LIBRIS and Publishers: Insuring the Health of Independent Publishing

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This past May, the American Bookseller Association's insurance program, LIBRIS, launched its new publisher's liability insurance program at BookExpo America in New York City. According to Publishers Program Manager Patrick Haller, LIBRIS offers a competitively priced and comprehensive policy that is underwritten by Philadelphia Insurance Companies. "Just as we did for independent booksellers, we have created a package of coverage based on the specific needs of independent publishers," said Haller.

It's been widely reported in both trade and consumer publications how the rising costs of insurance are giving companies, big and small, a bad case of sticker shock. In a recent Publisher's Weekly article, for example, it was reported that, because of insurance companies' increasing premiums and deductibles on libel and copyright infringement policies, some companies are either dropping or changing their policies. Additionally, the article stated, smaller publishers may not be able to afford insurance.

"It's apparent that some [insurance] companies are losing their appetite for this type of business," Haller said. However, LIBRIS' publisher liability insurance, "could be a solution for all those publishers that are experiencing difficulty, especially the smaller presses," he stressed.

Haller gained intimate knowledge of the inherent challenges of publishing as the membership chair of the Colorado Independent Publishers Association. "With LIBRIS, a client will receive service from someone who can understand what it means to take a book from the initial concept to the marketing stages. We share their passion and respect what it means to them. We are not just 'insurance agents' but partners in the process."

Haller continued, "There is no minimum revenue or premium requirement in this program." Instead, the entirety of each applicant is considered. The key elements of an application include gross revenues, the number of titles, the genre(s), and the loss control measures taken by the publisher (such as securing written permission to use copyrighted material).

Coverage includes protection against suits alleging publisher professional errors and omissions, slander, and copyright infringement, with limits up to $10 million. "Defense costs are included within the limits of the policy," Haller said, and he added, "This is particularly important given the difficulties of some [publishers] to find adequate coverage for defense costs. We can also an offer endorsement for the defense costs outside of the limit."

Deductibles start from $2,500, and, by endorsement, the policy can offer broadened coverage against suits alleging bodily injury and property damage, though this is contingent upon the company having general liability insurance coverage. "This is most beneficial to publishers of technical books or cookbooks, for example," said Haller. He pointed out one case in which a school textbook manufacturer was sued because of injuries suffered by a school student from an explosion during a chemistry experiment. The case was eventually dismissed against the publisher, but legal fees incurred were substantial.

Even publishers of one title, or companies that believe they work in innocuous genres, might be subject to loss and should protect themselves, Haller added. "The whole purpose of having insurance of any type is to protect you against an unforeseen occurrence," he said. "What is more expensive -- the costs you would have to shoulder completely by yourself when responding to allegations of wrong-doing without coverage, or the premium you pay for the security of knowing that you have some protection in case you need it?"

For more information on LIBRIS, call Patrick Haller, publishers insurance program manager, at (303) 388-5688, ext. 1009, or e-mail phaller@riskcap.com.