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Friday, April 5 • 12:50pm - 1:50pm
Opening Keynote -- Rethinking Book Publishing: Innovation and Culture 2019, with Dominique Raccah

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In an industry dominated by giant companies, Sourcebooks has grown from small to large while maintaining its independence. During this special keynote address, Sourcebooks' founder & CEO Dominique Raccah will share what she's learned in over 30 years of successful independent publishing. There's nothing Dominique hasn't thought about or tried. Because of this, her IBPA Publishing University keynote address promises to be both inspirational and practical. Start getting to know Dominique (and Sourcebooks) below...then join us for this unique keynote address.


Sourcebooks is coming off its best year ever. What sort of success did you enjoy, and to what do you attribute this success?
Sourcebooks finished 2017 up 18% in sales, compared to the publishing industry, which finished up 2%. We’re also up 18% in sales year-to-date, in an industry that is up 2%, and we’re anticipating a strong holiday season in the fourth quarter.

We have consistently experienced double-digit growth since the economic downturn in 2008. It was a time when most publishers were cutting back, on staff and acquisitions, but we decided, as a company, that we weren’t going to let what was going on outside our office affect what we were creating inside.

We called it “not business as usual,” and for the last decade, we have continued to meet on a regular basis and are completely transparent about what is going on with our business – the good, the bad and the ugly. Everyone in our organization is involved and is empowered to make an impact in how our business is run. The entrepreneurial spirit runs throughout the company, from my office to the shipping room.

Sourcebooks self-identifies as a company that embraces change. How do you incorporate this concept into your business model?

Most of the changes we’ve made as an organization have responded to a need, either from readers, authors or our retail partners. In the last 10 years, we’ve grown from a nonfiction business into a top 15 children’s book publisher, and a strong player in romance, young adult and adult fiction.

Our Jabberwocky children’s imprint came out of the success we saw in publishing poetry books for kids, our Casablanca romance imprint was born out of a retailer request for more Regency romance, and our Put Me in the Story personalized book program began after we saw that people were customizing our books themselves.

We are always looking for ways to innovate on behalf of authors and readers, and are driven by our belief that books changes lives.

Independent publishers can feel overwhelmed by changes from outside the industry—higher printing costs, for instance, or changes in warehousing. When confronting changes that have a negative impact on your bottom line, how do you adjust?
Not to be overly dramatic, but to a publisher it can often seem like pretty much everyone is looking to take something from your bottom line. Your printers want more, outside vendors want more, freight costs rise, your retailers, wholesalers, and distributors want more, and of course authors and illustrators would like an extra cut too.

So as a businessperson – rather than as a publisher – you have to continually be looking for efficiencies and savings to offset the increased costs you can’t control.

At Sourcebooks, we’ve implemented a relatively open book structure for finances that ensures every person in the company knows they can have impact on the bottom line. Simply put, every penny counts, and every individual can make a difference. And for the things you can control, I highly recommend doing some reading and taking courses in negotiation, including getting comfortable with difficult conversations and conflict. Publishing people and booklovers tend to be friendly folks. And we should be. But that doesn’t mean we can’t aggressively control the bottom line.

In an industry dominated by giant companies, Sourcebooks has grown from small to large while maintaining its independence. What sorts of business planning strategies do you recommend to publishers who want to do the same?

It’s pretty wild to look at the company I started in a spare bedroom of my house 31 years ago with just one book and see it become a Top 15 U.S. publisher and the largest woman-owned publisher in North America. We have over 100 employees and publish hundreds of books each year in a variety of categories.

As a publisher, it often feels like you’re wrong more than you’re right. The challenges we have experienced helped turn Sourcebooks into the company it is today. I would urge other publishers to embrace their failures as an opportunity to learn something new, something that can help push you forward.

We’ve also threaded “growth mindset” throughout our corporate culture. It’s meaningful when every person on the team is pushing themselves to recognize that “you don’t know what you don’t know” and strive to understand something new. Mindset can get you to some pretty wild and unexpected places.

Publishing is also a business that’s been way too rooted in the notions of “taste” and “instinct.” Taste and instinct are great, but I’ll take data over my gut any day of the week. Gather and learn from data wherever possible, even if it’s on the smallest of scales. We use data in every single department of the company, and yes that includes (and starts with) editorial.

Finally, I’d recommend publishers continually look to diversify themselves, not only in what they publish but in how they publish as well. We recognized long ago that publishers are often limited by their own vision – and in many cases by their own reading tastes. But our job isn’t to deliver our own tastes to the market. Our job is to connect authors with readers, and that means we’re continually probing what lights readers up and finding ways to help authors deliver that excitement. It’s really the best job in the world, and the only limitations you’ll face are your own!

avatar for Dominique Raccah

Dominique Raccah

Founder & CEO, Sourcebooks
Dominique Raccah is the entrepreneurial Publisher and CEO of Sourcebooks, the company she founded from her home in 1987. The publisher has since created scores of New York Times bestsellers, hundreds of national bestsellers, and #1 selling titles in perennial categories. Sourcebooks... Read More →

Friday April 5, 2019 12:50pm - 1:50pm CDT
Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile (Room: Grand Salons 2-3) 540 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, USA
  Keynote, All Levels