Pub West, the organization of independent publishers, has been holding its annual conference in the fall for more than 30 years, but that will change when the event moves to February in 2015. At its business meeting held during its November 7-9 conference, Pub West president David Trendler of Velo Press said that because of growing schedule conflicts the association had voted to hold its next conference on February 25, 2015 in Pasadena,Calif. Trendler, along with Pub West executive director Kent Watson, said that although the regional bookseller trade shows and general preparations for the holiday selling season were factors behind the switch, the primary driver was conflicts with sales conference. Both men noted that as more publishers are turning to third party distributors it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a time in the fall when a majority of members can attend the meeting. Trendler also noted that the crowded fall schedule prevents potential speakers from appearing at the event.
In the absence of a fall 2014 conference, Trendler said Pub West will hold a series of publishing seminars over the course of the summer aimed primarily at improving the skills of younger publishing employees. Dates and cities will be announced shortly.
Distribution was one of the feature sessions during the conference, and all three panelists---Ingram's Phil Ollila, Jason Brockwell from NBN, and PGW president Susan Reich--all agreed that now is a good time for publishers to considering switching to distributors. Reich noted that with a number of larger publishers moving aggressively into distribution to fill up warehouse capacity there is a lot of competition in the market, giving publishers a chance to find good deals.
The panelists also noted that changes in the market that include the decline in print inventory and growing opportunities in digital and international sales make it good time for publishers to join with a distributor who can help them lower fixed costs while also providing the necessary resources to take advantage of the growth potential in both digital and international markets. Olilla noted with the ability of distributors, including Ingram Publishers Services, to sell print and digital editions abroad, publishers should be aware that when they are developing marketing plans for the domestic market those titles can also be sold abroad.
In the distributor panel, the viability of publishing seasons was touched on, but it had a fuller hearing in a session dedicated to the latest developments of Edelweiss. Ingram's Jackie Thompson said that with the development of new technologies there is no reason all books should be subjected to the typical six-month publishing cycle and she advocated for the use of more "drop in" titles. PGW's Reich, who was also on this panel, said that while she is sympathetic to the notion of getting books to market more quickly, she had a number of concerns about adding titles, topped by the worry that many drop in books will simply be overlooked by booksellers and other accounts. Publishers, Reich said, "need a reasonto drop out of the season." On a broader level, Reich said seasons still provided the best way for publishers to organize their lists. Mary Wolf, co-owner of Santa Fe's Collected Works Bookstore and Coffeehouse, said she also likes to see lists by seasons, noting she often misses titles that are dropped in. It was clear from all panelists, however, which included Velo's David Trendler, that the industry is ready to move beyond a two or three season selling cycle if only a way forward could be found.
The main focus of the session was on what is new with Edelweiss and the impact the tool is having in the book supply chain. Edelweiss founder John Rubin, who was also on the panel which was moderated by CCC's Chris Kenneally, reported that the publishers using Edelweiss publish over 95% of the books sold by a typical trade bookstore. Indicating how imbedded Edelweiss has become, Wolf said the online catalog is one of her store's "technology essentials" along with Wordstock, an integrated Web site, and Ingram iPage. She said with the development of Edelweiss she rarely receives printed catalogs anymore and prefers to review electronic galleys. The other panelists all agreed that print catalogs are only used in rare exceptions. The most frequent use of print catalogs, they said, is when they create customized catalogs for specific accounts, often using Edelweiss.
Edelweiss founder John Rubin, who co -moderated the event with CCC's Chris Kenneally, was surprised to hear how much Edelweiss is used being used by publishers to pitch books at sales conference, a practice that seems to be supplanting PowerPoint presentations.
The ability of Edelweiss to display titles from big and small publishers in much the same manner was seen as both a strength and weakness of the system. Done right, Rubin noted, a book by a small press could look just the same as one done by the major houses. But some panelists said they missed the opportunity to see books that publishers believe are their most important books for a season.
Edelweiss is becoming even more pervasive within the industry with a couple of panelists mentioning that the tool is now being used by Barnes & Noble. Rubin confirmed that the company is beginning to use the tool when it works with certain publishers.
In the conference's first keynote, Berrett-Koehler president Steve Piersanti explained now his company has managed to post 10 consecutive profitable years. A key, he said, is working in collaboration with authors. B-K authors are given lots of input into the publishing process he said and the company keeps its contracts simple and transparent. He noted that B-K has lost few authors to bigger publishes, even those authors who have become bestsellers. He did acknowledge that within the last few months B-K has begun offering the first advances in its history. But keeping to its values, all authors receive the same advance, $5,000. Piersanti said he decided to begin offering advances because the company is interested in working more with agents who are more inclined to discuss projects if advances are involved.
During the membership meeting it was announced that Pub Wests finances remain solid and that during the past year the number of members had grown from 203 to 223. About 200 people attended the 2013 event in Santa Fe and Watson said the organization remains interested in expanding its geographic reach, noting that it has members it about 40 states plus two countries.