After more than a three-year effort, National Book Network is scaling back its Biblio Distribution unit, formed in 2001 to service micro publishers. "We gave it three-and-a-half years, and did a serious business analysis," says NBN v-p of marketing Marianne Bohr. "What we found was similar to the 80/20 rule: about 70% of our business comes from 30% of our customers."

Now the company is in the process of pruning its client base and has let go 150 publishers, of its more than 900 customers. The company plans to continue winnowing clients as contracts come up for renewal, and is aiming to have about 500 presses, all with marketing plans. When Biblio launched, it accepted almost every one- or two-book press as long as their books meet industry standards, i.e., have an ISBN, a Bookland EAN barcode and a spine with the title printed on it. "We've become much more stringent in our requirements," said Bohr, who is careful to stress the company's continued commitment to small presses. "A lot of these publishers might be better off not selling their books to the trade. They can list them on Amazon and sell them at seminars. It's not inexpensive to go with a distributor."

Jan Nathan, head of PMA, agreed with Bohr that to increase their chances for success, many small publishers should focus on alternate outlets. "It's difficult for small publishers to understand, but in many cases they are better off not being in the bookselling channels," she said. Nathan said she completely understood Biblio's decision to focus its line on publishers with salable books. "A distributor can't take everyone and hope to succeed," she said, noting that the casualty list of small publisher distributors includes Inland, Slawson Communications and Atrium.