As part of its annual conference held last month, the Publishers Association of the West reported the results of its annual Huenefeld Survey, which showed increased profitability for independent publisher participants in 2002. PubWest attributed those gains to publishers controlling variable costs and managing fixed costs.

"The average publisher that participated in the survey showed notable improvement over last year," said Mike Hopkins, publisher of the Portland, Ore.—based Graphic Arts Center and PubWest treasurer. Hopkins presented an analysis of the Huenefeld data that showed 73% of participants had a profit in 2002, up from 63% in 2001, and sales grew at an average rate of 3.9%. Hopkins said the data revealed several key strategies that led to profitability: savings across the board; monitoring revenue and other outputs per employee; growing sales with fewer titles and lower discounts; and looking at all operations in terms of return on investment.

After two years of sluggish sales, the participants in the Huenefeld-PubWest Survey showed that cost-cutting paid off. "They may not have sold significantly more in terms of units, but collectively they were able to get a better price at a lower cost," said Hopkins. The average revenue per title, for example, increased 15.6% in 2002, to $17,035.

"It's a real important metric for all of us in the industry," observed Helen Cherullo, publisher of The Mountaineers Books. "It showed that a little bit of savings all over adds up to huge dollars and can make the difference between a profitable publishing program and a loss."

PubWest took over the Huenefeld Survey in 1999, when longtime publishing consultant John Huenefeld (who had been doing the survey for more than 30 years) retired. Approximately 70 publishers participated in the 2002 survey.

PubWest grew out of the Rocky Mountain Book Publishers Association, which started in 1977. While membership is still largely dominated by Rocky Mountain publishers, PubWest president Rick Rinehart, of Roberts Rinehart/Rowman & Littlefield, told PW that it has expanded significantly in the past year. PubWest now has more than 250 members and includes companies from Minnesota, the West Coast and the Southwest. Last year PubWest held its conference in Northern California and will hold next year's event in Austin, Tex., in an attempt to broaden its membership.

Rinehart said PubWest was also interested in working with other regional publishers' associations to get information out to the publishers working and succeeding outside of New York. "It's the perfect opportunity for a reality check," observed Cherullo about the PubWest conference. "We talk about common problems and challenges, and it can reaffirm where you are going right and where you are going wrong." After two slow years, Cherullo said she came away from PubWest thinking "that things are improving."

Results of the Huenefeld-PubWest Survey can be obtained for $250 from PubWest by e-mail or phone, (303) 447-2320.