Members of the Independent Publishers Caucus, an indie press trade association, will gather in Seattle later this month for ABA’s first in-person Winter Institute since the event was held in Baltimore in January 2020. The IPC is determined to make up for three years of lost face time with a three-hour meeting at WI18 on February 20 that includes a panel of Seattle-area journalists and book reviewers, followed by a panel of area booksellers and a town hall moderated by IPC’s nine-member steering committee. “We’re excited to have a meeting and town hall where we can see everybody’s faces—it’ll be so different,” said IPC director Anna Thorn, who will be meeting many of the group’s 84 members in person for the first time.

During the pandemic, IPC held biweekly virtual town halls, which Thorn described as “a great lifeline” for members, with each event drawing dozens of attendees. The town halls, Thorn said, were a mix of discussions between members that included smaller breakout sessions and presentations by guest speakers. Guest speakers included representatives from BISG, Edelweiss, and Ingram, as well as media representatives, booksellers, publishers’ reps, and librarians. “We like to get people who are working in a little different space but an overlapping one with our members,” Thorn explained.

IPC still holds virtual meetings on the first Friday of each month. “It helps to foster connections between members, which is a real priority,” Thorn noted. Select staff from various publishers are also invited to the meetings. “It’s better to have that perspective, and not just have the managers’ perspectives,” she said. “This changes the discussions for the better.”

As for the February 20 meeting and town hall in Seattle, Thorn predicts that there’s “going to be so much engagement.” She added, “I am excited to present what we are hoping to do in 2023.” Discussions will focus on such topics as sustainability and IPC’s DEI initiatives. IPC has extended free memberships to BIPOC-owned presses, and the organization is also committed to diversity on the panels at its virtual and in-person meetings.

“We also make sure our distribution lists are going out to bookstores that don’t always show up on casual Google searches to make sure we are really connecting,” Thorn said. “Internally, our efforts include partnerships with WNDB and goal setting with publishers” to make indie publishing more inclusive.

This past year, IPC developed an intern caucus to help those who want to launch careers in publishing. The emphasis, Thorn said, is on providing advice and resources to “racially and economically diverse” interns and junior staff, “to make sure they can stay in the industry.”

IPC is also strategizing on how to diversify the middle echelons of indie publishing, Thorn noted. “That’s one of our goals in 2023. When you get to the middle and upper tiers of management, it’s a lot more difficult. It’s going to be a really exciting year, working on larger goals, creating the foundation.”

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