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Evolution Part 1: A New Paradigm for Small Press Distribution

The old barriers faced by small presses in their efforts to sell their titles into the book market are still firmly in place. Many booksellers want to sell titles produced by small presses, but for the most part they cannot afford to deal directly with them. The cost of selecting, receiving, and accounting for such typically low-volume titles is too high to allow for any profit. (Often a bookseller in the author's or publisher's home town will stock a few copies, but this rarely translates into national sales.) The lack of an efficient and economical way for booksellers, libraries, wholesalers, and others to purchase independently published books is typically the biggest reason why their titles often don't make it onto the shelves.

One way around this problem is for small presses to work through a distributor. The good ones have the size and the expertise to group titles from many small presses in a way that makes them profitable and efficient for booksellers to handle.


Here is how they do it. Larger orders mean lower freight costs. The major customers are shipped weekly by truck, the smaller stores shipped full cartons of books, which means the freight costs are a very low percentage of the total invoice. Also, the customers' cost of ordering titles is lower when many titles can be presented at one sales call. The major distributors can deploy advanced electronic supply chain management techniques which reduce transactional costs and increase accuracy. And of course it does not take much more time to pay a large invoice than to pay a small one.

For these reasons full-service book distributors such as IPG have come to play a very important role in small press publishing. Together they market thousands of titles from many hundreds of presses, some of which have grown into companies that sell millions of dollars of books every year.

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Part 2 of 7: Distributors and Small Presses