Thursday, May 10, 2012

Book Distribution Basics

Completing a book is indeed a milestone for an author, but the creative portion of book writing is only half the battle. It's important to determine what the ultimate goal is for a new book. If plans are to sell the title in the marketplace, then an author needs to investigate the business side of the book publishing process, or book distribution.  For a writer who prefers to give away books as mementos for family and friends, to sell copies at the local bookstore or flea market, or to take orders from a personal website and ship from a home garage, distribution is not a major issue.  The option to distribute a book definitely offers several advantages worth considering, including: 1) increased awareness; 2) more accessibility; 3) more availability; and 4) a potential for greater sales.

It is actually in the best interest of any author to think through the distribution decision BEFORE a book is completed.  The author should envision the end result and set realistic goals.  When releasing a book to the public, there are a handful of large wholesale and retail channels that can be utilized, and each specializes in specific markets.  Amazon, for example, mainly deals with sales to individual users of their site, while distributors such as Baker & Taylor or Ingram cater more to trade institutions, such as schools and libraries. Understanding a book’s target market is a critical first step toward determining which distribution avenue is the best vehicle for a new title.

Most companies that offer distribution do so at a price.  Some charge a flat, one-time fee, while others use sliding scales per each sale, and some utilize a combination of both.  Each author must weigh several factors simultaneously, which involves setting the correct retail price for the book based on comparable material in the marketplace, as well as print production and fulfillment costs. Additionally, depending upon the type of  book distribution agreement an author selects, a wholesale or retail book sale usually results in an upfront discount off the book’s retail price.  Although discount percentages vary as per agreement, discount pricing is the industry’s standard practice, and must be a factor in determining the actual retail price of a new title.

The book distribution business can be tricky to understand and navigate. Every author should research the retail and wholesale distribution options available to them, and contact those knowledgeable about the subject, such as their publisher or printer

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