Saturday, October 11, 2008
What does distribution for your book really mean?
This is one of the questions that our acquisitions team is asked the most. It is also probably the most misunderstood question for first-time authors.
First, understand that most self-publishing companies will claim that they have bookstore distribution. The truth is that these companies only list their products with a retailer or distributor. You will not find the titles in a store, only titles listed in a database that if you pay for it they will have a book printed and shipped off. In most cases self-publishers even use print on demand companies or print on demand distributors like Lightning Source to print a book as it is ordered, the products are never warehoused.
Second, self-publishers don't offer returnable product. For a bookstore to stock titles or a distributor to inventory a book for sale and availability the books or products must be returnable. This simply means that if the books don't sell they can be returned to the publisher at no cost to the distributor or bookstore. Self-published authors and their books are not returnable and are not able to compete in a retail environment.
Third, self-publishers don't pay for books sold or put into distribution. When a publisher is actually trying to sale product in bookstores they must have product inventoried and warehoused. This is a huge risk and very costly because if you're are putting books into stores or retailers and distributors warehouses you must be prepared to accept the product that doesn't sell as a return. This means that you could lose a lot of money if a title doesn't sell well and that is bad business. At Tate Publishing we just recently had a book titled, "From Pulling Weeds to Picking Stocks" that went to number one on Amazon.com. It is also being watched for the New York Times Bestsellers list and has had purchase orders from stores like Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books A Million and wholesalers and distributors like Ingram and Spring Arbor for over 30,000 copies in the first 6 weeks of the release. A self-published author would have to pay 10's of thousands of dollars to simply print this many books and then assume the risk that the product won't sell out and have the returns come right back to you. This is not a risk any author should have to take, that is a risk your publisher should take.
At Tate Publishing our authors books are set up for distribution as a traditional publishing house and product is 100% returnable, product is warehoused (not simply listed in a database) and all product sold into distribution is paid for by Tate Publishing, not the author. In addition, Tate Publishing works with and provides product to every major distributor and retailer, but we also have direct relationships with the largest retailers in the country which means we provide product directly to them for in store sales. Check out our events page to see our distribution and event strengths.
Once again, as you are searching for options and trying to learn this industry make sure you ask your publisher or potential publisher these questions about their distribution system. If all of these elements aren't in place you cannot compete against the traditional publishers or expect to have great success from a retail standpoint.
As always, please send any of your questions or additional topics you would like me to discuss, I would love to help answer them for you.
President, Tate Publishing