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  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.  

Ryan Tate
President, Tate Publishing


Anonymous said...

Mr. Tate,

I have been reading a lot about how to get a book published and I agree that it is very confusing. We are trying to get my husband's book to a publisher right now and it is very frustrating. One of my biggest problems is not knowing what to ask or if what they are offering is correct for us, I think this article will really help me with some great questions. I was wondering if you could tell me why there are is such a spilt on whether an author should ever pay to publish their work or not.

TC - Tampa Bay

Joe said...

Dear Mr. Tate: I am impressed with your website and your interest in each and every person who is interested in publlishing their book. I am encouraged to see you mention God and that you are praying for my success in getting my work published. Again, thank you and God Bless you as you attempt to help those with publishing issues. Cathy Bryan

Ryan Tate said...

Thanks for the comments and I appreciate your responses. I will try and put up a blog later today about the paying to publish question and let me know if you have other subjects you would like us to discuss!

Have a great week!

Ryan Tate

Anonymous said...

I wish I had found Tate Publishing before I made the mistake of publishing my book with Dog Ear Publishing. It has been a nightmare experience for me, but my point here is only to report what happened. I am not trying to trash Dog Ear.

I will start with the positive. The book itself is very well made, and the cover is beautiful. The book has received rave reviews on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Powell's Books. This includes a recent five star review by Mid-West Book Review.

One might think that any publisher would be happy to have a book that is receiving rave reviews from total strangers. That is apparently not the case with Dog Ear.

I have been begging Dog Ear to send the book marks and post cards and other marketing materials that I paid for many months ago before they ever started working on the book. The book was published on November 24, 2008 and I still have no marketing materials from Dog Ear.

I had to beg Dog Ear to build the website that I paid for. When they finally got it ready I was so embarrassed by the way it looked that I paid another company to build a website that might actually sell some books.

I have told Dog Ear repeatedly that I have business groups setting up a very large book signing event, complete with press releases and probably TV interviews as well. Nevertheless, I still have not received any of the marketing materials.

I had to go to another source and have book marks made just so I would have something to use to help make people aware of the book. At this point I don't know if I will ever receive the book marks and other marketing materials from Dog Ear.

I also paid Dog Ear to make the book available through Kindle on Amazon, and to allow browsers to look inside the book on Amazon. Despite my constant reminders and begging, that still has not been set up.

Dog Ear told me to expect an 8-12 week timetable from submission to publishing. That also proved not to be true. I started emailing and calling after 8 weeks because I had heard nothing from Dog Ear.

It was about two weeks before I heard back from anyone. I received a huge apology that my book had gotten off the usual track, and promises were made that it would be expedited. These turned out to be empty promises.

Weeks later, with still no visible progress, I received the same apology and same assurances that publication of my book would receive priority attention. These were also empty promises.

With all the great reviews and attention that my book is receiving, I also regret using Dog Ear as a publisher because it does not have distribution and marketing channels for books that it publishes.

Because of all these problems that I had with Dog Ear, I started looking for other alternatives, and that is how I found Tate Publishing. I don't know if Tate Publishing will agree to publish a second edition of my book, but they are at least reading it, and they have been very prompt and courteous in responding to my inquiries.

If you have not made a decision about who to partner with on publishing a book, I recommend that you not make the same mistake that I made.