To help the many small presses that don't have large enough lists to sign with Ingram directly, PMA, the Independent Book Publishers Association, and the nation's largest wholesaler have teamed up for the first time to create a vendor-of-record program. "The PMA/Ingram Wholesale Acceptance Program is geared to the start-up publisher having one heck of a time getting into the distribution business," explained PMA executive director Jan Nathan. "There are only five major distributors and two wholesalers, but 10,000 publishers are entering the market each year. The distributors can only handle about 300 publishers. It's going completely out of whack."

Craig Pollock, senior manager of new vendor acquisitions at Ingram, first began discussing a way to help smaller presses with Nathan two years ago. "We liked the idea from the beginning," Pollack said. To encourage applications, Ingram will waive the initial $750 setup fee, but will still require publishers to advertise. "If they don't get the word out, they will still be lacking sales," Pollack said. "The sales and marketing piece are a big responsibility for the publisher, and we require all new vendors to advertise." Ingram is receiving a 55% discount on the books.

For Nathan, one of the most important aspects of the program is that publishers are told upfront in the application process how much business they will be expected to do. "Publishers have to have a performance level to make money for themselves and for the wholesaler. This is something I've found to be the missing link," said Nathan. Publishers must sign a contract stating that they will be doing $20,000 net at the end of the second year of the agreement.

More than 140 books have been submitted to PMA so far. On April 14, Ingram buyers and sales reps, Nathan and representatives from Barnes & Noble and Borders will meet to evaluate the books' potential salability and publishers' marketing plans. Nathan anticipates that one-quarter to one-third of all submissions will be accepted.

Once the final decisions are made, Ingram will send out contracts to publishers. Still, said Pollack, it could be July before the program gets into full swing. Ingram expects to accept new submissions twice a year, with the next round of reviews scheduled for September.