top of page

Fair Trade Publishing

To all Readers and Lovers of Books Everywhere


Please support those responsible for the creation of your favorite books by buying direct from the publisher's web site or from the author wherever possible.

Here's Why Fair Trade Publishing is Important

  • Books sell for deceptively little compared to the costs of their creation

  • The value of any book quickly decreases in today's mass market

  • Even the best of books must achieve high-volume sales to earn profit

  • Standard retail outlets take a significant percentage of these profits

Writing and publishing a book are hard work.  It often takes thousands of hours to research, carefully craft compelling text, edit and re-edit it, before a book is ready for public consumption. For most authors it is a labor of love requiring great fortitude, personal investment, and  a challenging series of discouraging moments.

After the writing is done, a publisher or serious self-published author must hire an editor, a proofreader, someone to do interior layout, a cover designer, and an indexer, then seek permissions from those quoted and endorsements from others in the field, before the book is ready to be subcontracted to a printer for production. 

Once the book is off to the printer, a publicity campaign must be mounted, review copies sent out, book tours organized, potential customers and sales outlets notified of the book's existence.  All of this takes an immense amount of time, money and energy, often spread out over the course of several years of intense, concentrated effort.

The book that you hold in your hands, which you bought for $19.95 or whatever the cover price might be, sells for an amount that is incredibly and deceptively cheap, compared to the cost of its creation.  The actual return for each book is often a ridiculously small percentage of this price.  The only hope for making the book work as a business proposition is high volume sales, which are not easy to attain, even for the best of books, especially for small independent presses and/or self-published authors.

Recent technological innovations such as desktop publishing software, print-on-demand, relatively easy e-book creation, distribution, and internet marketing opportunities have to some extent leveled the playing field and made it possible for small independent publishers and self-published authors to compete for a modest share of attention. 

On the other hand, this brave new world of publishing has also flooded the market with over 300,000 new books every year in the US alone, compared to less than half that many ten years ago.  It has also created an intensely competitive sales environment in which the value of any book quickly tends downward toward a price that rapidly depletes available profit. 

Digital distribution of printed work raises serious copyright issues, which have not yet been resolved.  Often the attitude in the marketplace is fueled by a cavalier sense of entitlement, which assumes that anything in print should be made freely available to all, without any regard whatsoever to adequate compensation for the hard work of those responsible for creating it.

This competitive and often parasitic sales environment makes it extremely difficult for small publishers to break even, much less earn a reasonable return for the inordinate investment of time, money and energy mentioned earlier.  Brick and mortar retailers routinely get a 40% discount off the cover price of the book; online retailers, wholesalers and distributors take 55-60% or more. 

Most resellers of a book get a 90-120 day grace period before payment is due, and many of them try to postpone payment as long as possible, often requiring distasteful collection efforts on behalf of authors and publishers.  Most resellers also expect a return policy, which means if books don't sell after a certain period of time, they can return them, often in unsaleable condition, for a full refund.

Online retailers  typically take wholesale discounts for drop ship orders for a minimal number of books, thus changing the very definition of the word, 'wholesale', which used to mean a purchase of quantity for a discount.  Many of these retailers encourage third-party vendors to bid down the retail price of the book, so beyond the extraction of additional fees, postage paid by the publisher, and discounts necessary to be competitive, the slim margin between overhead and profit all but disappears.

All of this means that it is extremely difficult for those who invest the most in a book - authors and small publishers - to earn a reasonable return on their investment.  To counteract this trend, Ancient Tower Press promotes Fair Trade Publishing.  Fair Trade Publishing (not unlike the concept behind Fair Trade Coffee) seeks to adequately compensate those most responsible for the creation of a published work. 

Toward this end, Ancient Tower Press sells a minimal number of books through standard retail outlets, preferring instead to connect directly with the end-reader of the book.  ATP's relationship with the reader does not end at purchase, but continues through an ongoing invitation to ask questions via email, and additional opportunities for interaction at lectures, workshops, and through correspondence courses.

Where to Go From Here

You can read more about our suggested principles of Fair Trade Publishing here.

Ancient Tower Press offers a wholesale discount of 55% for orders of 12 books or more. Returns are not accepted and payment must be made upfront. ATP pays shipping.  


More information for wholesalers can be found here.


Special arrangements can be made with any retailer willing to order books directly from ATP, rather than through a distributor, or to conference organizers willing to sponsor events where books can be sold. ATP gives the standard retail discount for a purchase of 6 books or more, but returns are not accepted.  Payment must be made upfront. ATP will pay shipping costs. 


More information for retailers can be found here.

Ancient Tower Press is willing to make consignment arrangements with responsible conference vendors. The usual terms are a 40% retail discount or a 55% wholesale discount, depending on how many books are ordered. ATP will pay shipping to the conference for orders of 6 books or more; return shipping is the vendor's responsibility.  Alternately, vendors can choose to purchase the remaining books at the end of the conference at the regular volume discount.


Vendors can contact Ancient Tower Press here

to discuss your particular situation and make the necessary arrangements.

Aside from setting its own terms of business according to Fair Trade Publishing standards, Ancient Tower Press further encourages all readers and lovers of books everywhere to support those responsible for their creation by buying direct from the publisher's web site or from the author wherever possible.  In this way, the incentive will remain within the publishing world to invest the time, effort and money necessary to produce quality work. 


It's easy; it's still a bargain at full retail price when you consider what you are getting for your money; and it's the right thing to do.

bottom of page