Issue #21

How to use book distributors to get into bookstores

Content Marketing
8 min read

You’ve put the final touches on your manuscript and cover art, getting you that much closer to self publishing your first book.

You’re inches away from popping some bubbly and celebrating your book release date, but let’s not rush through the sales and promotions strategy behind your book launch.

How to use book distribution to get in bookstoresMarketing your book on your blog and through your email list is a no brainer, but how do you get in front of new audience members?

It’s one thing to tell your current audience about the book you are launching. It’s another to get your title in front of new eyes, especially the eyes that decide which books are available in libraries and bookstores across the globe.

This is where having effective, experienced book distributors come in.

Why you need a book distributor as a self-published author

Many of us have pictured ourselves writing a book and seeing it on store shelves across the world since we were kids. In today’s fast-growing world of self publishing, working with book distributors is one of the best ways of making that dream a potential reality.

Why you need a book distributor for self publishingWhy do you need a book distributor? Most libraries and bookstores won’t accept and carry book titles from just any self published author. With nearly 800,000 books being self published each year, can you blame them?

It’s not enough anymore to send them a sales pitch or visit their location with your book in hand.

Instead, libraries and bookstores work with large suppliers and retailers who focus on printing multiple titles and have built-in systems to make the process run smoothly. Working with book distributors will help you bridge the gap between you and bookstores.

3 types of book distribution in self-publishing

Before you decide on a book distributor, let’s talk through the three most common types of book distribution to make sure you choose the right book distribution format.

Full-service book distribution

Full-service distributors connect you with many of the same services that traditional publishing houses do. This can include book fulfillment, sales representation, warehousing, and much more.

Depending on the genre of your self published book, you may look into full-service book distributors who have a wealth of experience in that area. Then you will be able to tap into their already existing connections, which can be a key benefit of working with a full-service team.

It’s good to keep in mind that most self published authors don’t have the sales record to get their foot in the door with a full-service book distributor. However, if you have a large online audience or great presale numbers, you may be able to work with a full-service distributor.

Pro tip: When researching full-service distributors, look into their requirements before sending an inquiry to work with them. It may provide you with extra inspiration and motivation to increase your first self published book sales so you can work with a full-service team in the future.

Wholesale book distribution

This is the most common book distribution model for self published, indie authors. With a wholesale book distributor like IngramSpark or Amazon’s CreateSpace, you can publish your book online while getting an inside edge by including your book title in their full catalog.

This wholesale catalog is then sent to bookstores and libraries to see which books they are interested in ordering. The whole process is hands-off for you as the self published author, so you don’t have to worry about it adding any extra work on your plate.
What is whole sale book distribution?

Of course, there is no guarantee that bookstores and libraries will order your book, but it makes it more of a possibility when you partner with well-known wholesalers.

Growing your book sales and increasing your online following in the meantime will help your book become even more attractive.

Self distribution

Some indie authors decide to take the book distribution process into their own hands. But there are a few downfalls that come with this approach, including:

  • Having to bulk print your books with an initial sizable investment (instead of cost effective print-on-demand service options)
  • Customizing your book distribution process to each seller (which can be a time suck!)
  • Not having the pre-existing connections to get your foot in the door with sellers
  • Having to do all of the marketing and pitching work yourself (which adds more to your already full plate if you are marketing your book in other ways)

Self book distribution usually works best if you are looking to get into indie bookstores in your local community who may be more open to self published titles if they sell well.

You can also make stronger connections with local shop owners than cold emailing large retailers, so this may be a good way to get your feet wet and see how you like self distribution.

What you need for eBook vs printed book distribution

So far, most of the book distribution options we’ve walked through are for printed books, but what if you are interested in selling your book as an eBook? The good news is you don’t have to choose between selling your book in print or digitally.

What you need for eBook vs printed book distribution

Although you don’t have to choose which format you like best, you’ll want to keep in mind how eBook book distribution and printed book distribution are different. This will help you better understand how your book will go from a customer’s purchase to a book in their hands, whether in print or on their favorite device.

eBook distribution

As expected, eBook distribution is the easiest form of distribution when it comes to formatting, selling, and delivering your book to customers. You also don’t have the added cost of shipping and printing a tangible good.

Because of this, eBooks are generally less expensive for the customer to buy.

This usually leaves you and the eBook distributor with a smaller profit in the end, but it can still be a great way to make a sale for customers who wouldn’t have purchased a printed book anyway.

We’ve seen eBook sales increase as more people have access to technology and take it with them on-the-go. The numbers are even better for self published authors as opposed to traditionally published books, which is great news for you.
ebook sales are increasing

When choosing an eBook distributor, it’s often easiest to go with your self publishing platform of choice. CreateSpace leads the pack with just over 500,000 self-published titles being offered in 2017.

Because CreateSpace is an Amazon company, they make the process of transferring your print book into an eBook format through Kindle Direct Publishing extremely simple.

Since Kindles are the best-selling eBook readers on the market, having your book available for purchase with Kindle is essential.

Other self publishing platforms like Lulu, IngramSpark, and BookBaby give you options for turning your book into an eBook, but CreateSpace does it all within their unique platform so it saves you time and money.

Here is what the process of eBook distribution looks like:

  • You self publish your book on a self publishing platform of your choice and set a price
  • Customer finds your book by searching online and places an order
  • Self publishing platform syncs the order with the eBook platform of the customer’s choice
  • The eBook is digitally delivered and available for the customer to download

All of your time can then be focused on finalizing your manuscript and marketing your book to new readers since you don’t have to fulfill eBook orders. It’s all done through automated systems online.

Print book distribution

Print book distribution takes a little more effort since it’s easier to deliver files digitally than ship a tangible item. Print book distributors use a similar ecommerce model when they fulfill online orders and ship books to your readers.

As you choose a self publishing platform for your print book distribution, you may want to utilize print on demand services. Print on demand allows you to nix the upfront investment of having to get a number of books printed before you sell them.

Instead, books are printed on demand. If the book doesn’t sell, it won’t be printed. This can save you a lot of money and stress, especially because you don’t have inventory you have to store or keep track of.

How do you handle print book distribution?Print on demand service providers also take care of book fulfillment and shipment so you only have to think about what your next book will be about. Even though there is more work involved, you won’t have to do any of it!

We highly recommend working with a print on demand service for your first book. It eliminates the need to know exactly how many books you’ll sell while allowing you to collect fairly high royalties.

Less risk, less time, similar reward. We can get behind that!

Here are a couple sites to check out for a list of book distributors:

I know what book distributor I want to use… now what?

Good question! Now that you understand how eBook and print book distribution works, you can shift your attention to how you want to market your book. You can check out our articles that detail how to get reviews for your book (even in the presell stage) and how to market your book to double your following and revenue.

Kayla Hollatz

Kayla Hollatz is a copywriter and content creator for creative entrepreneurs who want their words to connect and convert. Few things make her happier than ghostwriting for clients in her studio, aka her four-season porch with a lake view. She can frequently be found fighting Minnesota winters with a mug of hot chocolate in hand.

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