BISG’s Strategic Reinvention Prompts an Updated Board Structure

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Reconstituting its board as a leaner group of sector-specific industry players, BISG adds new advisory assets and creates a council of associations in working out its strategy.

Image – iStockphoto: Digital Storm

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘Strategic Direction in a Transforming Market’

Since Brian O’Leary became executive director of the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) almost a year ago, the organization has increased its informational outreach. There’s an ongoing series of instructional webinars and focused events such as the “Evolution of Delivery” one-day conference the group held in April.

In a Publishing Perspectives interview in January, O’Leary spoke of the intent of his administration being “to solve problems that touch more than one part of the industry. We pioneered that role, and we’re going back to that purpose.”

Brian O’Leary

This week there are announcements in awards and governance that reflect this effort to refocus and clarify BISG’s purpose and direction.

BISG, as O’Leary has told us, was originally built to “look across the entire publishing supply chain to solve problems” and detect and address pressure points. A new iteration of that potential underlies this week’s announcements.

Restructuring the BISG Board

Kelly Gallagher

As Ingram Content’s Kelly Gallagher is quoted saying this week, “A carefully structured, smaller governing body can develop the culture of clarity, governance, and data-driven decision-making that’s required to both set and refine strategic direction in a transforming market.” Gallagher has led both a committee’s study of the group’s governance and a revision of the organization’s strategic plan.

In a helpful set of talking points, BISG explains that that new strategic plan—”with four core objectives and two dozen related strategies”—wasn’t well served by an unwieldy 33-person board. So BISG is dropping the size of the governing group to 14, and terms that were three years are reduced to two years. What’s more, requiring a year off before re-election to a term means less chance for stagnation and a lighter-weight operating framework.

The 14-member configuration is to have sector-specific representatives:

  • Five publishers
  • Three industry service partners
  • Two distributors
  • Two retailers
  • One library representative
  • One supplier or manufacturer

Along with this reconfiguration comes a development of new advisory groups, according to O’Leary, “to help us with marketing and communications as well as membership, and we will add a research advisory group shortly.”

Another community outreach arrives in the form of an association advisory council, meeting quarterly to bring together “all book publishing associations” that would like to join, so that the different organizations can “contribute their perspectives,” O’Leary is quoted as saying, “and share current concerns.

“The conversation is expected to keep all participants better informed,” he says, “and it may lead to other problem-solving efforts within BISG or across the larger publishing community.”

This is a promising effort because, as in any complex industry, there are times when publishing’s various associations can appear to be working in isolation from each other, even on related efforts. In its background materials for the media, BISG describes the structural outlines of this council this way:

“This advisory council would consist of all associations whose work informs or is related to the book industry. Membership will require that:

  • “A representative from the association participated in at least three of four quarterly meetings of the council; and
  • “One or more representatives of the association joined a relevant BISG committee or working group.

“BISG would work to serve as a convening entity for other book industry associations. The quarterly meetings would provide a cross-section of industry associations with a chance to describe opportunities and challenges, while the committee participation would ensure that these associations could contribute to work that would address those opportunities and challenges. A chair will be elected from within the advisory council and serve for a year.”

All of this is to be placed before the membership at its annual meeting for ratification on September 25 in New York. (If you need registration information for the meeting, it’s here.)

Nominations for BISG’s Industry Awards

This week’s announcements in awards reflect the organization’s new efforts to focus and clarify its direction. Nominees to BISG’s 2017 industry awards have been shortlisted for a presentation at the organization’s annual meeting on September 25.

The awards are grouped into several categories. Here are the nominees.

Angela Bole

Industry Connector Award

  • Graham Bell of EDItEUR
  • Angela Bole of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA)

According to press materials, this award is meant to recognize someone who helps BISG disseminate information to the industry.

Standards Bearer Award

  • Pat Payton of Bowker
  • Richard Stark of Barnes & Noble

This award recognizes an industry player for advocating industry standards.

Dominique Raccah

Explorer Award

  • Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks
  • BISG Rights Committee, chaired by Wiley’s Ashley Mabbitt

This award is given to a project, group, or individual deemed to have “shaped the conversation about publishing.

Community Builder Award

  • Baker & Taylor’s Connie Harbison
  • Bowker’s Pat Payton

The Community Builder Award recognizes efforts in “engaging a representative set of stakeholders.”

Industry Innovator Award

  • SheWrites Press
  • Firebrand Technologies
  • HumbleBundle

This award is given to someone “who boldly reimagines what publishing is and can be.”

Dave Cramer

Industry Champion Award

  • Angela Bole of the IBPA
  • Dave Cramer of Hachette Book Group

This is an award given to an individual who has gone “beyond the requirements of her or his position to advance the publishing industry.”

Distinguished Service Award

It’s been announced that Macmillan Learning’s Ken Michaels is the recipient of this honor, which recognizes someone for service to BISG over his or her career.


About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.