While the emphasis at Winter Institute typically is on booksellers and on authors, Dan Simon of Seven Stories Press and Tom Hallock of Beacon Press took advantage of the twelfth annual gathering of book industry people to call a meeting of more than 50 independent publishers interested in forming an advocacy organization similar to the Association of American Publishers and the American Association of University Presses. The Independent Publisher Caucus, which has not filed paperwork yet, will be under the aegis of the American Booksellers Association for the next year during its incubation phase. The ABA’s attorney has already provided the fledgling group with legal guidance to prevent them from breaking anti-trust laws.
The ABA, Hallock noted, is "the model of an organization serving a national independent business community in ways we imagine the IPC might serve ours."
“We’re delighted to provide assistance and guidance, the ABA’s Oren Teicher said, “The ABA regards this as within our mission. After all, the ABA is in the education business.”
Disclosing that he and Hallock were inspired by the ABA's aggressive advocacy of its membership against Amazon's business practices in recent years and began discussing forming a like-minded organization of indie presses during last year's Winter Institute in Denver, Simon noted that there is a real need for a national association of indie presses that can “come together to raise our I.Q. as indie publishers,” to support and educate each other, and to advance the group’s interests both within and outside of the industry.
“Under the Trump presidency,” Simon added, “It’s going to be helpful to have an organization like this to defend its members and to speak together. Indie presses can be a bulwark for free speech in a way larger institutions can’t.”
“We can’t talk about pricing and discounts, and things like that,” Hallock pointed out, ”What we can talk about is trends, technological changes, and education.”
After the opening remarks by Simon, Hallock, and Teicher, the meeting -- with attendees representing such presses as Milkweed, Coffee House, Agate, and others -- veered between brainstorming on such prosaic matters as IPC membership dues, forming a six-person steering committee, strategizing on print runs, and prioritizing issues of concern, to a presentation of lofty ideals surrounding diversity. George Gibson explained that successful publishing all boils down to managing inventory and the cash flow, while Lisa Lucas of the National Book Foundation spoke of the importance of making the publishing industry more inclusive, both as a marketing decision and a moral imperative.
“Many of you are already publishing diverse work,” she noted, urging the indie publishing community to act more aggressively to hire more diverse job candidates and to mentor them. “You have to do the work,” she said, to create an industry that is more welcoming to people of color and others from under-represented backgrounds.
“This is embarrassing. It’s actually shameful how homogeneous this community is,” Lucas said after asking for a show of hands of attendees who identify as people of color, with only three people responding in the affirmative.
“There’s a real marketplace reason” for reaching out more aggressively to people of color,” she noted, “”Beyond the moral: people of color have money to spend and people of color read books.”
The group plans to meet again during BookExpo but has not yet scheduled a date.
This report has been updated with additional information.