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Small Press Distribution Closes Its Doors: What Authors and Publishers Need to Know

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In a devastating blow to the literary community, Small Press Distribution (SPD) has announced its immediate closure after 55 years of serving independent publishers and authors. This sudden shutdown leaves many small presses and their writers facing an uncertain future, as they grapple with the loss of a vital distribution channel and the logistical challenges of retrieving their inventory. 

Founded in 1969, SPD has been a critical partner for hundreds of independent literary publishers, enabling them to bring diverse, experimental, and groundbreaking literature to readers worldwide. The closure of SPD is a significant loss for the indie publishing world, as it has played a crucial role in supporting authors who have gone on to win numerous prestigious awards, including National Book Awards, Pulitzer Prizes, and MacArthur “Genius” Grants. Nevertheless, SPD was not without controversy, and had recently come under fire from some workers for employment abuses, including unpaid wages and paying below minimum wage.  

Retrieving Inventory  

Publishers should be able to retrieve their inventory from SPD’s partners, Ingram Content Group and Publishers Storage and Shipping (PSSC). However, they will need to contact these companies directly to discuss distribution options and the return or disposition of their books.  

Seeking Alternative Distribution  

Small presses affected by SPD’s closure are encouraged to explore alternative distribution channels. The Community of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP) recently hosted an emergency meeting to help publishers navigate this crisis, with distributors such as Itasca/Bookmobile and Asterism offering their support. 

Financial Challenges  

Many small presses have recently invested in sending books to SPD and its partners, and they may face financial difficulties in the coming months. In a statement to publishers, SPD executive director Kent Watson said that SPD’s dissolution would be overseen by the California Superior Court, which would determine how the company’s remaining assets are distributed and how creditor claims are satisfied. Unfortunately, this can be a long and precarious process, and many small publishers may be at risk of losing the money owed to them. The survival of some publishers may depend on their ability to quickly find new distribution channels and ways to recover the money owed to them from sales. 

Pivoting to Unique Solutions

Each small press will need to find the distribution solution that best fits its specific needs and challenges. Some small presses might want their books distributed directly through Amazon and Ingram. Some other options, such as Asterism, do not work with Amazon, Bookshop, or retailers that discount, and they have different policies on returns and fees. Publishers must carefully consider which model will be most sustainable for their business.

What Authors Should Know 

Small press authors may encounter delays in receiving royalties or have books out of distribution due to the disruptions caused by SPD’s dissolution. While we understand that small presses are working hard to transition, delays are to be expected. If you are a small press author and an Authors Guild member, please reach out to us.

If you are a member and have not been paid timely in accordance with your contract, you may contact the Guild’s legal services team for help.