Indie Client Services Expand, Experiment | PubCrawl

Several deals in late September and October highlighted continued expansion and new directions among the top three providers of distribution and client services to independent and small publishers: Perseus Books Group, IPG, and Ingram.

Francine FialkoffSeveral deals in late September and October highlighted continued expansion and new directions among the top three providers of distribution and client services to independent and small publishers: Perseus Books Group, IPG, and Ingram. Companies such as these represent about half the revenue in publishing (the Big Five take the rest, said David Steinberger, CEO of Perseus) but put out many more titles. Once known primarily for distribution and marketing, client services offer not just economies of scale in warehousing but digital to print production and vice versa, broader reach into different channels, and sophisticated technology.

Said Steinberger, “It’s a much more dynamic industry” than the old model of “putting books in brown boxes.” It encompasses both print and digital books and “all the ways to reach consumers”—online, in bookstores, in libraries—Steinberger said, pointing to short-run printing, print on demand (POD), discovery through metadata management and search engine optimization, social media marketing and monitoring, and more.

“There’s been a resurgence in independent [bookstores]…a stabilization in ebook sales…and a growth in sales channels in international, specialty, and niche markets that is pushing publishers to a distributor,” said Joe Matthews, COO of IPG. “Growth is getting a book on a table in a specialty store—Urban Outfitters, Spencer’s [Gifts], Bass Pro Shops—or in the teacher supply channel, for example.”

The explosion in international and specialty markets also meant that indie publishers must be “operationally excellent,” able to meet sophisticated technological demands for electronic transmission of data, production, and more, said Matthews. “For the past five years we’ve been gut-rehabbing our systems,” he said.

Uniting under a veteran

The complexity of the job led Steinberger to consolidate the leadership of Perseus, the largest distributor—home to Consortium, PGW, Legato, Perseus Distribution, and the newly formed Perseus Academic—under industry veteran Mark Suchomel.

Suchomel, named president, client services, founded Legato in 2013 after leaving IPG—which ranks just after Perseus in publisher clients—where he had been at the helm for 15 years. The move in mid-October came some two months after a deal fell apart between Perseus Books Group and Hachette and Ingram, in which Ingram was to acquire the publisher services/distribution division and Hachette the publishing arm.

A full house of new deals

Perseus, IPG, and Ingram continued to announce new publishers this fall. Consortium added Deep Vellum (literature in translation) and Toon (comics for young readers, founded by New Yorker art director Françoise Mouly), as well as other publishers; Perseus Academic signed Princeton and Columbia University presses and the University of California Press for its January 2015 launch.

IPG added 19 publishers to its IPG, Trafalgar Square, River North Editions, and IPG Spanish-language operations. In September, IPG began distributing Reading Rainbow books. Trafalgar Square, the leading U.S. distributor of UK titles, partnered with four new houses. And the Spanish-language division contracted with Linkgua, publisher of Hispanic Library classics, and Cute Editions, for crafts and cooking titles, among others.

Changing the model

Ingram made big news in the romance community when best-selling contemporary romance author Barbara Freethy revealed a deal with Ingram Publishing Services to print her ebooks and distribute them worldwide via her new imprint, Hyde Street Press.

Freethy, who had been traditionally published for many years, in 2011 got the rights back for her backlist and began rereleasing the books digitally. According to Amazon, she was the best-selling Kindle Direct author of all time, with ebook sales of over 4.8 million.

Mark Ouimet, VP, Ingram Publisher Services, said, “We’re pleased to help Barbara expand her resoundingly successful digital publishing program with physical book solutions. We’ve helped many publishers move from E to P, or P to E to capitalize on content.” Ingram planned to release four titles this spring from Freethy’s wildly popular Callaway titles.

Longtime LJ Romance columnist Kristin Ramsdell said, “The one thing that indie publishers haven’t been able to do is get their physical books into bookstores—or libraries. Barbara’s deal with Ingram could close that gap—and open the door for other indie writers.”


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