In its ground-breaking 2005 study “Under the Radar,” BISG mailed a survey to the 85,000 publishers in Bowker’s November 2004 database and reported that there were 62,815 active publishers (which excluded publishers reporting no revenues). Of this number, there were 46,860 publishers with less than $50,000 in annual revenues.
Based on percentages in the report, I calculated that, of the 15,955 publishers (including non-conventional association, institutional and corporate programs) with revenues of more than $50,000:
● 744 had revenues of $50 million+
● 3,580 had revenues of $1 million–$49 million
● 1,570 had revenues of $500,000–$999,000
● 6,041 had revenues of $100,000–$499,000
● 4,020 had revenues of $50,000–$99,000
Out of this universe, how many publishers could realistically be targets of opportunity for distribution providers? Overall, the 10,000 or so publishers with revenues of $50,000–$500,000 are the farm team, and the 5,150 publishers doing $500,000–$50 million are the major leagues. Publishers with revenues of $50 million or more are usually running their own show and providing services to others (with exceptions, of course, to every rule).
It is useful to establish under what circumstances a publisher should take on its own sales and distribution operation. Probably the best discussion I have seen of the matter appears in a report by Cross River Publishing Consultants (PubConsultants.com)—specifically Ani Chamichian and Thomas Woll—for the Association for the Export of Canadian Books in Ottawa. Carla Ruff, a sales and marketing consultant working with new and established publishers, also assisted in the report and helped me work through some of the highlights of this article.
Based on their analysis, if a benchmark 7 percent of sales expense is applied to an average $70,000 cost of salary, benefits and expenses, a publisher would need a minimum of $1 million in net sales per sales rep. With one rep for national accounts, anywhere from an additional one to 10 reps would be needed to cover the country, depending on how wide a reach is desired.
Eugene G. Schwartz is editor at large for ForeWord Reviews, an industry observer and an occasional columnist for Book Business magazine. In an earlier career, he was in the printing business and held production management positions at Random House, Prentice-Hall/Goodyear and CRM Books/Psychology Today. A former PMA (IBPA) board member, he has headed his own publishing consultancy, Consortium House. He is also Co-Founder of Worthy Shorts Inc., a development stage online private press and publication service for professionals as well as an online back office publication service for publishers and associations. He is on the Publishing Business Conference and Expo Advisory Board.