An Advance Reader Copy (ARC) arrived in the mail the other day and it made me realize how different publishing in the Philippines (and other countries) is compared to the US. Below are some examples.
There are no book agents in the Philippines. With a few exceptions, authors aren't paid that high in the first place (and most of the published authors I know aren't paid advances) nor is the industry that large to support a new profession. If I were to suddenly become an agent tomorrow for example, I wouldn't be able to acquire enough clients or sell enough books to make it worthwhile as my primary income. Hence most publishing deals involve the publisher and the author directly.
There are no ARCs in the local publishing industry.
One reason is that printing ARCs actually means that you're doing two print-runs at the very least: one for reviewers (the ARCs) and one for the market. When it comes to the latter, print runs here are relatively small, anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand (there are exceptions of course but those are just that--exceptions). At those numbers, it's not really economical to do another print run whose sole purpose is to promote the book in advance. You're better off printing an excess number of books in your initial print run to account for review copies.
The other reason is that there really aren't a lot of venues that review local books. Blogging is changing that but in the past, you might get reviewed in a broadsheet or magazine if you're lucky. Otherwise, there is no significant or regular "reviewing" industry--at least for books--in the country*. (For similar reasons, there's really little distinction here when it comes to marketing vs. publicity departments).
*Book bloggers in my opinion are the future of book reviews, at least here if nowhere else.
Print on Demand
It's not that we don't have Print on Demand per se, but it's not as sophisticated as, say, Lulu or Lightning Source. One of our most accessible and efficient print-on-demand publisher for example is Central Books, and they require a minimum of 50 books before they do a print run (hardly the "can I just order 10 books package?"). DIY publishing isn't as accessible here as it is in the US, unless you're producing a publication that is reliant on photocopiers (which is the case here with indie comics).
And then there is the question of offset printing. Suffice to say, printers in other, more developed countries, due to various factors (price of paper, ink, economy, etc.), are able to provide more cost-effective solutions for their respective clients. For example, there was a point in time when it was cheaper to print our company's publication in Hong Kong because not only did they produce better product overall, it was cheaper, even when shipping was factored into the equation.
Another factor, of course, is economies of scale. Because we print less books, the price of each book is more expensive compared to that of a larger publisher.
Distribution also plays a role. A book published in the US will have an easier time getting distributed in other countries like the Philippines, but the reverse is not true.
A concrete example is Dean Francis Alfar's novel, Salamanca. It retails for around $7.00 (if I remember correctly) and compared to other similarly-priced books from the US, the production value isn't that high (we're judging the physical attributes of the book, not the content). The publisher is also selling the book on Amazon (for US customers) but the price gap is huge: from $7.00 to $25.00. I can, of course, understand how the price is inflated that high (i.e. Amazon's cut, shipping, taxes, etc.) but to the casual consumer, it's unbelievable how a book's price can easily quadruple. Nor can a small, 168-page paperback compete with massive hardcovers at that price point.