Thursday, June 21, 2007

A sale is never just a sale

Same distressing story as always, worse this time considering McSweeney's already-intimidating back catalogue. I guess we can give up hope of ever seeing a reissue of William T. Vollmann's complete 7-volume edition of Rising Up and Rising Down. Damn it all.
The bankrupt company in question, Advanced Marketing Services, was the parent company of Publishers Group West, which distributed books for more than 130 independent book publishers. "For us the timing was particularly bad," says Eli Horowitz, the publisher of McSweeney's Books, which has lost about $130,000 in actual earnings as a result of the bankruptcy. "We had a new Nick Hornby book and [Dave Eggers'] 'What Is the What', which was our best seller of all time."

McSweeney's is far from the only publisher that's taken a hit: As a result of the bankruptcy, either directly or indirectly, small publishers Soft Skull, Hugh Lauter Levin and Inner Ocean have been acquired by larger publishers, and Carroll & Graf and Thunder's Mouth, two Avalon Publishing Group imprints, have folded. Tiny punk-rock publisher Re/Search puts out two titles a year, but this year it'll be lucky to release one; publisher V. Vale was planning to update and reissue a book on William S. Burroughs for its spring title, "but we didn't have the money even for the down payment on the printing cost," he says.

Not every publisher is hurting so deeply, but the bankruptcy has left the small-press world at least temporarily wounded, and has probably changed it for good. "This was the biggest bankruptcy that's ever happened in publishing history," says Munro Magruder, the associate publisher of the new-agey New World Library, which publishes Deepak Chopra's books. "And its implications are going to be felt for some time."

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