Three Simple Steps to Self-Publishing for Associations

Graphic Showing Books and other published items

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Kelly Braniff, CAE and Julie Pelstring - AMR Management Services


Associations are often looked to provide thought leadership materials, e-books, and even textbooks for the profession or industry they represent, and it’s no secret that traditional print publishing at a small scale can be tricky and expensive. Many associations have turned to electronic self-publishing as a more efficient method to fulfill this element of their missions.

Our client-partner, the Association of Women Surgeons (AWS), is a publisher of several resources for those seeking a career in surgery. With 3,700 members in more than 40 countries, AWS is one of the largest organizations dedicated to enhancing the interaction and exchange of information between women surgeons. AWS publications include the AWS Pocket Mentor and Navigating Your Surgical Career: The AWS Guide to Success, both of which are presented in partnership with Medtronic.

To reach such an international audience affordably, AWS chose to use Amazon Publishing Service instead of traditional printing methods for efficient output of its published materials.

If your association is considering self-publishing, here are three tips to consider:

  1. Communication: First, communicate with your designer to ensure that the creative brief for your publication is detailed. This step is vital because it will clearly define the project’s objectives and goals. Doing this well sets the foundation for the entire project and ensures that both you and the designer are aligned on what needs to be achieved and the requirements of the publishing method. For example, Amazon prefers Microsoft Word documents, so in this case the designer created the document in Word, made sure the images were linked, etc. while the staff team focused on content, edits, and proofreading. Understanding the end result would need to be in Word format avoided rework.

  2. Efficiency: Before you begin, get a feel for the process your publishing service uses and work that into your internal self-publishing processes. This enhances efficiency and can help you anticipate and prevent issues before they disrupt your workflow.  With the Amazon system, the AWS team uploaded the finalized designs with minimal hiccups to get the job completed without the back-and-forth that sometimes comes with traditional printers and no time-consuming press checks.

  3. Savings: Data analytics to understand how your intended audience will access your publication will help determine the right format and can keep you from investing in options that members won’t value. One of the challenges for AWS in traditional printing was finding an efficient method to create lower quantities without sacrificing quality. By using Amazon, AWS can offer their publications as a Kindle e-book in PDF, which surgeons can readily access on their phone or table (an often-preferred method). This also cut design time, printing and shipping, which saved the association additional expense.

Overall, self-publishing through Amazon or similar options can be an efficient and high-quality method for associations to share their expertise and create awareness of the profession or industry they represent, two important elements often found in the association strategic plan.

Cropped Profile Photo of Kelly Braniff
Kelly Braniff, CAE
Executive Director
Degrees and Credentials:
B.S in Biology from Loyola University New Orleans, Certified Association Executive (CAE), Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE)
Association Management Professional Since: 2018
What inspires you about your work?
Every day I enjoy the opportunity to work for associations that are changing the world. I know that my talents for organizing, strategizing, and streamlining processes allow the Board, committees, and members time and energy to advance their profession and achieve their mission. My role is not just a job but a chance to empower and engage professionals to achieve their dreams.
Julie Pelstring Cropped Photo
Julie Pelstring
Creative Dicrtor
Degrees and Credentials:
Bachelor of Arts in Communication, University of Kentucky
Association Management Professional Since: 2017
What inspires you about your work?
Providing design solutions and helping client teams become more efficient and innovative is my passion. My favorite part about being an in-house graphic designer is working with colleagues as my clients. Serving the people I see every day compliments my outgoing and positive personality.
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