America’s Small Independent Presses Build Back After Their Major Distributor Collapsed


A little more than three months after Small Press Distribution abruptly closed, leaving some 400 independent presses without a trade distributor, publishers and distributors alike are moving forward even as damage assessment continues. Approximately 25% of the stranded publishers have found new distributors: Asterism Books has signed about 80 presses, Itasca Books has onboarded 21, and Independent Publishers Group has taken on 11.

An informal deadline of June 30 had previously been set for publishers to remove their inventory from Ingram Content Group and Publisher Storage and Shipping warehouses, to which SPD had sent their books as part of a failed plan to reinvent the distributor. Pam Nuffer, director of sales and marketing for PSSC, said that about 75% of the publishers who have inventory with them have provided PSSC with instructions on where their inventory should be shipped, and that PSSC has already shipped out about half of the books.

This week, Nuffer said that she plans to reach out again to publishers that have not yet provided instructions, or are on the fence about what they want done with their books. Following that effort, Nuffer will begin another attempt to track down publishers who have not responded to PSSC’s questions about inventory.

A spokesperson for Ingram said that the company has continued to work with presses to best meet their individual requirements, adding that a few presses signed on to take advantage of the company’s distribution and wholesale options—including two who have become Consortium distribution clients. Despite some earlier fears that many books would remain stranded in Ingram warehouses, the spokesperson said that the company doesn’t expect to end up with unclaimed inventory, with one or two possible exceptions.

Community Service

Tracking down all the presses that were part of SPD continues to be a challenge, said Mary Gannon, executive director of the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP), which has become something of a clearinghouse for news and updates on what is happening to presses abandoned by SPD. To aid the group in gathering and sharing information and developing ideas to help presses move forward, CLMP has hired Lauren Rosemary Hook, former editorial director and interim executive director of the Feminist Press, as project director. (Hook can be reached at lrhook@clmp.org.)

To get a further handle on how presses are faring, CLMP sent out a survey to as many former SPD clients as they could find. While only 39 had responded as of July 1, the answers indicate how greatly the presses have been affected by the distributor’s bankruptcy. Nearly 36% said they had incurred costs of $1,001–$2,500 for processing their inventory, with nearly a similar number reporting they had received some external funding to help cover the costs.

The percentage of respondents to CLMP’s survey that said they have found new distribution, 72%, was disproportionately high compared to the overall number of former SPD clients that such distributors as Ingram and IPG have signed, which is closer to 25% of SPD’s former list. That same number of respondents, 72%, said that they have received a sales report since the SPD shutdown, but none have received any money. Most respondents, 80%, were optimistic that the bankruptcy will not force them to close their businesses.

CLMP has also begun distributing copies of the form publishers need to file with the California attorney general’s office to lodge a complaint against SPD. It isn’t clear whether SPD, which previously announced that it was filing for dissolution with the attorney general’s office, has actually filed the notice. There are indications that the filing will only come after the August 8 deadline for publishers to submit claim notices with SPD’s law firm, Tovella Dowling. Mary Dowling, founder of the firm and its and managing attorney, did not respond to PW’s request for clarification on the matter.

To further complicate the issue, almost 20% of respondents to the CLMP survey said that they did not receive the claim letter from Tovella Dowling. Of those that received the letter, 21% had already submitted a claim, while 47% are unsure on how to proceed.

On the funding front, the Poetry Foundation reports that it has fulfilled 31 applications for aid through the $150,000 bridge fund that it established in late April to help poetry presses that had been impacted by the closure. To date, the foundation has distributed about $130,000 in funds, and is in the process of reviewing a 32nd application. The foundation will accept applications until September 1, or until funds run out. In addition, with support from the New York State Council on the Arts, CLMP has given grants of $500 and $1,000 to 21 presses based in New York State.

Asterism Bulks Up

The company that has taken on the most SDP clients, Asterism Books, launched just last year, as a wholesaler and bookstore. Since March 2024, Asterism, founded by Phil Bevis of Chatwin Books and Joshua Rothes of Sublunary Editions, has signed more than 90 publishers, including roughly 80 of those that had been with SPD. Marketing director Laura Paul reported that Asterism has taken more than 65,000 books into its Seattle warehouse since April 1.

To give the new books more exposure, Asterism will host an Open House for its Seattle showroom’s grand opening the weekend of July 26–28, including a happy hour for booksellers, librarians, and publishers on Friday, July 26. A book sale, which will be open to the public, is planned for July 27 and 28.

To boost sales opportunities for its new clients, Asterism has increased its number of bookseller accounts by 40%, and now has more than 280 stores with active accounts. The company also added its first in-house sales rep in May, and launched an e-book sales channel. Longer term projects include integrating with Bookshop.org as a fulfillment partner by early 2025, Paul said, and the company plans to start production this month for its 2025 print catalog—which will be Asterism’s largest ever.





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