Wednesday’s Q&A session between Independent Book Publishers Association CEO Angela Bole and She Writes publisher Brooke Warner, who is also IBPA board chair, did not go exactly according to plan, as, due to weather, Warner was unable to arrive at Javits in time for it.
“I still have all the questions, but I don’t have the answers,” Bole said, announcing that instead she would make a presentation adapted from a podcast developed for IBPA by industry veteran Peter Goodman of Stone Bridge Press in Berkeley, Calif., “Publishing Is Great! Publishing Sucks!” Joking that she could not think of a better way to describe publishing, Bole presented five points about why it’s a great time to be an indie publisher, including that due to technology and cultural trends, “if you want to be a publisher, you can be a publisher.”
Books can be produced and made available “at the click of a mouse,” Bole said. She called print-on-demand a game-changer, as it takes away some of the financial risks of maintaining inventory. Social media, meanwhile, allows for closer personal connections between authors and publishers and readers, who now can com-municate directly with one another.
“The future belongs to you, the publisher,” Bole said, pointing out that indie publishers can and do “disrupt cultural norms” and “create new paradigms.” But, Bole cautioned, publishing also “sucks” and many of the things that make publishing great also have downsides. Too many books are published, with Bowker reporting more than one million self-published books in 2017, a new record. “Everyone is publishing everything,” Bole said, “It’s great to have a voice, but are you saying any-thing if no one can hear you?”
Bole also criticized the pressure to keep prices low, noting that while paper and printing and shipping costs continue to rise, book prices remain the same. “As long as consumers insist on low prices,” she said, “Vendors will make publishers foot the bill.” Not to mention, she said, the printing and shipping of books deplete natu-ral resources, and thus publishing needs to examine its environmental sustainability..
Finally, she added, despite the inroads that indie publishers have made in re-cent years, there remain barriers in place to the playing field being made level, due to the business model of book distribution, as well as bias by the media, which too often views many small publishers as “illegitimate.” Consumers on the whole are not aware of the importance of indie publishers to the national conversation, Bole said, “Indie publishers need better talking points and a larger public profile. There’s definitely opportunity here, but more work is needed.”