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Presenting ECPA's Three Strategic Goals
By Mark W. Kuyper, President & CEO, ECPA

Networking the ECPA Community

ECPA Strategic Goal #1: ECPA will create opportunities for our members to connect and engage with each other in meaningful ways utilizing a number of formats and venues.

Network: a group of people who exchange information, contacts and experience for professional or social purposes.

The #1 reason a person or an organization joins an association is to belong to an industry community for the purpose of networking. This is no less true for ECPA members. Results from member surveys and my formal interviews with member CEOs in 2005 and 2009, revealed that ‘networking’ is the most valuable service ECPA provides. In fact, when the ECPA Board recently determined our top three strategic goals (see Cris Doornbos E-Link article), they determined that networking was our primary goal.

Now that is a clear directive! In 2011, ECPA will continue growing and developing some of our most popular networking opportunities, while launching a major initiative to help you collaborate in whole new ways.

We already have several programs in place that create an opportunity for our members to connect with each other. Our primary event is the Executive Leadership Summit and Annual Member Meeting (ELS). This event is designed to help the top executives and management teams from our member houses and affiliates to hear relevant data, information, research and leadership principles, and then discuss them as a team and with their peers. Many collaborative products and alliances have had their start at ELS meetings.

A few years ago we launched a new event to provide an opportunity to CEOs to meet and share their wisdom and expertise as corporate leaders as well as innovators in the publishing industry. Our CEO Symposium has continued to grow each year and publishers find it increasingly valuable to develop business and personal relationships with one another.

ECPA’s Publishing University (PUBu) was launched in 2004 as a way to support publishing professionals in a variety of roles, to connect and learn from each other as well as from experts in their field. We discontinued the live event after Fall 2008, when we all were feeling the effects of a declining economy. In the time since then we have hosted several highly-rated PUBu online webinars. These, too, are opportunities to not only learn, but to network (though not at the same level as the live event).

In my most recent round of CEO interviews, one of the top requests was to bring back the live PUBu event. The Board has echoed that sentiment, believing it is important for us to offer a networking opportunity for all levels in our publishing houses. As a result we are going to establish a Task Force to help us re-design the PUBu onsite event, so it is more effective for attendees with a positive net line. The new ECPA Community website and association management software will enable us to include as many members as want to participate, and help facilitate the discussion and distribution of information. When the new website launches in a few weeks, we will send out a notification that the Task Force is open to participants with a link to sign up.

The really big news is that the ECPA Community website was selected for the primary purpose of helping you connect with your publishing colleagues as often as you like—even daily!

Here are a few things it offers:

  • A forum for industry dialogue; employing Open Forums that generate discussion around broad topics as well as group forums open exclusively to smaller working groups within the industry.
  • A meeting place and resource for collaborative industry-focused groups (i.e., committees, task forces, advisory councils, etc.) that include their own web pages, file libraries, event calendars, blogs and wikis.
  • Personal profiles similar to your Facebook profile. You control who sees what and create a place to connect with others from around the industry; your "ECPA Connections." Connect with others by posting on their walls, sending them private messages, or even chatting with them while you are both online.
  • SocialConnect functionality allows you to connect your ECPA profile with any/all of your other social networking profiles. Log in to the industry site using Facebook and even connect with Twitter to have your tweets appear on your ECPA profile. Search the database to see who else is on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social networking platforms.
  • The ability to stay connected on the go with the free ECPA iPhone App (available for free with the launch of the new ECPA Community site). Easily reach out to your industry connections, view their walls, send them private messages and view up-to-the minute ECPA news and information from your phone.
  • Opportunity to subscribe to the ECPA Now! Feed an industry micro-blog with information not available anywhere else.

The ECPA Community site offers even more as it relates to information about our industry, technology, industry partners, job opportunities and more. We will continue to serve our members by meeting new challenges with strong programs, allowing you to network with each other in order to strengthen your professional role, your individual company, and the Christian publishing industry as a whole. So… register for an upcoming ECPA event, join a Task Force, plan to become involved on the ECPA Community site… and get connected!!

Connecting You to Vital Information

ECPA Strategic Goal #2:  ECPA will provide a wide array of avenues to access expertise, data and information about publishing in general, our industry specifically, developing technologies, vendors, legal issues and global opportunities.

Information and data were front and center at the recent Digital Book World Conference (DBW). It seemed every speaker was quoting research from different sources or talking about standards, metadata and tagging. Scott Lubeck, Executive Director of the Book Industry Study Group (BISG), has continually made the point that making assumptions based on general data are no longer an option for publishers in this digital era.

Today’s publisher needs specific data and information in order to make informed decisions on everything from product development (with all of its metadata and tagging), the current marketplace, the various forms of distribution, to third party vendors, marketing, discoverability, and consumer behavior.

Not only do you need to know a lot more than you ever have before, but a myriad of data and information is now available like never before!

In fact, almost every ECPA-member CEO has told me that if there was anything ECPA could do to help make publishing information easier to access and digest, it would be a great service. I believe we’ve made great strides in that area on behalf of our members, and I’d like to tell you about a couple of new services we’ve developed, now available to you: is Information Central
In order to meet our members’ information needs, we have provided easy access to a number of sources through our new website at In the News section we connect you to many industry blog, twitter, and news feeds as well as Association news, member press releases (Rush to Press) and a Press Room. These feeds are populated with observations and opinions from many of the leading voices within the ECPA community and the publishing industry at large.

In the Community area, you will also be able to track the developments of most of the Association’s committees, peer groups, task forces and forums. You can offer your opinions, ask and answer questions, and generally connect with the ECPA community to get help from your peers.

In the sub category of Links we have created a list of key third party vendors you can search based on their services like: Advertising/Marketing Services, Content Solutions, e-Catalog services, Royalty and Rights Management, Workflow Solutions and many more. You will be able to identify which companies are ECPA members, sponsors and solutions providers that offer discounts or savings unique to ECPA members. Many of these companies have site profiles providing more information about the breadth of their services with all of the their contact information.

In our Community Calendar (Events menu), there is a listing of industry events including conferences and webinars from some of the most popular and influential organizations, often with discounts for ECPA members. Over time, we will introduce more information including standards and best practices from other organizations like the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) and the American Association of Publishers (AAP).

Data is King’
It has been a challenge to access quality information about how books are selling in the industry. To support this need, we are proud to be in the final stages of delivering the Pubtrack Distribution data, which tracks 100% of the sales out of the warehouse regardless of channel and is aggregated with other ECPA publishers.

This new service from RR Bowker is the most comprehensive, accessible, multi-channel reporting tool in publishing today. It was created first for the ECPA family of publishers, but will soon expand into the larger publishing industry. This service provides unprecedented exposure into channel distribution, returns, category movement, market share and more.

The program has already been developed and is populated with at least two years of data by participating publishers that include Zondervan, Thomas Nelson, Tyndale, Crossway, David C Cook and Gospel Light. We hope to add several more publishers this year to make the data even more comprehensive and valuable.

We will continue to provide high-level information to the industry in the form of quarterly reports from this data. As participation expands, more reporting will become available. Eventually we hope to use this data to drive more press coverage of our members’ products and the industry as a whole.

Additional ECPA Programs to keep you Informed
These new efforts join a host of other services we offer our members to keep you abreast of the latest news and information affecting your daily decisions. They include:

In addition, our events, the Executive Leadership Summit (ELS), CEO Symposium, PUBu and PUBu online offer you some of the most current data, information, research and thinking on publishing issues today.

At ECPA, we are working hard to keep you informed, but we also need your help to do this: Your participation is critical to the success of these programs and your continued feedback is vital to helping us meet your ever-changing and expanding needs. As you engage in our services, please feel free to share your thoughts and comments so we can serve you even better!

ECPA Members Supported by Industry Advocacy

ECPA Strategic Goal #3:  ECPA will serve as an advocate to encourage the awareness and distribution of Christian resources, work to preserve the rights and licenses of our member’s content, and support legislation and industry standards that benefit our members.

Pride doesn’t appropriately express the depth of what I feel when I think about what my adult children have chosen for their vocations. Both work in the social services field and have set aside recognition, compensation, as well as their time, to serve those in need. My daughter’s title in her first supervisory role was "Child Advocate,” where she managed the team that supported children who had to be removed from the home of their birth parents for their own safety. As an advocate she had to analyze the needs of children in her care and determine the unique combination of services that would most fully support that child and help him or her thrive.

As your Association, ECPA strives to do the same thing for you. Advocacy is the third goal in ECPA’s new strategic plan (accompanying Networking and Information, which we covered in my last two articles). By definition, an advocate is... someone who publicly supports, recommends a particular cause, or pleads on some else’s behalf. As an advocate for our member companies, our efforts are built around encouraging awareness and distribution; preserving the rights and licenses of our members’ content; and supporting legislation and industry standards that benefit them.


Most trade associations provide some form of awareness-building activity. One of the most famous is the Milk Advisory Board’s ‘Got Milk’ campaign, featuring milk-mustached celebrities. ECPA made a new attempt at raising awareness for our members through a consumer event, the Christian Book Expo held in Dallas in 2009. The goal was to create an event where attendees could meet authors and hear them talk about the subjects they write about. We expected to attract major media and use social media to take the message global. Though that concept failed, many publishers expressed support for the idea behind the event and a continuation of a collaborative effort to raise awareness of our authors and their resources.

Consumer Awareness Task Force: As a result, the board approved the launch of a new task force that will develop a strategy and a plan to increase general consumer awareness. I encourage you to sign up today (see Task Forces under "Community” on our website) particularly if you have a marketing or communications background. We need the collective expertise and talent of the industry to make our next effort, whatever it may be, a success.

Book Awards, Bestsellers, Consumer website: We are also involved in a number of other projects to raise awareness of your products. The Christian Book Awards are now supported by nearly every major Christian and general market retailer via print and electronic promotions. We have worked hard to forge relationships and agreements with these vendors so that award winners and finalists are announced to their customer base each year. In addition, the ECPA Bestseller lists have more exposure and distribution than ever before with more than 8,000 page views a month—nearly 100,000 in a year! Each title on the list has an order option and also features book and sales awards it has earned. ECPA has also redesigned the Christian Book Expo website, growing its audience with consumers, and showcasing authors, bestsellers, and titles that have Christian Book and Sales Achievement awards. (ECPA members will soon receive instructions for uploading Author Profiles on this site.)

Category Representation with Major Retailers: We have also developed relationships with many key retailers, which has allowed us the opportunity to demonstrate the power of our category and influence their decision-making. We have asked retailers to run their metrics for our membership list instead of just looking at the Religion category. Without fail, our membership has proven to outperform the category and in some cases even overall store averages. At our Executive Leadership Summit last year, Barnes & Noble presented their very positive findings in response to our request. As a result, even in these challenging times for physical bookstores, they are maintaining or expanding their title base of our members' products.

Media Coverage: Finally, the more data and information we have about the industry, the more we can encourage media coverage about your products. We are commonly asked by media to answer specific questions and speak on behalf of the industry, and good data is what we rely on to be your most accurate voice. Aside from the benefits you receive from quality data, your participation in the Pubtrack Distribution reporting program will enable us to do even more to initiate stories with the media. If you are not yet participating in this important program, please contact Michael Covington to sign up.


Legislation: Many associations spend a lot of money hiring lobbyists to influence legislative outcomes in their favor. In fact, approximately 80% of national associations are located in Washington DC just for this purpose. As a small association, we don’t have the resources to invest in this activity, but we do have relationships that will allow us to support existing efforts. Just a couple of weeks ago I meet with the new President of AAP, Tom Allen. We identified several ways we could work together, particularly as it relates to protecting copyrights and freedom of speech. With assistance from AAP, we will keep you informed about upcoming legislation and the impact it may have on the publishing community. I will be sending information about AAP’s Capitol Hill Days to our designated representatives along with an invitation to join Tom and dozens of other publishers as they meet members of congress on March 30 and 31 to influence their vote on upcoming bills. We will provide you with more information about these bills and other initiatives in the future.

Enforcements: ECPA’s successful copyright infringement legal case against Andrew Amue and the biblecentre websites is an example of what an Association can do to form a collective of its members to accomplish a big task. Our success set an important legal precedent for future cases and, in fact, the AAP cited our case before Congress in their continuing efforts to stem global copyright infringements.

Standards: Industry standards have a huge impact on the processes and workflow in our member houses, particularly as we move more and more into the digital age. BISG (Book Industry Study Group) has become the primary source for the development of these standards and we are fortunate to have an active role in this organization too. I am a member of their board and both Michael Covington and I participate on a number of their committees and provide feedback on their initiatives related to coding, research, sales reporting and more.

Broader Industry Collaborations: In December, I met with about a dozen organizations that support publishing (ABA, ALA, NACS, AAP, Children’s Council, etc.) with the expressed purpose of finding ways to work together to support the industry as it goes through dramatic changes. It was determined that we could all get behind a literacy initiative. Just prior to this meeting the ECPA board expressed a desire to increase biblical literacy and approved a task force to develop a strategy. There are other organizations, including the NAE (National Association of Evangelicals), who I met with last month and are also concerned about this issue. We hope to tie these efforts together to encourage reading and biblical knowledge, and invite your participation. (Go to the Task Force menu item of our website – under "Community” – to sign up for the Biblical Literacy Task Force.)

These are very specific ways that ECPA is advocating on your behalf. Yet we need your participation in committees, task forces, data collection, etc., to be of optimal value to you. We are here to build Networking, Information, and Advocacy opportunities within the industry and across multiple channels so that our members can more effectively produce and deliver transformational Christian content. I invite your participation with us in any or all of the initiatives I have mentioned, and look forward to serving you!

Mark Kuyper is the President and CEO of ECPA. He has nearly 30 years of experience in the Christian resources industry. Previously he served as the VP of Business Development and Marketing for CBA (the trade association for Christian retailers). He also worked for NavPress for over 10 years starting as a Customer Service Supervisor and completing his service as Sales Director. During this time he also served on the Leadership and Publishing teams for the organization. He began his career as a manager for Family Christian Stores. Mark currently serves on the board of the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) and Magazine Training International. Mark is married to Vicki, an author of more than 50 books, and has two grown children.

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