Friday, February 23, 2018

Writing: Book Distribution

I'm far from an expert in this area, but I'm learning...little by little. Here's a question I received right after my first indie-published novel came out--"Why doesn't my local store stock your work?" As is always the case, there are several parts to the answer, but here's what I've learned.

Book stores are profit-oriented. Gasp! Even Christian ones? Yep. And who can blame them? If they don't make a profit, they don't stay open--whether we're talking about a single store or a large chain. When they stock a book, they order from a large distributor, such as Ingram. They buy several copies of the work (it may surprise you how few) at a discounted price, but if those books stay on the shelves for awhile, that's dead space. So what do the book stores do? They return the books. That's why traditional publishing contracts have a clause that allows the publisher to hold back a certain amount of royalties as a reserve against such a return.

Print books are like any other bit of merchandise--some are proven sellers, others are not. Thus, the merchants who stock them are more likely to go with those that are most likely to sell. And, unfortunately, many mid-list authors and quite a few newbies in the publishing industry, fall into the category of also-rans.

Most of us who indie-publish go with Amazon for distribution of our work. The publish-on-demand model allows a print book to go out within a day or two of an order being placed. There's no hold-back for volumes that don't sell, because the customer has already bought it.  My indie-published books, for example, are available in hard copy from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, but not other venues. Will that change? It can, but at this point I haven't chosen to invest to make that happen. (More on how that works in another post).

As for e-books, the vast majority of readers use Kindle, and free apps available from Amazon allow reading a Kindle book on a computer or smart phone. Those of us who go with Amazon initially are willing to ignore some of the other versions of e-books for now. And don't forget that you can check at this site to see if a library in your area allows you to "borrow" a book you want to read in e-book or audio format.

There are lots more questions to answer, and I'm not an expert in this area, but I'll attempt to answer them or find someone who can. Just let me hear via the comments.

Tweet with a single click. "Why aren't indie-published books readily available in some book stores?"

SPECIAL NOTE: I've put together selected blog posts from my first couple of years entering the blog-o-sphere, to share what I've learned, some of the trials of the newbie writer, etc. It's available for 99 cents in Kindle format (although a free app from Amazon lets you read it on your phone or computer also). The link is here.


Patricia Bradley said...

Great article on the availability of books in the stores. And it looks like for now Amazon, is the leader in book sales. :-)

Richard Mabry said...

I predict that they'll hold that position.