The move by insurance providers to increase premiums and deductibles (News, July 15) could hurt small publishers, as many could be forced to go without libel protection.

"I could see where it would be hard for the house with three or four employees," said Regnery publisher Al Regnery, whose own house didn't have such a policy until it had several dozen titles.

Authors who publish with these houses would be no more protected than they would be if they published the book themselves. And the effect on the publishers themselves, said experts, could be dramatic. The New Press admitted that it once thought it could address the problem (and save money) simply by vetting books carefully. Associate director Diane Wachtell said the house didn't carry liability insurance for the first four years of its existence, but after facing libelous situations that "cost us a lot of money," it quickly changed its mind.

Many publishers, such as Dallas conservative house Spence Publishing and maverick Barricade publisher Lyle Stuart, have never signed up for libel insurance. Many others likely will soon be forced to do without.