Writing and creating a book is half the battle. The rest is distribution. Unless you have thousands of people beating a path to your door, you’ll need to get your book placed in bookstores so potential customers can buy it. It may be that your publishing platform does distribution for you.
This is probably the biggest challenge for any small publisher. Retail outlets for books are closing rapidly. Even within the existing bookstores, the shelf space devoted to actual books is shrinking. It helps to have a distributor. The two largest book distributors in the US are Ingram and Baker & Taylor. But even getting in the door at a distributor is difficult – your book is competing with millions of others, and bookstores may not select it for in-store sale. One useful approach is to go personal. Most bookstore chains have a community events coordinator (otherwise, the bookstore manager is the person to cultivate a relationship with). And even within a chain of bookstores, individual shops are given some encouragement to stock the books of local authors. Introduce yourself to the coordinator or manager, and present your book. You can offer to do a reading or other event. The important thing to focus on is what your book can do for the store. Will a reading help attract customers? Does your book relate in any way to other books that people might purchase when they come in? What value are you bringing the store?
Digital shops have a much lower barrier to entry, because there are not nearly the same space concerns. Online bookstores like to offer as wide an inventory as possible. But each vendor has different requirements for book listings.
- Amazon offers several different options, depending on your circumstances. Amazon is probably the easiest online retailer to get a listing on.
- Barnes & Noble requires you to become a Vendor of Record with their warehouse, if you are interested in selling print titles. If you are interested in selling ebooks only, you can go to their Nook Press site and upload your ebook files.
- The American Booksellers Association has a publisher partner program for those publishing 5 or more titles per year. This partnership gives you exposure to independent booksellers who are members of the ABA.
Of course, if you’re selling ebooks, there are other options as well.
- Kobo allows you to upload files for conversion, retain a copy of the converted file, and sell it not just on Kobo but other platforms as well. Kobo is based in Canada, but sells ebooks worldwide.
- Sony prefers its self-published authors to work with Smashwords.
- Apple allows you to sell your ebooks directly on iTunes and the iBookstore via iTunes Connect. Apple also works with Smashwords and Ingram CoreSource.
Many print book distributors also have an ebook distribution division. However, there are a couple of ebook-only distributors with wide networks.
- Overdrive distributes not just to ebook retailers but is also the primary repository for public library ebook content.
- Smashwords distributes to virtually every ebookstore with the exception of Amazon.
- Vook distributes ebooks to Apple, Amazon and B&N.