Indie Publishing Takes a Big Hit

Any bookish type will tell you that some of the most interesting and innovative copy in bookstores and libraries often comes from a small independent publisher that is willing to take a chance on an author. So when PGW (Publishers Group West), one of the main distributors for these scrappy DIY publishing houses, got put on the chopping block back in January, it was looking like rough waters ahead for indie publishers.

When PGW’s parent company went bankrupt, all of its assets were frozen, which meant that publishers were not paid for any sales from the last quarter of 2006 (which includes December, the most profitable month for any retailer). Eventually the company did get taken over, but publishers only received 70 percent of what they were owed. Being a bookish type myself, I have been following the ongoing drama via Shelf Awareness for the last six months, but you can get the full story over at Salon.

Some small publishers folded, others were bought out, and among the indie houses still standing, many are struggling. Included in this list is one of my personal favorites, author Dave Eggers’ publishing group McSweeney’s, which lost an estimated $130,000 in actual earnings. They’re having a big sale on their website in an effort to raise money to offset their losses. Keep one of my favorite publishing houses alive by buying some cool stuff. My personal recommendation? This shirt.

—Martha Pettit