Evolution Part 2: Distributors and Small Presses

This very success, however, has led to some new difficulties for very small and start-up presses. The better distributors, just like the booksellers and for the same reasons, are reluctant to deal with them. The cost of dealing with a one- or two-book publisher can be nearly as high as dealing with a publisher with fifty active titles and of course the profit is far less. In addition, new publishers generally require more staff attention than seasoned ones. The book business is complex and often bewildering. Many of its requirements seem arbitrary and wasteful to new publishers. For a distributor, the burden of educating new presses can far outweigh any financial benefit.

And finally, the traditional book trade creates disastrous timing issues for most small and start-up presses. Trade books are still published in lock step with two or three seasons, or sales periods, which means two or three printed catalogs every year.


The major book customers require electronic data on new titles six to eight months ahead of publication, and they rarely make exceptions to that rule. A small publisher, having already printed a book, cannot afford to wait six or eight months to start selling it; and even after the publication of the first few titles, most very small presses do not have the capital to accommodate long lead times.

Part 1: A New Paradigm

Part 3 of 7: A New Idea