Taking the Pulse of the Indie Publishing Industry

Taking the Pulse of the Indie Publishing Industry 1024 576 Reader Views

by award-winning author, JoAnn Vega

 An article in a publishing newsletter that I read to stay current, get ideas, identify resources, and learn from industry professionals, caught my eye.  I decided to investigate, surprised to learn that the shutdown had been sudden and effected hundreds of independent literary presses.

The announcement dated March 28, 2024, reads like the obituary it is.  https://spdbooks.org

Small Press Distribution


It is with great sadness and a profound gratitude for the amazing literary community we have served that we must today announce that Small Press Distribution [SPD] is closing its doors immediately. We know this news is both sudden and devastating.

The jolting first paragraph of the announcement is followed by the essential facts.

For more than five decades, SPD has distributed books for hundreds of independent literary publishers, allowing thousands of writers to bring diverse, experimental, and disruptive literature to audiences across the globe.

Why should you care?

You were likely published by an independent literary and/or university press or would like to be. You’ve received book orders for a presentation or reading that cannot be fulfilled. You have royalty checks outstanding. The publication of your book has been pushed back.

The Immediate Downsides

SPD’s 300,000 titles from independent and university presses are sitting in a warehouse. A follow-up email sent to the effected publishers gives them just over two months to send instructions about where to send the titles at-wait for it—the independent presses expense, or the titles will be recycled, likely destroyed.

This means hundreds of independent presses [IP] who publish and distribute indie authors now have to re-set their business models to accommodate the new reality while simultaneously remaining viable. IPs who are not receiving income from fulfilled sales orders are unable to pay royalties let alone their bills on what is likely a shoe-string budget. This increases expenses to print/purchase POD for authors, book fairs, speaking events, promotion, and tenure decisions.

The poetry market is predicted to be hit especially hard as poetry books are notoriously poor sellers and essential for academic advancement and tenure decisions.

Without a cost-effective distributor, along with decreases in funding sources, expect Independent and university presses to consolidate, go out of business, and become more selective in the number of books they publish. All this will lead to less opportunities for indie authors.

Downsides Reveal Opportunities

Nature abhors a vacuum so entrepreneurial types will step in and:

  1. Purchase SPD’s books at a deep discount and offer them to the affected presses.
  2. Reframe the distribution end of independent and university presses towards POD rather than press runs making the presses more efficient in their operation. Remember: If retail accounts, bookstores, etc. cannot sell ordered books they ship them back at the expense of the publisher/press/author. Without a returns policy retail accounts will not order many books.

Indie authors, especially poets and authors outside academia may gain an advantage, in the short-term, with university presses/authors. Why? The time it takes for the industry to adapt to and adjust to the loss of a large independent distributor will open up opportunities in sales, coverage, reviews, and awards, that is, leave space for less traditional voices and routes to publishing.

Next Steps

Stay current with industry trends, subscribe to industry newsletters from Publisher’s Weekly and Book Bub, among others.

Review your stack of writing with a fresh perspective.

Check with your current or prospective publisher to review their distribution options to reach and fulfill retail accounts. Ask if they have a returns policy for unsold books.

Take a deep breath, allow your pulse to return to normal, and keep at it. This too will pass and a new normal will take root.


Jo-Ann Vega is a published author and dynamic speaker with 30 years of experience designing, presenting, and evaluating learning programs for academic, business, and community groups. She has twenty years of experience as an adjunct, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses on management and leadership. She wrote a column on career management for EEO Bimonthly, a national magazine, for five years. She is the author of “Navigating the New Job Market”; and co-author of “Workforce 2000: A Challenge for Business & Education.”

She has 10 years of experience delivering ancestry and history programs as part of a University Lifelong Learning Institute and to community members. She incorporated what she learned about history and the Italian character into her memoir. She inaugurated a Celebrating Italian Americans Series program at a local library two years ago.

Recent publications include “Wolf Woman & Other Poems [2022];” “Moments in Flight: A Memoir [2021].” “Lifewriting essays, Serendipity, and Empathy in the Time of Covid [Volume 21 and Volume 22 of Story Circle Network’s Annual Real Women Write Anthology, 2021-2022].” Several poems published: “Musings,” “Then & Now,” “Awaken,” and “In Remembrance.” “Awaken,” a poem, was published September 2023 in “Wild Crone Wisdom, Poetry and Stories,” by Wild Librarian Press.

Jo-Ann Vega lives with her life partner and canine companion.

I invite readers to visit my author websites 
www.outskirtspress.com/wolfwoman and www.outskirtspress.com/momentsinflight
and send queries to mezzo148st@gmail.com

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