Terry Nathan is the only IBPA staff member I’ve worked closely with over the years (Independent editor Judith Appelbaum is self-employed, as I am). But until a few years ago, Terry and I had never even heard each other’s voices. We had celebrated the births of his children, the graduations of mine, his induction as a soccer and baseball dad, and mine as a crew mom—all via email, often as frequently as weekly. When it was time to begin work on this profile of Terry, now chief operations officer at IBPA, I assumed he’d gotten started with the organization as a teenager, when his mother, Jan Nathan, helped organize an association for southern California publishers, many of them self-publishers. But I was wrong. It was Nathan’s sister-in-law Andrea and his stepsister Carmel who were first to join Jan Nathan at what was then PMA, while Terry was in San Diego working for General Dynamics.
In 1992, however, when he was senior buyer for the company’s data systems division, General Dynamics offered him a promotion, which would have meant a move to Washington, DC. “Two things made the decision to join my mother’s business an easy one,” he says. “The people in publishing were so full of life, so passionate about what they were doing. Their enthusiasm was infectious, and I had to be part of it.” And, this surfer/snorkeler/fisherman adds, “I love the California beaches too much!” So in May 1992, at what was then the PMA Publishing University and exhibit at the American Booksellers Association convention (now BookExpo America), Nathan became part of the professional association management company Jan Nathan & Associates. Besides PMA, the company was then managing the local banking industry’s Risk Management Association and several alumni groups—the Harvard Club of Southern California, the Harvard Business School Club of Southern California, the Brown Club of Southern California—as well as registration for CircDayLA, an annual conference for the Western Fulfillment Management Association, a group of magazine circulation specialists.
“Surprisingly, none of my five brothers ever officially worked for my mom or me,” Terry reports, although, “over the years, many have helped by stuffing envelopes, carrying boxes to and fro, and whatever else was needed. And nephews and nieces have done odd jobs around here off and on for many years.”
In 2007, after Jan Nathan’s death from cancer, Jan Nathan & Associates transferred its clients to Terry Nathan & Associates, which focused on IBPA. “The other groups became a very small part of the business, with 95 percent of it devoted to IBPA,” Terry explains. Last year, with the arrival of Angela Bole as executive director, IBPA dissolved the management agreement with Terry Nathan & Associates and Terry and his staff became direct, full-time employees of IBPA, while his association management company continued to handle most of the same groups as before. Reflecting on what he’s seen in IBPA and publishing in general during the last 20-some years, Terry offers what sounds like a contradiction: “Publishing has changed dramatically—and yet, very little about IBPA’s mission has changed.” “In 1992, the roles of publisher and author were clearly defined. Back then, publishers were tasked with everything from editorial to design to marketing to distribution. People bought books in bookstores, or went to libraries. Newspapers and magazines reviewed books, and buyers respected those reviews. “
Authors who decided to publish on their own were called self-publishers, and that was OK. They were not highly regarded, but we worked hard to provide useful programs and resources to help them learn to compete with the big publishers. We also offered a place where they could talk with live people who cared about what they were doing. “I’ve always thought we provide a great value for entry-level publishers, and great programs for small and midsized publishers, too. Members have always been not just part of a trade association, but part of the family.”
Fast forward a couple of decades, Terry says, and we see library buildings and bookstores closing all around us. “Newspapers and magazines are getting thinner and book review sections are either gone or going online. Today books are reviewed on blogs and social media sites, a sentence that wouldn’t have made sense to us in 1992.” Moreover, he points out, “Authors of all shapes and sizes are getting their books published and made available for sale through gigantic online retailers. This is good—and bad. Good because technology is amazing and powerful. Bad because most of those books should never have been published in the first place.”
Another major change—one that makes IBPA of value to traditionally published authors and hybrid authors as well as its original community of self-publishers and indie presses: “Even larger publishers rely on many of their authors to design and fund their own marketing efforts.” And that’s why Terry says IBPA hasn’t changed: “Our mission continues to be to provide worthwhile programs and resources for independent publishers and authors. And we continue to strive to offer the personal touch that makes every member feel like part of the family.”