Jan Nathan, 68; championed independent book publishers

Times Staff Writer

Jan Nathan, a champion of small, independent book publishers and the founding executive director of the Independent Book Publishers Assn., died June 17. She was 68.

Nathan died of cancer at her home in Hermosa Beach, according to Alice Acheson, a book marketing publicist.

“Jan Nathan gave independent publishers a voice and support in an industry dominated by larger publishers,” Howard W. Fisher, a former president of the Independent Book Publishers Assn., said in a statement last week. Nathan was nationally recognized as the expert to call when small-press publishers “needed help growing every aspect of their business,” Fisher said.

Early in her career Nathan produced in-flight magazines as president of Manhattan Publishing Co. She launched her business, Jan Nathan & Associates, in 1983 to manage professional trade associations.


One of her first clients was a group of 15 independent book publishers in Southern California who asked her to represent their books at the upcoming American Booksellers Assn. trade show, an annual event now called BookExpo America.

She helped the small-press publishers organize as the Publishers Marketing Assn., which later became the Independent Book Publishers Assn. The group eventually expanded its membership to include more than 4,000 book, audio and videotape publishers.

Nathan initiated a marketing plan that allowed members of the association to be part of shared advertisements in Publishers Weekly and other trade journals. She also helped arrange a direct-mail program, with special offers to bookstores, reviewers and libraries.

And she oversaw PMA Independent, a monthly newsletter about publishing. Her column, “Director’s Desk,” was filled with advice and news about the industry. To help build interest in the field, she organized seminars covering every aspect of independent book publishing.


An avid fan of bridge, Nathan organized a card tournament in Long Beach in 2003 that attracted thousands of people. Playing bridge taught her something about the publishing business, she said: “Have patience with your partners.”

Born Janet Huebner in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Jan. 7, 1939, she graduated from Cornell University and earned a master’s degree at Stanford University. She married Charles Nathan in the late 1950s, and they settled in Palo Alto in the mid-1960s.

The couple had four sons before their marriage ended in divorce.

Nathan moved to Hermosa Beach with her young sons in the early 1970s and married Eugene Baldocchi. They adopted two sons before divorcing in the 1990s.


She married Stephen Mager in 2000. In addition to him, she is survived by her six sons; her mother, Lillian Huebner; and 10 grandchildren.

A public celebration of Nathan’s life is being planned.