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25 Years of IPPY - An Anniversary Celebration

Regional Categories and the Globalization of the IPPYs

Happy 25th Birthday to IPPY! And more importantly, what we are really celebrating is 25 years of award-winning, independently published books! "Recognizing Excellence in Independent Publishing" has been our motto from the beginning, and it's the excellence of independent authors, illustrators, photographers, designers, editors and publishers like you that has made the independent publishing movement a smashing success! We celebrate IPPY 25 -- and we celebrate YOU!!

It was 2006, on the occasion of the IPPY Awards' 10th anniversary, that I came up with the second-best idea during my tenure as Awards Director: the Regional IPPY Awards. (My best idea was the nickname, "IPPY," which came about at the end of the long day at BookExpo, having said "Independent Publisher Book Awards" about a hundred times and needing to give my tongue a break.)

The Regional IPPYs also came from necessity -- we were judging books about the history of World War II against books about the history of a ghost town in Colorado...We were judging surveys of Impressionist art collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art next to a book about Appalachian Mountain folk art. These books were all beautifully published, but aimed at totally different audiences. We realized that many regionally-oriented authors and publishers we doing just fine, selling well and serving their local regions. They deserved more recognition for their excellent work.

Cave Paintings of Baja California (Sunbelt Publications) might not sell very well at the Met gift store, but it's exactly what you'd hope to find at a border town gift shop as you begin a vacation to the Baja. Murder in Mackinac (Agawa Press) won't make the Times' Best Summer Beach Reads list, but it could be the just the ticket while you're vacationing on Mackinac Island in northern Michigan.

So, we launched the Regional IPPY Awards, with Best Regional Fiction and Best Regional Non-Fiction gold, silver and bronze medals awarded for eight U.S. and two Canadian regions. It was an immediate success, adding dimension to the awards and allowing us to recognize about 60 more deserving titles each year. This openness to "different" kinds of books led to inquiries from faraway places, and we began receiving more and more entries from English-speaking countries overseas, and from English-speaking authors living in various countries overseas.

(Editor's Note: We hadn't yet started handing out medals and our record-keeping wasn't very good, so our infographic doesn't include numbers from 2006-2007.)

Five years into the Regional awards we took another bold step: "Let's include the Aussies and Kiwis!" And were we ever glad we did. Not only did Australian and New Zealand authors and publishers embrace the idea -- we got 60 entries in the first year -- but the award winners flocked to New York to attend the IPPY Award ceremony and were among the heartiest party-goers of all, in spite of the jet lag. The enthusiasm for IPPY from Down Under continues today, and now that we've added Pacific Rim to the mix, we're getting an even more vibrant and diverse mix of titles from places like Guam, Singapore and the Philippines.

Over the next few years came a wave of entries from around the United Kingdom, as we finally realized that we really do speak the same language...and British indie authors and publishers began to agree that a declaration of independence is a very good thing when it comes to books! So, in 2015 the Europe regional categories were added, and IPPY now has representation from the U.K. and the, we're now worldwide! What's next? Only time -- and the numbers of new entries -- will tell.