Some of you may have heard that Baker & Taylor, the largest wholesaler of books, will no longer be offering retail services, meaning that they will stop working with publishers to get their books to bookstores and other retailers. This news has shocked the book industry world, as that leaves only one remaining large distributor.
This development is potentially devastating for small publishers like us, since we received a large portion of our sales from Baker & Taylor. Further, now a single distributor can dictate terms to publishers with no competition, if they decide to take on or retain a small publisher at all. Many small publishers, including us, fear the possibility of having no large-scale distribution of our books, which could mean that we may not even be competitive with those who self-publish, which obviously threatens the ability of a publisher to stay in business.
Independent bookstores face similar challenges from lack of competition among distributors and increasingly unfavorable terms. This in a climate where the profit margin is already so incredibly low for all of those involved due to rising costs in producing, printing, marketing, and shipping books, etc. I would expect this news may be the final straw for many stores struggling to stay in business.
The largest beneficiary of small publishers and independent bookstores going out of business is of course Amazon, who dominate the industry. It seems inevitable that eventually all books will be sold online through Amazon, and book stores and small publishers will go the way of the dinosaur.
In order to stay afloat in the publishing world, there is a lot to keep up with and a lot of important decisions to make in terms of new formats such as audiobooks, how to get good distribution, what kinds of books we should be taking on, and various other issues involved in producing new vegan books. I am the person who runs the daily operations of Vegan Publishers, though I admittedly do most of this at night on little rest while the rest of my family is sleeping. I do this beyond my day job as a clinical research psychologist and professor, and it is not always easy to juggle my various responsibilities.
Of course we have asked ourselves the same question many in the world of small publishing ask themselves, “Is it all worth it?” Financially, the clear answer to that question is an emphatic “No.” On our day-to-day bookselling operations, we lose money most years. The only thing that helps us to barely stay in the black rather than the red are our crowdfunding campaigns, which are getting increasingly difficult due to more challenging social media algorithms that make free promotion a thing of the past.
So for my family, this amounts to working the equivalent of a full-time job for little or no pay. Every year around tax time, we have to hear our accountant say, “You know, you should probably be spending your time on your other work rather than book publishing,” because he’s a personal witness to how small publishing is a terrible way to make money.
Thankfully for us, Vegan Publishers is how we do our activism, and we are not entirely dependent on the business to pay our bills. It is incredibly rewarding for us to help promote vegan education and to release books on topics related to veganism that deserve more attention. We have worked with many who can be thought of as “thought leaders” in the animal movement, in some cases helping to give them their start, and are very proud of that. We also are proud to support vegan families and to release books for children, as it is quite expensive to produce such books and we noticed a serious gap in vegan-themed children’s literature. I can’t really explain how much it means to us when we hear someone say that one of our books has influenced their veganism in a positive way.
So we plan on continuing on this small publishing journey of ours, in spite of the obstacles. We so appreciate those of you who have supported us over the years and who have really made this worthwhile for us. We look forward to a day when small publishers can thrive again, and where there will no longer even be a need for a vegan-themed publishing company.