Event Recaps

Recap of March 2022 Event: Webinar: Accessibility in Ebooks and Other Digital Products

For our March 2022 event, the Minnesota Book Publishers Roundtable hosted Laura Brady, an accessibility expert with 25 years of trade publishing experience. Laura covered the basics of accessibility in eBooks and other digital products.

Laura began by saying, “In an era of thinking inclusively, paying close, thoughtful attention to accessibility in how we publish content is a natural extension of work on diverse voices.” But she cautioned that, “Accessibility is like ice cream—the longer you ignore it, the messier it can get.” She discussed the market, the law, and the principles of accessible design, as well as how to incorporate such design into publishing and how to be an advocate. After her presentation, Laura answered questions about off-the-shelf products for making manuscripts accessible, how to involve people early in the process to produce born-accessible content, the costs of both born-accessible content and making existing materials accessible, and raising consumer and industry awareness.

In the resources area of the MBPR website, members can access the event in a variety of ways: listening to the audio, watching the video, reading the script, and/or viewing Laura’s presentation slides.

Recap of January 2022 Event: Hard Work and a Dream: Publisher Startup Success

For our January 2022 event, the Minnesota Book Publishers Roundtable hosted a panel of Midwestern indie publishers. We talked with the founders of  young, thriving organizations about what it takes to start and grow a new publishing business.

The panel included Mary Taris, teacher-turned-publisher and founder of Strive Publishing, a social enterprise that centers, values, and empowers Black narratives in literature for equity and social justice; Jennifer Baum, founder of Scribe Publishing Company, a traditional small press with national distribution by IPG, and also the executive director of the Midwest Independent Publishers Association; and Sam Van Cook, founder of Button Poetry, the premiere online distributor of performance poetry media worldwide. Moderating the discussion was MBPR board member Paul Nylander.

The three panelists spoke about how small publishers need to constantly reinvent themselves to serve writers and readers—being an engine of innovation or a gateway to underrepresented voices instead of just gatekeepers of content. They also voiced the importance of building a strong team that fits a publishing program’s needs. 

When addressing the challenging early road, all of the publishers agreed that the best way to start in publishing is to dive in. By starting with the goal of finding authors that know how to engage with their audience, a new publisher can begin building a list. Then focusing on building a share of the marketing and engaging the right audience helps a new business grow. Other startup tips: start with print-on-demand to help manage cash flow and consider partnering with a nonprofit organization as a fiscal sponsor to have access to grants.

Members can listen to the full panel discussion exploring the ups and downs of building a successful publishing startup on the resources tab of the MBPR webpage.

Recap of November 2021 Event: Building a Great List: Art, Science, or Both?

This lively panel discussion focused on list building and acquisitions. Three Minnesota-based publishing professionals gave us a peek behind the curtain into how their companies decide what to publish. The panel explored the role data plays in publishers’ strategies, answering questions like: Is data king, or is it more of a suggestion? How is data most helpful in driving acquisitions? And where does data fall short or even lead us astray?

Panelists:

Erika Stevens is the editorial director at Coffee House Press, where she has served in various editorial capacities for a decade. Erika currently acquires poetry, nonfiction, and fiction for Coffee House. Erika was previously in acquisitions at the University of Georgia Press and the University Press of Florida; she started her career in publishing at Duke University Press and UNC Press. She taught in the graduate program in book publishing at Portland State University and in the Sierra Nevada College MFA program. She dabbles in German-to-English translation and has freelanced widely for authors, presses, and nonprofit organizations.

Josh Leventhal is the director of the Minnesota Historical Society Press. He began his career as an editor at Timber Press in Portland, Oregon, in the mid-1990s, and after moving to Minnesota in 2000, he worked for MBI Publishing, Voyageur Press, and an imprint of the Quarto Publishing Group before joining MNHS Press as an acquisitions editor in 2014. Working at large commercial publishers, nonprofit publishers, and small niche publishers in a range of subject areas, Josh has navigated a variety of markets and publishing business models. He is also the author of more than 15 books.

Jenny Krueger is senior publishing director for Lerner Publications in Minneapolis. She has worked in publishing and product development for 15 years, with extensive experience in educational publishing, particularly for the school library and classroom markets. Jenny has developed series, single titles, and database products that serve K–12 learners, including most recently Read WokeTM Books with Cicely Lewis and publishing partnerships with Crayola and Sesame Street.

Recap of September 2021 Event: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Publishing Workplace

Minnesota Book Publishers Roundtable started the 2021–2022 season with a keynote speaker addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). As many of us well know, the publishing industry has long struggled to accurately reflect the diversity of the world and failed to provide a welcoming place for all. Keynote speaker Jennifer Baker, senior editor at Amistad Books, provided a frank reflection of her personal experiences in the industry as well as the efforts of DEI practices as a whole.

In addition to providing a response to unsuccessful band-aid “solutions,” Jennifer offered several steps forward as well as a list of valuable resources, included below.

A Brief History of Diversity Trainings (Fast Company)

The Major Built-in Bias of the Publishing World (Zora)

Diversity Baseline Survey 2.0 (Lee & Low)

Pamela Newkirk Diversity Inc. Conversation (Politics & Prose)

Man Enough podcast w/ guest Alok Vaid Menon

Discussing Barriers of Querying & Pitching for Neurodivergent Writers

New Yorker Editor Finds “Passive Racism” in Archives

Recap of March 2021 Event: Demystifying Metadata

In a world with a growing number of channels for book distribution, metadata is hugely influential, but it can also be confusing. MBPR’s March webinar explored metadata with someone who literally wrote the book on the subject. Margaret Harrison, co-author of Metadata Essentials, spoke on the importance of using metadata to increase discovery and conversion in an online retail environment. Harrison’s practical advice provided further insight on the best ways to optimize titles for online sale. She covered tips for consistent titling and author information, creating book descriptions designed for online retailers, and getting the most out of BISAC codes and keywords.

Check out our member resource area of the website for an audio/video presentation of the event.

Recap of January 2021 Event: Digital Content and Content Marketing in Publishing

January’s webinar featured a conversation about digital content and digital marketing in publishing. While the days of paper-only publishing are long behind most of us, the digital world is not a static space: there are always new challenges and opportunities to explore, especially as technology continues to change. This series of presentations covered how the digital shift has affected publishing strategies and practices, both before and during the pandemic, at every stage of the publishing process. Kristie Thoenen, director of digital products, and Beth Brezenoff, associate publisher, from Capstone Publishing shared their company’s history with digital products, how they have developed and marketed those products, and their response to the pandemic. Then Christine Trant, the founder of Asterism and Co., a company specializing in content marketing for book publishers, explained how publishers can use the digital tools of content marketing to build and retain a community for their product lines.

The webinar recording is available to members in the Resources area. Remember that the process for accessing recordings has changed. If you are a member and have not yet created your individual account for our new website, follow the directions on the Member Resources page to create one and get access to the recordings. If you have questions, please contact us at information@publishersroundable.org.

Recap of November 2020 Event: Diversity of Content in Children’s Books and Beyond

Our September event looked at ways to improve diversity in the publishing industry. In November, we shifted our scope to the content itself, examining obstacles to publishing more diverse content, strategies for elevating unheard voices, and reaching readers and buyers underserved by mainstream publishing lists. Our panelists were Duchess Harris, author and professor of American studies at Macalester College; Tasha Nins, Ramsey County librarian, and Kathleen T. Horning, director of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center. The panel discussed the topics on which more books are needed (and topics that are oversaturated), the ways that those books get into readers’ hands, and trends in diversity of content and authorship over time.

The webinar recording is available to members in the Resources area. Remember that the process for accessing recordings has changed. If you are a member and have not yet created your individual account for our new website, follow the directions on the Member Resources page to create one and get access to the recordings. If you have questions, please contact us at information@publishersroundable.org.

Recap of September 2020 Event: Improving Publishing’s Diversity Problem, One Mentorship, Internship, and Fellowship at a Time

Many publishing companies have been looking for ways to improve diversity within the industry. Our September webinar featured a panel of three publishing professionals discussing how they have created internships, mentorships, or fellowships for people from marginalized communities who are looking to enter the industry. Our panelists were Helen Maimaris, the managing editor of F(r)iction and the COO of its parent nonprofit, Brink Literacy Project; Yasmin A. McClinton, freelance editor at Tessera Editorial; and Sarah Park Dahlen, Associate Professor in the MLIS Program at St. Catherine University and the community liaison for the Mirrors and Windows Fellowship. They spoke about how their organizations started, challenges they’ve met along the way, and the impact they hope to make on the industry as a whole. They also provided ideas for how companies can connect with more diverse applicants for their open positions.

Remember that the process for accessing recordings has changed. If you are a member and have not yet created your individual account for our new website, follow the directions on the Member Resources page to create one and get access to the recordings. If you have questions, please contact us at information@publishersroundable.org

Recap of May 2020 Event: Publishing During a Pandemic: What Now, and What Next?

The May webinar (our first-ever!) featured three local publishing professionals discussing how their teams have adapted to working during the 2020 pandemic.

The panel included presentations from Spencer Brinker, director of product development at Bearport Publishing; Don Leeper, founder of Bookmobile; and Rachel Zugschwert, vice president of marketing at Lerner Publishing Group. They spoke about the challenges and adaptations that their teams have made to communication, processes, and project management and what changes we might see as a result of this temporary shift.

Both audio and video recordings of this event are available to members in Member Resources. Are you a member and don’t have the password to access the recordings? Please contact information@publishersroundtable.org.

Recap of March 2020 Event: Adaptive Financial Communication Lessons

The March luncheon featured key-note speaker Allie Moen Wagstrom, director of finance and operations at MinnPost.

Allie discussed how the lessons we are learning about the dynamic nature of the biosphere can be implemented in organizational communication around finances and budgets. Managing and communicating financial issues can be a source of challenge and opportunity for stakeholders at all levels of an organization. Comparing diverse, self-regenerating ecosystems to artificially maintained monocultures, Allie showed how an inclusive and adaptive financial culture can help nurture successful leadership.

An audio recording from this event is available to members in Member Resources. Are you a member and don’t have the password to access the recordings? Please contact information@publishersroundtable.org.