It used to be that getting your book on a bookstore’s shelf was the easiest way to ensure sales. But, as we’ve mentioned before, things don’t necessarily work that way anymore. As an indie author, you have a lot of choices to make about how to distribute your books. Here are some of your options:
1. Sell Direct
Many indie authors and self-publishing experts tout the benefits of the direct sale. Book launches and readings are great opportunities and mailing lists and websites have made the direct sale even easier. However, your sales still rely heavily on the effort you are willing to put into promoting your book.
Pros: More contact with your audience Cons: Lots of time and effort
Typically better sales results
2. Partner with a local bookstore
Bookstores, whether they are indies or major chains, have historically been slow to feature self-published authors. There are some very good reasons for this.
First, bookstores tend to return books that do not sell, even when traditional publishers are involved. The returns process is expensive and time consuming for the bookseller which makes it difficult for them to gamble on unknown authors without the endorsement of a major publisher.
Second, bookstores prefer buying wholesale from a distributor (rather than on consignment). Wise Ink partners with Itasca for this kind of distribution. If you decide to pay someone to store your books and fulfill bookstore or Amazon orders, be sure you do your research. You don’t want a struggling company to go out of business while it is responsible for your books.
Third, there is simply not enough room. Shelf space is most often reserved for books that are sure to sell.
Despite these obstacles, there are ways to develop a relationship with your local bookstores. These partnerships can significantly increase your book’s visibility, particularly if you bring attention to your work through a direct sale event at the bookstore.
Pros: Your books on shelves! Cons: Difficult to develop partnership
Better chance of “impulse buys” May need professional distributor
Build relationships in your community Can be expensive if books are returned
3. Print on Demand (POD)
Print on Demand or “POD” means that books are printed and shipped as the printer/distributor receives customer orders. For authors who want a small print run or who want to avoid the upfront cost of offset printing, POD can be an attractive solution. You will never end up with a storage unit full of unsold books.
However, POD books are rarely widely distributed. According to Writer Beware statistics, most POD runs sell fewer than 200 copies to “pocket” markets – friends and family of the author. It is also important to keep in mind that bookstores are not usually willing to stock POD books, particularly if the printer/distributor is an Amazon affiliate, like CreateSpace.
No warehouse full of unsold books Limited distribution
Fewer upfront costs (in general) Higher per-book costs
Distribution to certain wholesalers/online vendors Difficult to sell to/in bookstores
For more information, check out blogger and author Terri Giuliano Long’s excellent comparison of the two biggest POD companies, CreateSpace and Lightening Source.
4. Become an Amazon Vendor
Amazon is a great tool for self-publishers and probably one of the largest book distributors in the world. As an Amazon vendor, you would store your own book and take responsibility for filling Amazon orders.
Save $$ by distributing on your own Large time investment
Need space to store books
What distribution methods have worked best for you? What kind of distribution would you like to know more about?