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Four Benefits of Joining a Publishers Association

By Sarah Bolme

"Why should I spend my money to just be part of a group?" This was the response I received when I asked my friend if she was planning on joining a professional organization to which I belonged. Sadly, many individuals see membership fees for a professional association as a waste of money.

Professional associations exist for just about any industry. Associations are formed for the purpose of collaborating and learning from one another with the sentiment that helping each other provides better results than each person just doing it alone. When you join a professional association you receive great benefits. However, it is up to individuals to take advantage of the benefits offered by a professional association.

Here are four reasons for you, a self- or small publisher to join a publishers association.

1. You gain respect in the book industry.

Professional organizations hold their members to a high standard of conduct. Membership in a professional association says "I am serious about my vocation." Don’t you prefer to go to a doctor who is a member of the American Medical Association? Knowing that your doctor belongs to a professional organization makes you feel more secure that she is serious about learning and knowing the latest medical techniques. As a publisher, your membership in a publishers association brings you the same professional respect in the book industry. For example, consider book reviews, an essential ingredient in promoting a new title. One source, The Midwest Book Review, specializes in reviewing titles from small publishers, self-publishers, academic publishers, and specialty presses. However, they give priority consideration to publishers that belong to a professional publishers association.

2. You receive cutting-edge information.

Publishers associations provide their members with some form of regular communication (usually a newsletter) containing the latest developments and resources in the publishing industry. Many hold seminars and conferences to further their members’ education and expertise in publishing related issues. The information you glean from belonging to a publishers association can improve your business and bring you more success in your publishing and promotion endeavors. Knowing what is working for other publishers helps you learn what to do to sell more copies of your books.

3. You save money.

Joining a professional publishers association costs money. However, if you take advantage of the many membership benefits these associations offer (which can include co-op marketing opportunities, savings on shipping costs, and health and liability insurance programs for self-employed individuals), you will save money in the long run. Some small publishers claim that the money they save on SPAN’s freight discount alone more than pays for their annual membership fees in the organization.

4. Doors of opportunity open for you.

Professional publishers associations provide many opportunities for you to network with other professionals in the book industry. Aside from the aforementioned seminars or conferences, some also provide an online discussion group for member publishers. These opportunities allow you to not only find out what is working for other publishers, but also lend you a venue to share your expertise. Networking in this manner can also lead to other prospects such as a co-publishing agreement. Displaying your titles at a trade convention can lead to great deals. While generally a costly endeavor, some publishers associations provide opportunities for you to affordably display your titles. One author received 26 inquiries from displaying his title at the Frankfurt Book Fair through PMA and ended up selling international rights to six foreign countries.

There are currently five main professional publishers associations for the small and self-publisher.

Publishers Marketing Association (PMA) publishes a newsletter, sponsors seminars, provides co-op promotional mailings, exhibits members’ books at trade conventions, and sponsors the annual Benjamin Franklin Awards for the best books of the year published by independent publishers.

Small Publishers Association of North America (SPAN) publishes a newsletter, offers co-op advertising and display opportunities, sponsors an annual conference, and hosts an online discussion group for small and self-publishers.

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) is a newer organization for small and self-publishers publishing materials for the Christian marketplace. CSPA publishes an e-newsletter, exhibits members’ books at Christian trade conventions, and offers co-op advertising, Web page hosting, and an online discussion group for small publishers publishing material for the Christian marketplace.

Catholic Book Publishers Association (CBPA) is for publishers that publish materials for the Catholic marketplace. While not exclusively for the small publisher, they do have a sliding membership fee based on size of publishing house. CBPA publishes a newsletter, provides co-op marketing opportunities, sponsors seminars, and gives publisher service awards.

Small Publishers, Artists, and Writers Network (SPAWN) provides opportunities for everyone involved in publishing. SPAWN encourages the exchange of ideas, information, and other mutual benefits.

You don’t have to limit yourself to one. Check out each of these publishers associations and join as many of them as you feel will gain you optimal information and the opportunities you need to be as successful as you desire in your publishing endeavors.

—Sarah Bolme, MSW is the co-founder of Christian Small Publishers Association ( She is an author and the owner of Crest Publications ( Sarah can be reached at



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