Self-Published Authors Know Your Business.

September 21, 2010

Why Don't Many Self-Published Authors Know What a Book Distributor Is?


Irene Watson

Last week , while working on our next edition of First Chapter Plus e-Catalog to send to librarians and independent store owners, we spent an incredible amount of time explaining to authors that Amazon.com ISN'T a distributor. (It ceases to amaze me that an author wouldn't know what a distributor is when their intent is to sell their books to sellers, libraries, and book stores. Isn't getting our book into these places every author's dream?  Gosh, it sure was for me.

However, it's not only authors that don't know.  We even had a publicist tell us her client's distributor was Amazon.com.  Now, that's a real scary thought considering she is probably being paid $3000 per month over a 3-month period to promote the book.  I have my doubts that the local B & N will go to Amazon.com to buy her author's book to stock on their shelves.

We've also had authors tell us that Lightning Source or CreateSpace is their distributor.  Not.

Okay, for those that don't know this is the deal:

Distributor - gets your book into wholesalers and bookstores (See list of top independent book distributors. Distributors may sell to wholesalers but not vice-versa.  Distributors have sales reps, wholesalers don't (they just wait for the phone to ring). Distributors need 60 to 75% discount.  For wholesalers, typically 55% is standard.

Wholesaler - takes orders from bookstores and libraries unless they are a distributor themselves (Ingram, Baker & Taylor, etc.)

Lightning Source
- this is neither a distributor nor wholesaler.  They are a printer of print-on-demand (POD) books.  However, their parent company, Ingram Book Company, distributes books that are printed through them.

Amazon.com - this is a seller of books, no different than your local B & N. They sell to the general public - the reader.  They do not distribute or wholesale books.

So, is it important to have a distributor? It's one of those "it depends" answers.  It depends on your ultimate goal. Working with a distributor gives you the advantage of having your book accessible to multiple stores and libraries across the country. Certain corporate bookstores such as Barnes & Noble require that all their stores order only through a book distributor rather than dealing with individual authors. Other stores may just prefer to order only from a distributor because it’s easier to pay one vendor than keep track of invoices for fifty individual authors. If you want your book in a major bookstore chain or in some libraries, you’ll need a distributor. (Some libraries do order direct from the author or Amazon.com but not all of them.  Some librarians have a credit card they can order directly, but in most cases they don't. Don't count on it.)

The major distributors to choose from are Ingram, and Baker & Taylor, but smaller distributors exist that handle only specific regions , specialize in distributing specific types of books, or handle smaller quantities. Do a little research online and talk to your local bookstores to find out which distributors they use and what they would recommend.

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