Which are social proof on your Amazon page that people are reading your book.
This is one way to get lots of reader reviews. But reader reviews don’t do as much for you in traditional book venues, like libraries, bookstores. They aren’t using the reviews as much. Because of concerns about tit-for-tat reviews, buying reviews. They’re looking at Publishers Weekly, Book Journal, Library Journal. Lots of members say I’ve got 100 reviews, but indie bookstore won’t generally pay attention to reader reviews. You need reviews from establishment sources, like Kirkus Reviews. Keep in mind that there are 750,000 self-published books. (IBPA has 3,200 members.)
Becky: What are the most important marketing steps to concentrate on?
Angela: Your mailing list is much more important than any advertising or PR. Inbound marketing. What are you doing to get people to come into your world? How do you get people to your website? Figure out a way to get people on your mailing list. We’re all so inundated with stuff we don’t want.
Becky: BAIPA focuses on publishing, raising the standard of independently published books. Where does the demarcation exist between book development and publishing? Maybe a more specific question is: If a book is well-produced, why is there still a stigma for self-published works as opposed to those conventionally published.
Angela: There is still a stigma. There are too many self-published books out there. We can’t review everything, so we stick with the Big 5.
We’ve developed a checklist for professional publishing. For what we call book in hand — what readers, or perhaps more important, booksellers see when they hold your book in their hand. The checklist is six pages long. We’re still reviewing it. We can tell you what good book design looks like.
Becky: Does it make a difference if you use your name or company as the publisher? And what about embedding the price in the bar code? Why would you? Why wouldn’t you?
Angela: You should embed your price in the bar code. The biggest reason is that Barnes and Noble won’t accept the book without it.
Professional buyers look at the book, notice if the price tag is in the bar code. The whole book industry is set up in this automated way. One reason for the stigma of self-publishing is that self-publishers can slow down the automation. If, for example, the price is not in the bar code. They’re trying to get everything scanned. The U.S. book publishing is a $28 billion industry.
Becky: What about CreateSpace being listed as the publisher?
Angela: Best not to. CreateSpace is Amazon and the indie bookstores are publicly saying Amazon hurts them.
Becky: What does it take for a distributor to take on a self-published book?
Angela: A distributor is a partner, who gets your book out there. But it’s extremely competitive. If they have 7 million titles, why would they distribute your book? First off, they want more than one book. Almost always want a deeper bench. Economy of scale.
They don’t want to waste the time to train the publisher and then have that one book be it. They’re looking to leverage lots of different books. When you’re an author, your calling card is your book. If you’re a publisher, your calling card is your marketing plan.
Becky: What else?
Angela: I’ve never met a more open group of people than IBPA. There are so many things we’d like to talk about. Simplest way to join is sign up online at https://www.ibpa-online.org/