By Distribution, Do You Mean What They Mean?
In the publishing industry, distribution means something more specific: using a third party to get your book into multiple bricks & mortar bookstores.
Book distributors take on the job of selling your title to bookstores. They fill orders from the stores as they come in, handling all the work of issuing invoices, packing shipments, and managing returns. To ensure they have enough copies to fill the book store orders, they also warehouse a certain amount of your books.
In exchange for these tasks they take a cut on each sale, around 25-35% of your net revenue
Distributors make money when your books sell, so it can be extremely difficult to find one that will take you on as a self-published author. They want to know you have a well-established market presence and a significant ability to drive readers to bookstores. Otherwise, their efforts in selling you into the bookstores net them nothing. No reader demand=no bookstore demand=no sales for the distributor.
“No problem!” you say. “I’ll just distribute my book through Amazon. They only take 45% of my list price, so it’s a better deal anyway.”
Well, hold up there. Yes, you can list your print book on Amazon, and through Amazon disperse your book to readers. It’s definitely a great option for making your book available to a wide audience, and one that every self-published author should choose right from the start.
But selling your book on Amazon is retail. To the book trade, that’s not distribution. Amazon does not put you on physical store shelves.
So if you ever hear a publisher say, “That book doesn’t have distribution,” it means the book isn’t widely available in bookstores.
Many independent authors do well enough without distribution if they have reliable ways to reach readers directly, say, at seminars and speaking engagements. Is bookstore presence important to you? Let us know what you think.