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Getting Your Book Out There: Distribution Options for Indie Authors

April 7, 2014 | Amazon, Authorpreneur, Book Launch, Bookstores, Distribution, Indie Publishing | 1 comments | Author:

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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.

Pros:                                                                                                   Cons:

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.

Pros:                                                                                                    Cons:

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?


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1 COMMENTS


  • Pete Nikolai April 7, 2014 at 4:48 pm | Reply

    Hopefully it won’t be too long before there are additional options including working with hybrid publishers that have established relationships with retailers…



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