by Doug Trouten
Workshops, speakers and networking are all parts of an EPA convention that can help equip you to be a better Christian communicator. But there's another important – and sometimes overlooked – educational opportunity at each convention: exhibitors.
Exhibit booths are a valuable resource. Each EPA convention features exhibitors from a variety of industries, all of whom hope to present you with ways to make your work better. They're an important part of the convention, both as an information resource and because their financial participation helps hold down the cost of the convention. Here's a quick guide to some of the main classes of exhibitors you'll find, along with suggestions to help you make the most of your time with exhibitors.
It's no secret that EPA members buy a lot of printing. Our members produce hundreds of periodical titles with a combined circulation of some 22 million, and those are numbers that make printers sit up and take notice.
Even if you're happy with your current printer, it doesn't hurt to solicit competitive bids every few years. Doing so will help you be sure you're getting a fair price, and will keep you up-to-date on technological developments in the printing industry.
The EPA convention is a convenient place to meet with representatives from various printing firms, but you'll want to come prepared.
The easiest thing might be to bring copies of your publication along with copies of your production instructions for your current printer. Check those instructions over to be sure they include this basic information: trim size, quantity, page count, binding (saddle-stitch or perfect bind), file type (PDF or application files), use of color, paper stock, inclusion of inserts or outserts, and distribution instructions (including mail count and bulk shipments).
With that information the vendors you'll meet at EPA can create estimates that will let you compare apples to apples, and may also be able to discuss cost-saving alternatives you haven't thought of.
Of course, printing all of those publications doesn't do you any good unless you have people to send them to. For that you turn to circulation marketing firms (to find new customers) and fulfillment houses (to get publications to your current customers). Often these services may exist together in the same firm. And don't forget to look at software solutions that let you manage your own fulfillment in-house. Whether to do your own fulfillment or to outsource it is a persistent question in the publishing industry, and you'll find people with advice and supporting information at EPA.
List rental can be an important revenue source for a publication. Your subscriber list can be a gold mine for somebody else – it's full of valid names and addresses of people who share common interests. And even if you don't rent your active subscriber file, your expires list and lead list may have value in the marketplace.
To get an idea of your list's value be prepared to provide a copy of your publication, the number of names on your active list, and the number of names on your expires list. Other factors that may help judge a list's value include how the names were generated (direct mail responders may be worth more), and demographic information about the people on the list.
List rental is a two-way street, and a list broker may also be able to suggest lists for you to try in your own circulation-building efforts.
It's not unusual to have ministries exhibiting at the EPA convention, since connecting with editors is a good way for them to share information about the important work they're doing. A copy of your writer's guidelines may help a ministry representative generate story ideas that fit your publication's purpose, and a copy of your theme list may help them suggest ideas that fit your editorial plan.
Remember that an article you write about a ministry may encourage a reader to get involved with God's work somewhere in the world. That means the ministries exhibiting at EPA may be be part of a divine plan. That's worth a few minutes of conversation, don't you suppose?
Visiting a book publisher's booth at EPA is a great way to make a personal connection with a publicist – you know, that nice person who sends you the free books and help you schedule interviews with interesting authors. Again, a copy of your writer's guidelines and theme list, will help a publicist suggest books and authors that are a good fit for your publication, and the personal connection you make will come in handy when you have a great idea for a story but just can't find an expert to talk about it.
The list above touches on just a few of the educational opportunities you'll find among the exhibitors at a typical EPA convention. The more you know about your own operation's current practices and needs, the easier it will be to have a useful discussion with an exhibitor.
Every EPA convention should leave you with ideas for improving your work. And sometimes those ideas come from the exhibitors. It was an exhibitor demonstration at an EPA convention in 1990 that convinced me that desktop publishing software had reached the point where it was capable of handling serious professional production. Who knows what industry paradigm shifts you'll spot at this year's booths?
If nothing else, be sure to stop by each booth for a friendly chat and exchange of business cards. Our exhibitors do EPA a tremendous service by coming to spend a little time with us – your interest and warm thanks will encourage them to continue to be part of our annual get-togethers.