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.