Beth Lewis in the Publisher's Chair

Beth Lewis in the Publisher's Chair

Supadu talks publishing with Beth Lewis, an experienced Board Director/Chair and CEO with track record of success in corporate financial & cultural transformation. Currently she is a director at PCPA and Principal at Getting2Transformation.

What inspired you to take over the role of director at PCPA in 2020?

I had been the CEO for one of our member companies 1517 media for 15 years and I retired from that role in 2019 so when Gary the previous executive director decided to retire, the board invited me to step into this role. I had been the president of the organisation for a couple of years so I had been active as a member.

It was of course an interesting time when I took the role, it was June 2020 the height of the Pandemic and I had never led a Trade association before so I had to sort of make it up as I went along but I wanted to do something that would keep my brain moving and growing and learning in retirement so it was a good fit and here I am nearly four years later

What are the different types of events that PCPA offers to its community? 

We have an annual conference,  that’s our big event every year, which is normally in April. This year we had about 155 people there and 134 last year so I am happy to say it is growing. It is a classic networking, business development and educational gathering for not only our publishing members but also our adjunct members who are the vendors that support the publishing industry. We also have some freelancers, guests and so forth. So that’s the big thing. 

During the pandemic when I stepped into this role when we were all in lockdown I started doing some things for PCPA members that I thought would help with ongoing continuing education. One of those things is an every other week eNewsletter that has links to articles, white papers, webinars and all kinds of educational material.

We also started our monthly third Thursday webinars that are free educational opportunities for our community. There are two in person or hybrid heads of house meetings per year, one in the Spring that aligns with our Annual Conference and then one in October. Those are great learning and networking opportunities for the people that lead our member houses. 

You have a company called Getting2transformation, could you share a little bit about what motivated you to start that company and how you help publishers succeed?

I started Getting2transformation right as I was retiring in 2019 because I wanted to have an identity to again, keep contributing to the publishing industry and also for faith based not-for-profits as I have a deep interest in that.

I started this as a speaking, consulting, board directing umbrella organisation and it’s consistent in terms of I always have at least one consulting client. Usually they are publishers but I also do a lot of public speaking. In both cases it's on strategic thinking and/or organisational turnaround, really helping organisations figure out how to adapt to our rapidly changing world and on governance. 

Sometimes those things end up embedded with one another because they are so connected. If you don’t have good governance it’s hard to have a good strategy and if you don’t have a good strategy it’s hard to think about how to do what you need to do and be efficient. So it’s pretty much those three things and I love doing it, it keeps me out of mischief when I’m not doing PCPA. 


Could you share the reason/reasons why you chose to stay in the publishing industry?

Well, I'm coming up closer to 50 years in the publishing industry than I care to admit! I think it started because like many of us in the publishing industry, we love books, we love reading and education so that was probably the launch.

In terms of staying in it, that’s because I care deeply about literacy, and critical thinking. Those things are so important in our world, especially today I think people need to find their way to be critical thinkers and to educate and support others. 

I’ve been in the Christian Publishing and not-for-profit publishing for about 20 years now. I love helping the houses that have great missions find ways to be more efficient, use technology well and not just survive but to thrive and support the mission they have. So one thing has led to another over all those years. 

What are the main hurdles you’ve seen publishers having to overcome and what are the challenges you believe will come into the spotlight in the coming years?

The first thing that comes to mind is the dramatic shift in sales channels over the past decades and the lack of reading long form content from a lot of people. While on the one hand technology can be fantastic because it’s more efficient, it can extend our reach to find new authors, customers and partners in the mission of publishing. I think technology has also changed some brains. People want very quick takes, they don’t want to read a book, they will maybe read an e Newsletter or watch a quick video clip on TikTok or Youtube before they read something long form so I think that’s a huge challenge that will continue to be a challenge and I’m not quite sure how we in the publishing industry can continue to try and create great resources that make people want to read.

I also think we can maybe do more to encourage programmes. There are some wonderful not-for-profit organisations, charity organisations in the UK that really support family literacy, children's literacy and adult literacy. I think in the publishing industry we could be more aggressive and more supportive of those endeavours and it will help us in the long run.

How have you seen the publishing industry change since you began?

I think it’s all tied up in some of those challenges, there's a proliferation of books being published because there are more publishers and it’s because of technology that publishers can publish more books and more titles if they want to.

There has certainly been a consolidation in the for profits, what I would call the secular publishing industry that’s different from in the religious publishing industry, there hasn’t been as much consolidation there, there are a lot more small companies. There is more use of freelancers to do the work rather than having a cadre of editors, copy editors, designers and sales people and so forth, a mixed blessing I think as some of it is not so good. 

There is more use of technology to create the content and as we’re all looking at Artificial Intelligence and Generative Intelligence and the impact that can have on publishing. I think again like most things it can be for the good but it’s important for publishers to be attentive and to learn and play around with the use of generative AI and make really careful decisions about how we use it, if we use it and when we use it.

I’m not afraid of AI because we've been afraid of other technologies historically and we have to rely that there are a lot of people that will take the technology and use it for good but we have to be attentive to the risk. 

Do you have a favourite book that you have ever read?

I read a lot so I don’t know if I would say a favourite book but I find that particularly with my consulting work with publishers and other organisations, the business book I go back to over and over is Jim Collins’ Good To Great.  It's probably 20 or 25 years old but it’s so solid so I really use that one a lot.

For my personal reading in terms of Non-Fiction I love to read anything by Dietrich Bonhoeffer the Lutheran Pastor and resistance fighter during Nazi Germany. His courage and standing up to the evils of that era are so inspiring and I find right now it’s a really important way to look at the world.

I read a lot of mysteries and fiction especially as we travel. I love to find things that are set wherever we are travelling whether for business or pleasure. So I can’t pick one book...

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