When I started publishing books, I thought a wholesaler and a distributor were essentially the same thing. Not so. Like so many small publishers do, I chose to print my books digitally through Lightning Source Inc, which is actually a subsidiary of Ingram Book Company. This makes all their books available for order in bookstores throughout the USA. AVAILABLE to order. That is the key phrase. This does not mean the books will magically appear on bookstore shelves. That is a different process altogether. Let’s examine the process.
The bookstores and Libraries can order from Ingram who in turn supplies books to bookstores and libraries from the distributor’s stock. How does this work?
1) The distributor lists the publisher’s books which they, the distributor handles, with Ingram
2) The book shows up as available in iPage, the online virtual warehouse.
3) If the book is printed at LSI, then the publisher’s iPage listing shows the book as available from them as well. It also shows how many books are stocked in the virtual warehouse, usually 100, in which facility,
TN, OR, PA, IN
It is confusing for authors when their books are printed digitally through Lightning Source, and the stores can order them through Ingram. In this case, Ingram acts both as wholesaler and as distributor. But Ingram doesn’t do most of what a distributor does.
4) If the publisher has a distributor, for example, we work with BOOKWORLD to distribute select titles, then the distributor’s iPage listing shows the book they handle for the publisher on the publisher’s iPage. This allows the publisher to watch the sales of the books handled by the distributor.
5) But the distributor does so much more than the wholesaler.
* They sell to the stores. They are the Key to getting on the New Books table and staying on the shelves.
* They help book signings for major authors with major media coverage.
* They trouble shoot shipments.
* But the key difference is they will only work with Offset printed books, not digitally printed books. This is an important distinction!
Offset printing is more time consuming and costly, but the per unit price is less. This is how you get print runs, THE magic term that opens doors. A print run of 2000 books is the first cost effective step above digitally printed books. Up to 1000 books, it’s pretty much a draw on the per unit price. But go beyond 1000 books, and the price per book drops precipitously, and this is essential for marketing to the trade and having any money left over for the publisher and the author.
When I started communicating with BookWorld, they wanted us to provide them with all our titles and allow them to be distributor for all our books, until I noticed in the fine print that I would need to have at least 1000 books of each title printed offset. This means print runs of 1000 for 50 titles at $3000 per print run, which tallies up to $150,000 in printing costs.
Whoa! Hold your horses! This was the scenario every small publisher simply must avoid — unless the rich uncle or the lotto has just come into your financial realm handing out bushels of cash to spend.
So, I went back to the drawing board and explained I wanted to work with just one title as a test. Our “hot” title is DYING TO BE YOUNG by Dr. Eric Kaplan who appeared on my CALLING ALL AUTHORS program on March 6th. Dr. Kaplan is a passionate, committed powerhouse of marketing savvy and willingness to learn and take risks. He has put more than ten thousand dollars of his own money into the marketing of his book. But, it has been money well spent instead of lavishly spent and thrown away. The publicist provided him with print coverage, review and has him booked on radio and television all across the country and on the internet, and his most recent TV appearance was on the Montel Williams show in late February. More major appearances are planned for the near future.
Now, back to the talk about distribution.
What does it take to get a distributor — even for one book?
In a word: Buzzzz! To create buzz you title will need to be all these things:
A timely and controversial topic.
A well-written book.
Newspaper articles about you and your book. Well-planned marketing, endorsements from people the public can recognize, reviews of all kinds, ( mainstream, online, newspapers) and money to back it all up.
An enthusiastic author who works several different avenues, including as a speaker to get the word out about his/her book.
Then, of course, it helps to see the sales follow all the marketing. We are seeing that materialize now, and hope for the longevity of this title to expand outward for a few months. I’ll get back with you when that happens.