Independent Publisher Reinvents Distribution Wheel

First of several systems "to help independent booksellers stay independent."
Independent literary publisher McPherson & Company -- celebrating its 30th Anniversary -- is creating a national distribution network of 100 independent booksellers to showcase its 2004 list. The program, which operates on the model of negative option book club membership, provides participating bookstores with direct promotion on McPherson's website and in its print catalogues. Direct sales and order links between publisher and bookseller are enhanced by advance book notification, promotional discounting, author appearance priority, and advance shipping schedules for new titles as they appear throughout the year.

Bruce McPherson, owner of the company, has developed the membership program in response to the on-going difficulties independent bookstores and independent publishers are experiencing. "We're all endangered by unregulated corporate monopolization on both sides of the production and distribution system. Since indy publishers provide so many of the books that make indy booksellers stand out, we should also be promoting them to their communities through direct mail and over the internet. Websites may be great for finding out what's available, but the audience for our books know they need to go to local independent bookstores to find out what they really want. It helps them to know exactly which stores will have our titles. This program, which I hope will be a model for other independent publishers, is only the first of several sustainable systems we are creating to help independent booksellers stay independent."

In the first three weeks of 2004 McPherson has recruited almost half of its network goal, including The Tattered Cover in Denver, Cody's in Berkeley, City Lights in San Francisco, Bookhaven in New Haven, Brazos in Austin, Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Gotham in New York City, University Bookstore in Seattle, Seminary Coop in Chicago, Talking Leaves in Buffalo, Books and Books in Coral Gables, Dutton's Brentwood in Los Angeles, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, Shaman Drum in Ann Arbor, and dozens more. McPherson intends to include at least one outstanding store in every state.

McPherson & Company, based in Kingston, New York, is recognized for having an award-winning list of literary, art-related, and general culture titles which receive considerable media attention (e.g., about one-fourth of its books are reviewed in the New York Times Book Review) and are kept in print. Its core authors include Stan Brakhage, Maya Deren, Paul West, Jaimy Gordon, Robert Kelly, Mary Butts, Thomas McEvilley, and Anna Maria Ortese. McPherson's 2004 list includes novels, a story collection, books on film and contemporary art, and a hybrid volume of gardening and philosophy.