• April 2014

Are You Going to the IPPYs?

For 18 years the Independent Publisher Book Awards have rewarded the creativity and innovation of independent authors and publishers who are changing the face of publishing around the world.

With 76 subject categories, regional awards for eight US and two Canadian regions, and a spectacular awards ceremony in New York on the eve of BookExpo America, the IPPY Awards are one of the most effective—and affordable—marketing tools available to authors and publishers today.

“In addition to getting a cool medal to wear, and a shiny sticker for your book cover, independent authors gain tremendous credibility for being an award-winning author,” says Jim Barnes (shown left in above photo), director of the IPPY Awards (shorthand for the Independent Publisher Book Awards).

He has been involved with the program since 1997, and this month we had the opportunity to interview Barnes for “Authors Between the Covers,” on the Inkandescent Radio Network.

What are the IPPY’s and why have hundreds of self-published authors applied to win the coveted medallion? We learn all about it in this podcast, plus:

  • Barnes gives us the skinny on the independent book-publishing world.
  • He shares facts and figures on this growth industry, as well as the downside to self-publishing.
  • He offers thoughts on how traditional publishers are responding.
  • And, he gives self-published authors tips on how they can land an IPPY themselves.

Click here to download the podcast.

And scroll down to read our Q&A with Barnes.

Be Inkandescent: First, do a little name-dropping. Who are some of the notable IPPY Award winners?

Jim Barnes: I’d be happy to! Some notable IPPY winners have included “The Millionaire Next Door,” which went on to sell over 2 million copies. Since then, business gurus like Jeffrey Gitomer, Neil Ducoff, and Nolan Bushnell have won awards.

National Book Award winner Jaimy Gordon and nominee Domingo Martinez have both recently won medals. Other notable fiction authors who have won IPPYs are Dave Eggers, Karl Marlantes, Jim Harrison, Millard Kaufman, Lynda Barry, and Jeffrey Lewis.

Plus, dozens of university presses participate every year and many have won awards: Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and many others. Museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Getty Museum, the Carnegie Museum of Art, and the Royal Ontario Museum have all recently won medals.

What might be even more notable is the fact that every year the IPPY Awards recognize hundreds of unknown authors and publishers who, because of their creative talent and innovative work, get rewarded—not because they are famous—but because they wrote and published amazing books!

Be Inkandescent: Tell us about the upcoming IPPY Awards. What are they, who can enter the contest, and what do you get if you win?

Jim Barnes: The Independent Publisher Book Awards were conceived in 1996 as a broad-based, unaffiliated awards program open to all members of the independent publishing industry. You don’t have to belong to an association to enter or pay any extra fees. The Awards are open to independent authors and publishers worldwide who produce books written in English and that are intended for the North American market. We define “independent” as 1) independently owned and operated; 2) operated by a foundation or university; or 3) long-time independents that became incorporated but operate autonomously and publish fewer than 50 titles a year.

The awards are intended to bring increased recognition to the thousands of exemplary independent, university, and self-published titles published each year. Since the inaugural contest in 1996, more than 5,000 books have received “IPPY“ Awards, and all the recognition, credibility, and increased sales that a book award can bring. Entry fee is $95 and the final postmark deadline for 2014 was March 15. Regional and eBook category entries are just $55 when added to a national category entry.

The IPPY Awards reward those who exhibit the courage, innovation, and creativity to bring about change in the world of publishing. Independent spirit and expertise come from publishers of all sizes and budgets, and books are judged with that in mind. Gold, silver, and bronze medals will be awarded to winners in 76 fiction and nonfiction national subject categories, 22 regional categories, and 10 eBook categories.

Be Inkandescent: You started working with the Jenkins Group more than 15 years ago. Tell us about your career.

Jim Barnes: I went to school to be a librarian, following in the footsteps of my mother, who was a school librarian. My grandfather was a bookseller in New York who rode the Staten Island Ferry and a bicycle to work each day. I’ve been the director of book awards and editing the IndependentPublisher.com website and newsletter since 1998. It’s a pretty cool job for a book lover like me, handling more than 5,000 books a year, in every genre imaginable. We’ve had books entered as small as a match book and some larger than a briefcase. The world of books is amazingly diverse and endlessly interesting, and so is my job. Every year at our awards ceremony I get to read the IPPY results and introduce more than a hundred medalists in attendance. It’s my favorite day of the year, getting to hang out and celebrate with my favorite people in the world.

Be Inkandescent: Now let’s talk more about independent book publishing. It is an industry that is growing by leaps and bounds. In fact, my company InkandescentPR, just launched our first two books under our newest service, the Inkandescent Publishing Company—including my book that comes out in March, “PR Rules: The Playbook.” Why are so many people publishing their own books?

Jim Barnes: The independent publishing movement is indicative of how society has changed since the personal computing revolution began in the 1970s. The power and resources the Internet has given us to create and communicate have made book publishing accessible to everyone, not just the New York publishing elite. Especially as New York publishing has become more controlled by conglomerated media giants with profit-over-principle mentality, self-publishing and small publishers with a conscience have become vital to maintaining freedom of expression.

Be Inkandescent: What is the downside to self-publishing?

Jim Barnes: The downside of self-publishing is the difficulty of “breaking through” the very conglomerate media I mentioned above. Since they control national news and entertainment networks, they are much more likely to feature their own products, making it difficult for independents to get their messages in front of a mass audience. So it takes more effort, starting with a grassroots following and broadening out from there, doing anything you can do to get noticed, until a tipping point of publicity is reached. That’s what IndependentPublisher.com and the IPPY Awards are all about, offering the recognition that quality indie books and authors deserve.

Be Inkandescent: What is the biggest upside?

Jim Barnes: The biggest upside is that you control your own destiny as an author and publisher. No edits you don’t approve of, no delays to fit a seasonal schedule, and on the business side, you retain all the profits, not just royalties of only 10 percent to 15 percent. Unless you’re a celebrity author, you have to get out and self-promote, even with a royalty publishing deal, so why not reap the benefits of your efforts?

Be Inkandescent: Are traditional publishers responding? Or do they feel they can keep doing business as usual?

Jim Barnes: They may not admit it, but traditional publishers are mimicking many of the breakthroughs made by independents, such as alternative writing styles, creative design, and guerrilla marketing.

Be Inkandescent: I love that you end your bio with, “Stay tuned, and stay independent!” In your opinion, what’s the biggest opportunity for writers when it comes to being an independent in the publishing industry?

Jim Barnes: To me, the most impressive thing is when an entrepreneurial-minded author breaks through and sells tons of books, and it’s all because of their own creativity and energy. They get the pay-off for their efforts, not the corporate suits who have no real connection to the work. Independent effort and reward—it’s the American way!

For more information about how you can apply to win an IPPY Award, visit www.independentpublisher.com.

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