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Distribution to Tens of Thousands of Bookstores: What Is It?

https://www.christianwriterhelp.com/service/publishing-packages/Q: I am reviewing self-publishing sites—Xulon, Westbow, Author Solutions, and yours, ChristianWriterHelp.com—and see that all publishing packages include distribution to tens of thousands of stores. That sounds very exciting, to think my book will be in all those stores! How does this work?

A: Distribution is great, for sure. And that’s not just a claim, it’s real. However, it is important to understand the difference between “distribution” and “placement.” Distribution is your book being made available for brick-and-mortar bookstores or online retailers to order for their customers, but it is not placement. Placement is when copies of your book are physically on shelves in brick-and-mortar stores.

Placement is not easy to gain. No one can promise a certain number of copies of any author’s book will be carried on the shelves of a set number of brick-and-mortar stores. One exception is the big deals involving books by top-selling authors, brokered at the highest levels, between large mainline, commercial publishers and chain bookstore buyers.

The bottom line is, most non-chain brick-and-mortar retailers decide which books to carry in stock, on shelves, and for the most part, they carry books and other products they are confident will “turn” (sell) quickly. They allocate the most space for books by publishers and authors that typically sell well, or books for which there is existing customer demand. That customer demand part is the key for self-publishing authors. For your self-published book to move and get on store shelves, people must read it and talk about it, preferably by blogging about it, writing reviews of it on Amazon and other sites, or by pushing it through social media, creating interest and demand.

 

Q: So then, what’s so great about distribution?

A: Distribution makes your self-published book easy to find and easy to buy—retailer friendly. This was not true in the old days of self publishing (pre 1997). Back then,  the vanity presses ruled the day, charging some authors $40,000 or more to “publish,” only to leave them with 10,000 to 20,000 books (or more) in boxes in their garage—books with no distribution outlet (no Amazon, no availability to brick-and-mortar stores) and without barcodes. Authors were left to wander from bookstore to bookstore, trying to convince bookstore managers and buyers to carry their books. This was a virtually impossible sell, as even back in those days, bookstore shelf space was valuable real estate, typically populated by books that promised a quick “turn” (sell quickly), or those from publishers that paid big money for the shelf or floor space.

There was also the problem of risk and return that kept bookstores from working directly with authors. If bookstores bought the author’s “vanity press” books and could not sell them, it was a total loss for them. By ordering through a distributor, that risk is removed, as they allow returns. What retailers could not sell, they simply shipped back for a refund.

Occasionally, some vanity press authors were able to broker informal deals of a consignment nature, but that was about it. Retailers didn’t need the hassle for uncertain reward.

That all changed in 1997, when Lightning Source (then Lightning Print Inc., a business unit of Ingram Content Group) began offering publishers (including self-publishing authors) a way to distribute their books through Ingram (and its Christian book distribution arm, Spring Arbor) to 35,000 brick-and-mortar stores, as well as through Baker & Taylor, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Gardners and Bertrams.

At about the same time, iuniverse, xlibris, (and others that are now a part of Author Solutions), Xulon Press and many others emerged, offering authors all the services they would need to self-publish for as little as $1,000 (sometimes less)—far lower than the tens of thousands of dollars vanity presses charged in the old days. Beginning in the late nineties, an author could pay fees to one of these companies for editing, cover design, interior design, ISBN registration, set up for distribution through Lightning Source—all services required to publish their book—in return for a share of their revenue from book royalties and book profits. Once published, their book would receive distribution to tens of thousands of stores and a number of websites. This was (and is) exciting, and opened the door for millions of people to realize their dream of becoming a published author with a hope of their book selling.

Distribution—easy availability of self-published books to retailers—was key to authors realizing that dream.

(Important: At ChristianWriterHelp.com, we offer all services authors need to publish their books, but then establish them as their own publishers so they keep all the royalties and all the profits.)

Arhttps://www.christianwriterhelp.com/service/publishing-packages/e you ready to publish? Check out our publishing packages!

 

 

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