Quiet Partner for Indie Presses: Hanover Publisher Services
The agreement by which Random House Publisher Services (RHPS) will begin distributing Archipelago Books on June 1 marked another milestone for Hanover Publisher Services, which now has five publishers for which it acts as a kind of middleman between those independent presses and RHPS. The other four are Steerforth Press, For Beginners Books, Campfire Graphic Novels and New Europe Books.
As Chip Fleischer, president of Hanover Publisher Services and publisher and co-founder of Steerforth Press, recounted, under president Jeff Abraham (a former executive director of the Book Industry Study Group who joined Random in 2006), RHPS expanded its distribution offerings but was hesitant about taking on too many clients and taking on many small clients. Steerforth, an RHPS client since Random began its current distribution unit in 2003, proposed that it create a company that, from RHPS's operational perspective, would be a single entity. That company would "enable Steerforth to leverage its good working relationship with RHPS and its good understanding of RHPS's complex operating systems," as Fleischer put it.
Launched in 2010, Hanover Publisher Services has proceeded slowly. Its clients sign with Hanover and are vetted by the RHPS sales team. Hanover presents clients' lists at sales conference and interacts with RHPS sales marketing, warehouse and IT departments. From RHPS's perspective, Fleischer noted, "it's the same as having a single publisher client with multiple imprints."
Before Abraham's arrival at what was earlier called Random House Distribution Services, Fleischer had tried to set up something similar to Hanover with RHDS involving four publishers. At the time, however, RHDS didn't handle sales, which meant that Fleischer's company had to have a national accounts rep and work with independent reps. The idea foundered because, as Fleischer said, "I ended up spending a lot of time playing traffic cop." Still, RHDS "discovered there were lots of Steerforth fans on the sales force, and they also discovered that post-merger (BDD and RH), the Random House sales force had been ideally reconfigured to handle sales for outside clients as well as core imprints. Once Random House started offering the services of its blue-chip sales teams to distribution clients, the world beat a path to their door, and I felt very fortunate to have already established a relationship with them."