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Thread: Biblio Distribution

  1. #1
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    Biblio Distribution

    I have a friend who is planning on starting a small publishing firm. He's a serious guy with a good entrepreneurial background; he even has a kazillion-page business plan, even though he isn't seeking investors.

    My question: For general distribution and fulfillment, he's planning on going with Biblio. I know nothing about these folks except that the handle a lot of self-pubbed books. Their website sounds legit to me, but I'm not up to speed on this side of the business.

    I have the street smarts to recognize BS agents and publishers, but this is way outta my league. Does anyone have comments or advice?

    SOS!

  2. #2
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by UrsusMinor
    I have a friend who is planning on starting a small publishing firm. He's a serious guy with a good entrepreneurial background....
    What's his background in publishing?

  3. #3
    Ooo! Shiny new cover! Absolute Sage Cathy C's Avatar
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    He might want Biblio, but Biblio might not want him. They're drastically cutting back their client list. He'll need to pitch a solid business plan with multiple titles before they'll take his money. Have him read this story in Publisher's Weekly. (FYI, you might have to sign up for their FREE 30-day web service to read the full article. But there's no further obligation afterward, and he really should consider buying a subscription and reading some back issues on small presses before he starts up the business anyway.)


    http://www.publishersweekly.com/arti...ml?text=biblio
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    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    From what I understand from observing the struggles of a friend who started a children's publishing company a few years ago, Biblio isn't a first-line choice for publishers that are seriously interested in bookstore placement. As you noted, it carries a lot of self-pubbed books, and that's more or less its reputation among booksellers.

    However, it is very, very difficult for a brand new publisher to get a distributor of any sort. The more prestigious ones have pretty stringent acceptance standards. My friend, who knows a lot about publishing and produced very high-quality books, had tremendous difficulty initially; he had to settle for a lower-tier distributor that didn't give the account the kind of attention it needed. Later, when the publisher had established a backlist and won an award for one of its books, he was able to switch to Publishers Group West, but they wouldn't even consider him when he was starting up.

    My friend's publisher is now out of business. The books sold respectably, but not in sufficient quantities to generate a profit, and when the publisher closed, five years after starting up, it was still saddled with debt from the original business loans. I think this was partly because, although the books were beautiful, they weren't different enough from other books out there to let the publisher establish itself (although of course all it takes is one big seller). But also, it's a very grueling business.

    - Victoria

  5. #5
    I Heart Mac Absolute Sage Lauri B's Avatar
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    Biblio would not be my first choice.

  6. #6
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    Hey, Uncle James

    His background in publishing? As far as I know, none, zero, zip, zilch. He has read a great deal on the subject, and knows people in the music biz, but no background in publishing. (He's an IT guy.)

    He's planning on doing something with regional-interest fiction, and he isn't anticipating turning a profit in the immediate future.

    Not how I'd invest my money and energy, but he's one of those guys who really likes to build companies.

  7. #7
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    Nomad:

    Okay, I know you guys are solid.

    So who would be your first choice(s)?

  8. #8
    Hagiographically Advantaged AW Moderator HapiSofi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by UrsusMinor
    His background in publishing? As far as I know, none, zero, zip, zilch. He has read a great deal on the subject, and knows people in the music biz, but no background in publishing. (He's an IT guy.)

    He's planning on doing something with regional-interest fiction, and he isn't anticipating turning a profit in the immediate future.

    Not how I'd invest my money and energy, but he's one of those guys who really likes to build companies.
    Good thing he's not anticipating a profit.

    Now, the first thing he needs to do is to figure out how much money he's willing to lose free and clear, with no hope of return. He should sequester all the rest of his money, make sure it can't get mixed up in this project, because the urge to throw good money after bad can get fierce.

    Second thing he should do is take a job in publishing. This is a rule in all kinds of trades, from publishing books to running a restaurant: Do your learning on other people's money. After a few years doing that, he should spend at least a year in a retail bookselling position where he gets regular customer contact.

    After that, he can start thinking about starting a publishing company of his own.
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  9. #9
    Mostly Harmless SuperModerator CaoPaux's Avatar
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    For the sake of linkage: http://www.bibliodistribution.com/aboutus/index.shtml

    I see they promote themselves as "A New Solution for Small Publishers' Sales and Distribution Needs". Heh.

    Here's their requirements, FWIW: http://www.bibliodistribution.com/di...irements.shtml
    ICAO
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  10. #10
    Hagiographically Advantaged AW Moderator HapiSofi's Avatar
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    If you don't know what you want in a distributor, or the strengths and weaknesses of the available firms, you're not ready to start a publishing company. Listen to me, for heaven's sake. Far more publishing startups perish due to distribution problems than editorial miscalls.

    Lately I've been thinking about all those scammers out there who charge big bucks as "business success coaches" and "book marketing experts." Jim Macdonald and I could sure use that kind of money, and we know lightyears more than those self-proclaimed "experts."

    You know why Jim and I never wind up getting paid for our advice? Because people who want to self-publish books, or start publishing companies, or devise a new high-tech way to dodge the slush pile, aren't looking to pay consultants who'll tell them their basic idea isn't viable. It's their idea, by golly, and they just know it's gonna work. So instead, they pay lots of money to people who say "Sure it can work -- we'll show you how!"

    The less viable the idea, the crookeder the "experts" and "consultants" who'll encourage you to pursue it -- as long as they think there's a chance they can make money off you by saying so. "You think you can make a Lincoln Continental jump a stone wall if only it gets going fast enough? No problem! Here's my book on how to do it! Pedal to the metal!" And off you go.

    Crash. Boom. Thud.

    If your friend's determined to throw his money away in the cause of literature, allow me to suggest that Jim has a known mailing address. So does Victoria. So does the SFWA emergency fund.
    Winner of the Best Drycleaner on the Block Award.

  11. #11
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    Can you give me some figures or places to look?

    Hey, HapiSoft---



    Grateful for your input and everything, but aren’t you overstating the case against small press start-ups just a teensy bit?



    True, I hear of all manner of >>self-publishing<< calamities. But I actually seldom hear about disastrous small-press ventures. And some that seem to be doing well enough—Akashic, Bridge House, Rockway—weren’t founded, as far as I can tell, by people with long experience working in publishing houses. (They were started, respectively, by a rock musician, a self-pubbed novelist, and a conventionally pubbed novelist.)



    Small-press publishing doesn’t strike me as a way to get rich, but it does strike me as a business venture where the downside is relatively small as long as you work lean (like most of them do at the start): don’t commit to a huge overhead, don’t hire a bunch of full-time staff. My friend has a good income, a lot of flexibility in his hours, and a written business plan that looks as professional as if it were done by a venture-capital firm. His financial risk and commitment are lower than for starting a corner liquor store.



    The failure rate for small businesses after two years is something on the order of 80% (or so the Small Business Administration is fond of saying). Is the failure rate of small presses worse than this? If it is, I sure never hear about it.



    If there's a lot of evidence to the contrary, I'd appreciate being steered toward it.

    I’m a writer, with a good NY agent, and I’m still finding this business an uphill battle. It looks to me like being a small publisher would be a breeze compared to being a novelist—and the odds look a lot better, too. (I'm an idiot, so I'll just keep writing and hoping.)


  12. #12
    Ooo! Shiny new cover! Absolute Sage Cathy C's Avatar
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    His financial risk and commitment are lower than for starting a corner liquor store.

    And therein lies the problem, I fear. It SHOULD be more expensive. See, publishing really is one of the "spend money to make money" ventures. Up-front out of pocket expenses include professional cover art, payroll for qualified editors, copy editors and bookkeepers, plus the distributor and marketing to the public. My first book is with a small publisher. They're a niche publisher, specializing in state history and pictoral coffee-table books. But even as a husband/wife team, they STILL have to hire about four freelance editors, cover artists and other personnel to put out a paltry dozen books a year. If your friend is planning on multi-tasking to the point of taking on various aspects of the business, he'll be doing a disservice to the authors and to the public. It's a hard business. Many publishers go under in the first 24 months because booksellers are notoriously slow in paying, but the up-front still has to go out.

    IMO, he should at least get his feet wet for six months to a year by joining his local state Independent Publisher Association and taking some of the seminars they teach about small pub start-ups, or maybe even apprentice at another small pub.
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    "An entertaining (and occasionally very dark) mystery." -- Locus

    "[Shapeshifter] fans are about to hit the jackpot as Clamp returns to re-energize this amazing series. Searching for layered plotlines and complex characters? Look no further, as Clamp truly delivers!" -- RT BookReviews

    "Cathy Clamp is a visionary author, creating new worlds that are both strong and vividly drawn. Adventure and excitement at its best." -- Yasmine Galenorn, New York Times Bestselling Author

    "A struggling community under attack, compelling action, characters struggling with dark secrets ... FORBIDDEN hit all my favorite notes, and I love the rich world of the Sazi!" - Rachel Caine, New York Times Bestselling Author

  13. #13
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    I posted this on another thread, and I'll post it again here:

    The road is littered with dead mens' bones. In their skeletal hands they clutch slips of parchment on which one can still read "It would be relatively easy to start a publishing company."
    One difference between being a publisher and running a liquor store is that Seagram's won't notice when you go out of business and the individual bottles of whisky won't care. Writers will both notice and care when you carry their books with you down the tubes.

    It makes no difference to me what your friend does. It will make a difference to those people whose books he publishes. He's trying to enter a saturated market where even the most successful have a near-invisible profit margin. Best of luck to him, and especially to his authors.

    Let us know two years from now how it's working out.

  14. #14
    Hagiographically Advantaged AW Moderator HapiSofi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by UrsusMinor
    Hey, HapiSoft---

    Grateful for your input and everything, but aren’t you overstating the case against small press start-ups just a teensy bit?
    Nope.

    Allow me to say in kindly and optimistic tones that I'm not overstating the case one little bit.
    Winner of the Best Drycleaner on the Block Award.

  15. #15
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    And I'll invoke my friend again as an example. He knew the biz. He made a careful business plan that anticipated breaking even (not making a profit) several years down the road. He took out business loans. He hooked up with a midline distributor, then a topline one. He attended book fairs and industry events both in the US and abroad, where he networked tirelessly and made some good connections and even sold some foreign rights. He published delightful, gorgeously illustrated, handsomely-produced children's books. He got them reviewed in Publishers Weekly and Booklist and Library Journal and newspapers and magazines. One of them won a semi-prestigious award.

    He did all these things, and he and his wife worked 15 hours a day to accomplish them. Even so, they went bust. The final death knell was struck last year.

    His authors are not happy. And he and his wife are still grieving, because it was their dream too.

    - Victoria

  16. #16
    Hagiographically Advantaged AW Moderator HapiSofi's Avatar
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    Hear her. Stories like that aren't rare. And note that these were people who knew the business.
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    Red face

    In the past 18-years, I have witnessed the near demise of the small press houses. Either their gobbled up by the big six, or take the big six. The new PODs bursting on the scene today are destined for the dumpster tomorrow. It is not being pessimistic, these are some of the cold-hard realities that we are facing today. In my hunt for a small fantasy house, I was stunned to find that out of 100 of them, 12 might have been legitimate. The rest were vanity authors with their own imprint name, and hardly able to publish 1 or 2 books a year.

    Tri

  18. #18
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    Thanks, all

    I have passed this info on verbatim. We shall see what transpires--though I imagine that by the time there's anything to report, this thread will long be buried.

    But I know where to find most of you guys, so I promise updates if the man goes ahead with this.

  19. #19
    Mostly Harmless SuperModerator CaoPaux's Avatar
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    Heck, I'd think it'd make a great thread of its own: "Becoming A Publisher".

    Which, after a year or two, could then be retitled "Creating A Successful Small Press" or "How My Small Press Fell Flat".

    Best of luck to your friend, regardless.
    ICAO
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  20. #20
    Mostly Harmless SuperModerator CaoPaux's Avatar
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    http://www.bibliodistribution.com/home.shtml

    Effective February 1st, 2008, all active publishers with Biblio will move under the care of AtlasBooks, the distribution arm of BookMasters, Inc. www.atlasbooksdistribution.com
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