VII.  Reasons SPU Declines

The Realities of the Market

In any given year, most book retailers and libraries decline to stock a large majority of the books that are published in that year. In order to best serve these customers, Small Press United (SPU) has to do its best to select the titles most likely to appeal to enough of them to make accepting the book worthwhile, and to keep the SPU list interesting and relevant to their business.

Common Missteps

Years of constant feedback from book buyers and sales reps has helped us develop good instincts for what our customers may or may not buy. There are many reasons why a well-written book may be turned down for purchase. Sometimes it's due to a perceived limited market, but unfortunately, and far too often, it's due to common missteps among start-up publishers. Any one of these missteps are reason enough for a title to be passed on rather than purchased, and therefore unlikely to be accepted by SPU.

In no particular order, here are some common reasons why a book might not be accepted by SPU:

  • Cover art and design are not competitive

    Professional buyers judge the sophistication and professionalism of a book, as well as the publisher, after spending just a few seconds looking at a book's cover. Most days, buyers are looking at and considering books that have been created by experienced designers who specialize in books. A book that is not professionally designed or has weak cover art is easy for buyers to pass. It's not enough to be good; cover art and design have to stand out. What may be a fine-looking book to a general consumer may not get a second look from a professional buyer.
  • The title and front cover copy do not immediately identify the benefits of the book, the subject matter, or the category

    For example, if a buyer can't immediately tell if a title is fiction or nonfiction, or which of their shelves it will go on, they won't buy it. If the cover doesn't tell or show what the reader will get out of the book, it has less of a chance of being stocked.
  • Interior design is not competitive

    There is an art to designing quality book interiors. If a publisher hasn't used an experienced book designer, most buyers will notice the lower-quality design.
  • The title's category is extremely competitive

    Typically, only those titles with big-name authors or high-profile publicity campaigns are considered in competitive categories. Even though a book may be unique, shelf space is limited and only those books with the greatest chance of selling are stocked.
  • The author has no clear credentials for writing a book on the topic

    For example, a book in the child care category needs an author or coauthor with some nationally recognized academic or professional training rather than someone who wants to pass along their experience as a successful parent.

   Reasons for Declining Part 2