In 2018, IPG founded the Top Shelf program, which each season highlights key titles from its distributed lines and its own publishing encompassing adult and children's titles, fiction and nonfiction, in a range of categories. Chosen by the company's sales, marketing and publicity departments, Top Shelf titles are the books with the most potential for sales and the biggest priorities.
The spring 2021 Top Shelf list consists of 24 titles, including a series of children's titles celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community called Pride In from Booklife; David and Ameena, a modern New York romance with massive cultural differences from Fairlight Books; My Shadow Is Pink (Larrikin House), which tackles gender identity for kids; Authentic: A Memoir by the founder of Vans (Vertel Publishing); Central Avenue's new poetry volume sometimes i fall asleep thinking about you; The Captain and Me: On and Off the Field with Thurman Munson by former Yankee Ron Blomberg (Triumph Books); the latest Nordic noir from Orenda with Winterkill and Hinton Hollow Death Trip; We Are the Baby-Sitters Club (Chicago Review Press), building off the retro buzz started for the classic series by the updated Netflix series; Surf by Day, Jam by Night (Lost the Plot) featuring interviews with surfer musicians Jack Johnson, Dave Rastovich, Kelly Slater and more; and a major golf title, The Story of The Masters, from Tatra Press.
IPG, which had used commission reps to sell to independent bookstores and other trade accounts in the U.S., this year created an in-house field sales force that now handles sales to indies and other trade entities. The new in-house field sales force focuses on three territories--East Coast, Midwest and West Coast--aiming to establish closer ties between IPG and the stores and chains.
The field sales team is headed by Michael Riley, v-p of sales, and recently hired trade sales manager Chris Conti, who leads the field sales team and focuses on the Midwest territory. In Canada, IPG continues to be represented by the Manda group, which reports to Scott Hatfill, IPG's director of international sales.
IPG's long-established corporate team works directly with national accounts, library and education accounts, and special sales accounts. That group was bolstered in a similar way by the hiring in late 2019 of Sharon Rich Shell as director, library and education sales. She had earlier held executive sales positions in the school, library and other fields at Scholastic.
Leveraging and using the collective power of IPG continues to be important. "I'm constantly looking for ways to take our combined buying power and get a good deal for our publishers," Matthews says. In the same vein, he aims to provide publishers with the best tools that would be out of their reach if they were on their own, including cutting-edge sales and marketing analytics software. IPG also provides regular and in-person representation to major accounts that indie publishers can't make happen on their own.
In a related change, these days, IPG uses its name more and more with many of its divisions to reinforce the company's approach to being "one big multifaceted company, with publishing, distribution, warehousing, printing, marketing," as Matthews puts it.
IPG has been "consolidating the bigger corporate work chart," he says. For example, the company consolidated the eight marketing people it had in different units into "one big marketing department," which he says is better for the company, clients and particularly the staff, who now can more easily fill in for each other and have a stronger career growth path.
More and more parts of the company are using IPG as part of their name. For example, IPG is referring to INscribe Digital more and more as IPG Digital. Art Stock Books, the niche art book distributor bought in 2010, is now IPG Art. All of the company's academic profession operations are known as IPG Academic & Professional. (Trafalgar Square Publishing, whose major business is importing titles from the U.K., is trickier because the U.K.'s Independent Publishers Guild uses IPG.)
Matthews emphasizes that IPG is "rooting for indie bookstores and rooting for everybody." Wanting a diverse marketplace, IPG exhibits at or sponsors 40-50 domestic and international trade shows a year. It supports the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) and is involved in a range of trade groups, with representatives at the Book Industry Study Group, PubWest, the Independent Book Publishers Association and more.