Publishing University 2015 Preview
Interview with Rana DiOrio
For podcast release Monday, March 23, 2015
KENNEALLY: Once upon a time, authors and publishers, along with readers and booksellers, knew their separate places in the book world and they stuck to them. The distribution of power was uneven, maybe even unfair, but the pecking order seemed to make sense.
Welcome to Copyright Clearance Center’s podcast series. I’m Christopher Kenneally for Beyond the Book. Once upon a time is no longer in the book world, for better or worse. The digital transformation of books and publishing has created a more level playing field. As with so many revolutions, though, the change has come at a cost. In 2015 who holds the power in the book world, and are these rulers wise and beneficent or crass and cold-hearted? Are we building a utopia for readers or making their lives miserable?
Those are the questions I’ll be asking at the general session opening Publishing University 2015 next month in Austin, Texas. Rana DiOrio, founder of San Francisco Bay’s Little Pickle Press joins me now for a preview of Pub U and a look at its organizers, the Independent Book Publishers Association.
Welcome back to Beyond the Book, Rana DiOrio.
DiORIO: Thank you so much for inviting me, Chris, I’m happy to be here.
KENNEALLY: We’re looking forward to chatting with you, giving everyone a preview of what will take place at Publishing University in the early part of April. We’ll also take a look at what you’re doing there at Little Pickle Press, and some interesting designations that you’ve earned for your work there.
As background, we’ll tell people that the IBPA is an organization that is the largest professional publishing group in the United States. It welcomes indie presses, self-published authors and hybrid published authors into its membership and provides advocacy, education and tools for their success. Rana DiOrio, you have just about written your way through life as a student, a lawyer, an investment banker, a private equity investor, and now an author publisher of children’s media. You serve on the board of IBPA, and I’m sure have had a fairly large hand in the preparation of the program there. Tell us about some of the highlights. What could we expect if we attend?
DiORIO: Well, we’re very excited about this year’s programming. We have five keynote speakers, we have 30 breakout sessions, all told 45 industry experts, over 30 of whom are serving as experts in Ask the Expert sessions where attendees can sign up for one-on-one time with these people. We’re incorporating the Benamin Franklin awards for the first time on the evening of day one. We’re very excited to marry those two important events. We’ve historically had them adjunct to BookExpo America, and it made a lot more sense to us to have it with our peers at the Pub U.
KENNEALLY: Right. And for those not familiar, the Ben Franklin Awards honor the best of publishing – of independent publishing.
DiORIO: Exactly. We’re also very excited that we’re bringing Pub U to Texas for the first time, and that’s to honor the growing strength of its literary community. As people may be aware, South by Southwest started featuring publishing panels a few years ago, and the Texas Book Festival is now accepting self-published books. So we thought it was time to bring Pub U to Texas, especially since Austin is an especially fun city.
KENNEALLY: It’s also a city that one associates with innovation, with sort of out-on-the-edge type thinking. I think that ought to have an impact on the kind of discussions that will take place at Publishing University. You’re really trying to look ahead as much as assess the moment and where people are within this very changing book publishing world.
DiORIO: No, I agree. I think Austin’s on the vanguard of a lot of disciplines – music, education, and now publishing. There’s also some special programming I’d love to highlight if that’s possible?
KENNEALLY: Absolutely. I was going to bring up, in fact, the very opening keynote, Peter Hildick-Smith of the Codex-Group is going to be answering the question, how books sell. I would think everybody in the room wants to attend that.
DiORIO: Oh, for sure. There’s other new programming that I wanted to showcase. BISG and Firebrand Technologies are offering a deeply discounted registration fee for members to the eBook Ninja workshop, which we think will be very well attended. For members it’s just $99 for the day, which reflects a savings of $400.
The evening before Pub U there’s going to be a cocktail hour – Literature and Libations, it’s sponsored by Ingram Content. This will be a unique opportunity for attendees to network with their cohorts and with industry veterans leading into the conference.
And then my personal favorite is there’s a children’s book publishing breakfast sponsored by Epic, one of Little Pickle Press’s partners. Dr. Loriene Roy, who’s a professor at the School of Information at University of Texas, will speak at the breakfast about the hot topic of diversity in children’s publishing, so I’m really looking forward to that session.
KENNEALLY: A hot topic and important one, one that really became charged at BookExpo last year. I think the conversation around diversity in publishing, particularly in children’s publishing is continuing. You’re certainly somebody who has a very important perspective on that. Little Pickle Press is a much-praised, much-awarded children’s press that you founded with a very special focus on meaningful topics, I guess is how you describe it in your Website. This must be a really important for you, meaningful topic. So these are children’s books that, of course, I’m sure entertain, and that’s very important with a children’s book, but you want to entertain in a way that leads the child to develop critical thinking.
DiORIO: Exactly. The common denominator in all of our material, Chris, is that it starts a substantive conversation between a child and their grownup about a topic that matters, and we’re the catalyst for new discovery.
KENNEALLY: Well, one of the ways that you document your efforts around all of that is this designation called B corp or B corporation. B corps are certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet these standards of social and environmental performance and accountability and transparency. If you really do want to contribute to that conversation, I suppose parents will be looking for that kind of a seal, almost a seal of approval, or certainly of a kind certification of standards. Tell us about B Labs and the work that you do as a B corporation.
DiORIO: B Corporations walk the talk, Chris. They are the change that we seek in the world. We hold ourselves to higher standards of environmental friendliness, humanitarian efforts, and being good to our employees. Those are the three vectors where we excel. Some iconic B Corps that your listeners may recognize are Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s – these are big B corporations that are doing good in the world with the theory that doing good is good for business.
The Little Pickle Press – one of our first titles was What Does it Mean to be Green? I couldn’t see how I could put that topic into the world on virgin paper that was printed halfway across the world and put on a boat back to San Francisco. So I really wanted to find a process that was more environmentally friendly. We used recycled paper and soy inks, and we printed in the Americas. I couldn’t find a publisher to do that, so we did that, and that was our foundation. Being a B corporation is part of our DNA.
KENNEALLY: The way you describe this B corporation status, it’s a way of looking at success in a way that you might have looked at it differently when you were an investment banker.
DiORIO: Oh, for sure. We’re a social mission company, Chris. Everything that we do serves our mission. It’s not a caboose or adjunct. It is integral to our core business.
KENNEALLY: And is a sense of mission that you find members of IBPA share? Independent publishers – certainly they get into to be successful as businesses, but many of them, I’ve found, are really dedicated to a certain topic, to an area of study, to an effort to enrich children’s lives, to educate, and so forth. So there really is a mission-driven aspect of independent publishing. Tell us about that.
DiORIO: Absolutely. I think you intimated this in your opening remarks about how the industry is changing. I think one of the greatest changes is that it’s an environment where independent publishers can flourish and voices can be heard in new ways, and with new capacity. I think our members are very reflective of that movement. At Publishing University, they’re going to be able to network with other independent publishers and get strength in their numbers and learn about best practices, find some mentors, find some vendors and let that voice carry and be successful.
KENNEALLY: Let me ask you, as a way to close out our chat with Rana DiOrio, the founder of San Francisco Bay’s Little Pickle Press and a member of the board the Independent Book Publishers Association, which brings its Publishing University 2015 to Austin, Texas next month. Rana, what about that? Who holds the power these days? Are we building a utopia for readers? How do you feel about all of that.
DiORIO: Well, I’m very much looking forward to our general session on this topic, Chris, especially in light of the fact that I’ll be between two titans in the industry, being Ingram Content and Publishers Weekly. I think that certainly big distribution holds a great deal of power, and the IBPA helps its members navigate those channels. I can remember, I was an early member of the IBPA. I joined in 2009 when I founded my company, and I took advantage of some member benefits right out of the gate and forged my first relationship with Baker & Taylor. I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to do that because I only had one or two titles. But the IBPA helped me to forge that connection. I think there are new ways every day where small or indie or self-published authors can find their way through the publishing world.
KENNEALLY: As you mentioned, you’ll be part of the discussion that will hold for that opening session. Joining you onstage with me is Kelly Gallagher, the vice president of content acquisition for Ingram Content Group, as well as Jim Milliot, sometimes guest here on Beyond the Book, the editorial director of Publishers weekly, and I think that says something that real leaders of publishing are there at Publishing University. Independent used to mean small and people have associations with that, but these days there’s this power in numbers, and that independent group has really grown in significance.
DiORIO: Oh, I couldn’t agree more. I had the great fortune of having a direct conversation with John Ingram at the Frankfurt Book Festival, and he told me straight out that Ingram is banking its growth for the next five years on independent publishers, that the world has changed so dramatically that the opportunities come from this wellspring of independent publishers.
KENNEALLY: Well, indeed. We look forward to exploring those questions with you, Rana DiOrio, the founder of Little Pickle Press, when we are together in Austin at Publishing University 2015. Thanks so much for joining us today on Beyond the Book.
DiORIO: Thank you for the opportunity, and I look forward to seeing you in Austin, Chris.
KENNEALLY: Beyond the Book is produced by Copyright Clearance Center, a global rights broker for the world’s most sought after materials including millions of books and e-books, journals, newspapers, magazines, and blogs. You can follow Beyond the Book on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to the free podcast series on iTunes, or at our Website, beyondthebook.com. Our engineer and coproducer is Jeremy Brieske of Burst Marketing. My name is Christopher Kenneally. For all of us at Copyright Clearance Center, thanks for listening to Beyond the Book.