IBPA Adds DEI Categories and Rebrands Annual Book Award

The Independent Book Publishers Association revealed at Denver’s Publishing University 2024 that the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Book Awards, which recognise books in 57 categories, will now be called the IBPA Book Awards and will honour books in seven more categories that are inclusive of identities. To honour the late Publishers Marketing Association/IBPA founder, IBPA also created the Jan Nathan Lifetime Achievement Award, which honours both individual and corporate contributions to independent publishing. On April 27, IBPA CEO Andrea Fleck-Nisbet updated members on these developments. A town hall meeting to address the rebranding will take place on May 9.

This year’s awards took place under the Franklin banner as originally scheduled because the IBPA changed the name of the Franklin award last August, when work was still being done on the awards committee and PubU details were being finalised. The new branding may be applied to the books given to this year’s winners, and “in the coming months,” IBPA COO Terry Nathan will supply branding materials for the IBPA Book Award, such as stickers. Fleck-Nisbet said. She added: “We still honor everything that came before and would be proud to have the recent winners continue with the Ben Franklin branding if they choose.”

BPA has awarded its book prizes for 36 years, so determining how and when to change the name proved challenging. “The timing is always tricky, especially with an award that has built up so much brand equity,” Fleck-Nisbet said. “I asked the board to set aside special resources to making the rollout professional and in keeping with the spirit of independent publishing.”

The IBPA board, staff, and DEI committee “discussed the need to develop categories that recognise the contributions of underrepresented communities” and to honour Executive Director Nathan, Fleck-Nisbet said. Over a number of years, the revisions were made. The IBPA leadership created seven new categories to honour works from the Asian American and Pacific Islander, Black/African American, disabled, First Nations/Indigenous, Latina/o/e, LGBTQIA2+, and neurodivergent communities. The goal was to have the yearly award reflect diversity across indie publishing. In order for an author, editor, publisher, or book designer to be eligible for an award in any of these categories, they must be members of the relevant community, according to a statement released by the organisation.

“By increasing the award categories, we create an environment where every independent publisher has an equal chance for their outstanding work to be recognized,” said Karen Pavlicin, current IBPA board chair and publisher of Elva Resa Publishing.

However, Fleck-Nisbet stated that the IBPA noted throughout the category addition process that the Franklin “branding was outdated” and that it was impossible to overlook the historical Franklin’s “participation, inadvertently or otherwise,” in human enslavement. “Adding categories that represented marginalised groups while keeping the name felt out of place.” During the 37th annual PubU in 2025, the winners of the 57 former and seven new IBPA Book Award categories—one gold and two silver—will be revealed.

Fleck-Nisbet noted that while she was “confident there will be naysayers and those who are unhappy with the change,” the decision marks IBPA’s “commitment to creating a more inclusive industry,” according to its strategic plan. “When I announced the change at PubU on Saturday morning, there were cheers and a standing ovation,” she added. “So I think that’s a good indicator that we are on the right track.”

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