Declaring bankruptcy isn’t exactly the best way to begin the new year, but that’s exactly what has happened as Advanced Marketing Services filed Chapter 11 papers on December 29. The full text filing is available via PW Daily, and looking through the list of its top creditors – scrolling past the instantly eye-popping numbers of $43 million owed to Random House and $26 million to Simon & Schuster, the real story begins: the plight of the independent publishers.

That’s because many of them – over 150, in fact – use Publishers Group West as their distributor. PGW, over 30 years old now, had been an independent distribution entity until AMS bought them in 2002. And even though PGW had been considered an autonomous unit within AMS, that only goes so far, especially when money owing is concerned. Because even though the volumes at play do not compare to what’s owed to the top corporate publishing companies, it’s all about the percentage of revenues – so companies like Avalon ($2.3 million), Cooks Illustrated ($1.5 million), Good Books ($970,000), McSweeney’s, North Atlantic Books, Milkweed and Soft Skull, to name a select few of PGW’s clients, are about to take a severe hit, what with expected revenues for the last three months – key months for all publishers, small or otherwise – suddenly disappearing.

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