Venture capitalist and book lover Frank Pearl started the Perseus Books Group in 1996. He was concerned that the type of books he liked best—serious nonfiction—was being ignored by the major houses. As of last week, when it was announced that Hachette Book Group had agreed to acquire Perseus and then sell its distribution business to Ingram, the publisher had amassed a backlist of over 6,000 titles and was the distributor of more than 400 presses.
With total sales of about $400 million in 2013, Perseus is the largest independent publishing company in the U.S. Its imprints, which include Avalon Books, Basic Books, Public Affairs, and Running Press, accounted for just under $100 million of that figure, and will become a new division at HBG. The distribution clients will move to Ingram Publisher Services, which will also acquire Perseus’s Constellation service and its Jackson, Tenn. warehouse.
Perseus was named PW Publisher of the Year in 2007 for its efforts to build what Morgan Entrekin, publisher of Grove Atlantic (which is distributed by Perseus), called, “the strongest platform independent publishers have ever had.” That year, Pearl, who died in May 2012, told PW that he decided to enter the distribution business in 2005 as a way to provide scale, and some marketing muscle, to the publishing operation.
He succeeded: with gross revenue approaching $300 million last year, the company’s distribution group is the largest in the country, and its acquisition by IPS, which has about 120 clients, will create a giant distributor of independent presses. Ingram’s Phil Olilla said there are no plans to make major changes to Perseus’s distribution operations. “We are not looking for synergies,” he said. “We want to show clients the advantages of being part of the Ingram family. We think the deal is good for the industry and good for Ingram.” More than 400 publishers hope he is right.