12 January 2007

No Better Time to Buy Books from Small Presses

What with the bankruptcy of AMS/PGW -- a major distributor of books from independent presses -- many publishers of books and authors we all know and love are struggling to stay afloat themselves.

Things sound particularly scary for McSweeney's, publishers of this year's Mumpsimus Award winner, Here They Come by Yannick Murphy:
For McSweeney's, the timing of AMS's filing could not have been worse: A large portion of the revenues from the publisher's new Dave Eggers novel, What is the What -- a percentage of which were to be donated to the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation to aid the Sudanese in America and the Sudan -- is now tied up in the bankruptcy. "We shipped 60,000 copies during that period and the proceeds are not here yet," said Horowitz.
Among the many quirky and wondrous McSweeney's books, I'm still reading and enjoying -- loving, actually -- The Children's Hospital by Chris Adrian, a very big book that I am reading very, very slowly.

Plenty of other publishers have been affected by the bankruptcy, too, including Soft Skull Press, publisher of Nick Mamatas's new novel, Under My Roof as well as H2O by Mark Schwartz, which I know Jeff VanderMeer liked, and the upcoming Jamestown by Matthew Sharpe, which back in March Richard Nash was already telling me I would love, and African Psycho by Alain Mabanckou, which looks like it's quite something (I've only had time to read the first couple pages so far). And one of the many books I've felt guilty for not having read yet, Choir Boy by Charlie Anders. And one of my particular favorites of the last few years, Oh Pure and Radiant Heart by Lydia Millet. And-- and-- and--

For a full list of publishers that will be affected in some way or another by the bankruptcy (along with links to their websites), see the PGW site. For news and info about the fallout, keep your eyes on Galleycat and Radio Free PGW.

Update (1/13): For anyone wondering if buying books through the publisher's website is a good idea, in general it is, even regardless of a distributor's bankruptcy, because buying direct can provide vastly more revenue and profits for the publisher. The problem at the moment, Richard Nash told me, is primarily for publishers who provided lots of stock in the fall. Current stock they're getting some money for on a weekly basis, so buying in any way is helpful, but if you can do it via the publisher, then do that.


  1. This is terrible news! But thanks for reporting; I hadn't heard it.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree - buy, buy, buy - but is the timing right? Will we be throwing money into the bankruptcy pot if we buy a book direct from the publisher, or will the publisher get the funds? I have not been following the story as closely as I should.

  3. If you order directly from a publisher, you pay the publisher. The money is tied up by the books that went through PGW between September and December, and just as bad, the books that are currently in PGW warehouses that are being treated as PGW assets, and therefore held in bankruptcy.

    So, if you can order directly from the publisher, you are helping them either pay printing bills, keep the lights on, not have to lay off staff, etc.

  4. Damn, I hadn't realized PGW also distributes Thunder's Mouth, publisher of Terri and my Salon Fantastique. Blchhh.

  5. I'm anti-guilt, but thanks for mentioning with Choir Boy! Anything people can do to support Soft Skull right now is well worth doing...

  6. As a poet, I very much enjoyed my walk through your blog...as an avid reader, I think I enjoyed it even more. Time well spent...