Eric Scharf

Phoenix Books Burlington is located on 191 Bank St. The bookstore cultivated Onion River Press, an independent publisher helping individuals publish their work.

Local publishing company provides alternative to industry giants

February 4, 2022

Phoenix Books offers publishing opportunities for local authors under one, specific condition; they don’t work with Amazon.

Phoenix Books developed Onion River Press to provide an alternative publishing option for customers, said Tod Gross, manager of Phoenix Books. Onion River Press is a self-publishing business that is a part of Phoenix Books. The publishing company provides authors with the tools and resources to perfect their work, Publishing Manager Rachel Fisher said. 

Onion River Press was founded after Amazon provided customers with a $5 coupon if they scanned a book from an independent bookstore and then bought it from Amazon, Gross said. 

The Cynic found secondary sources citing this $5 dollar promotion but when looking for first-hand sourcing on Amazon’s website the page couldn’t be found.

“So that’s called show-rooming,” Gross said. “They’re using us as a show room to get money from us, so that didn’t sit well with us.”

This marketing strategy from Amazon led to his decision to halt all sales of Amazon products and books published through Amazon’s publishing company, Kindle Direct Publishing, in Phoenix Books, Gross said. 

“So we just decided not to have Amazon products on our shelves,” Gross said. 

Amazon’s presence was eradicated from the local bookstore, but this business strategy led to new issues. There were authors who wanted to put their books on the shelves at Phoenix Books, but the bookstore was having to turn them away, Fisher said. 

“We have a pretty set rule that if you published your book through Kindle Direct Publishing, we’re not going to give that book space on our shelves,” Fisher said.

Gross soon realized that if they were going to continue this practice, an alternative option needed to be provided, Fisher said. 

“If we’re going to say no, we should at least say ‘no but you can come to us and we’ll help you print it through a company that we support,’” Fisher said. “That’s how Onion River press in its current format was born.”

The publishing company offers a variety of services that are designed to meet the customer’s needs, Gross said. 

“The books are going to be listed on the Phoenix Books website, and there are advantages to having that kind of face-to-face interaction with me or with [Gross], versus Amazon where everything is done through a computer,” Fisher said. 

Onion River Press’s least expensive publishing package is the Personal Package at $200, where authors intending to share books, with no intention to sell, can be published.

Their most expensive package, the Phoenix Books Launch Package at $650, provides authors with production setup, format review, distribution in Phoenix Books stores and more, according to their website. 

“We have different levels of commitment and price, so we’re trying to match those with what your needs are,” Gross said. 

Since its founding, Onion River Press has published over 100 projects, Gross said. 

Those numbers have only risen in the past couple years due to the pandemic, Fisher said. 

“What’s a better time to sit down and write your book than when you can’t go out and do anything else?” Fisher said. “It’s been a really busy time of year, or a really busy time in these last 18 months helping authors bring all that hard work to fruition.” 


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