Book Distribution Made Easy: How It Works
It is the moment you have worked toward for years: the book you have been writing is finally finished. After dedicating so much time to getting the words and story just right, you are ready to share it with the world. But how do you get it to people? This is where book distribution comes in. Check out our definitive guide to get started below.
What Is Book Distribution?
At its most basic, the distribution process is how you get your book to retailers, libraries and customers. Getting your book onto shelves in retail stores or websites allows you to profit from all your hard work.
The traditional publishing industry has changed.
There are many steps to this process. First, you need to get the book printed or published. Then someone has to deliver, ship, or store the books for the parties that will ultimately sell them. You also need to have a system in place for monitoring the inventory of your books and other supplies related to distribution.
On the surface, book distribution may not seem complicated. However, putting together a strategy to get all of these things done and supervising each step takes a lot of time and effort. For an independent writer who also needs to work on marketing and creating their next project, it is usually better to find book fulfillment services that can streamline the process.
Working with knowledgeable and experienced partners will make the process much easier while also reducing the chances that a first-time self-published author will overlook something important. Give yourself the best opportunity for success by working with the right team and getting the right guidance as you get your book to the market.
Different Types of Book Distribution
The ways people read have changed a lot over recent decades. This means the way authors share their books has evolved as well. You have several options when it comes to the distribution channels you use and how you sell your book, all of which have benefits and limitations.
Print Books for Retail Stores
This is the classic book-selling method that most people grew up with. Imagine a retailer such as Barnes & Noble or your favorite independent bookstore. Customers grab a copy of their favorite printed book off the shelves and make a purchase.
Bookstores get those books from distributors who have helped ship and deliver the product. This method is still a major part of book sales but has lost ground in recent years because of the internet. Customers are less likely to spend as much time in bookstores as they used to. Also, it can be harder to get your book on these crowded shelves.
Print Books for Online Sales – Using Online Retailers
You can also get your books printed for online sales. This combines the classic world of printed books with modern e-commerce. Your readers can browse your book at their leisure and take the time to learn more about the book as well as you as an author.
Making purchases online makes customers feel empowered since they can put more research into what they are buying. This makes this a more attractive option for many people. Writers also get the benefit of reaching customers who do not want to go out of their way to buy a book. Online shopping makes buying easier, and therefore, more likely.
If you are interested in a distribution network for print books that will be sold online, you need to know where your printed books will be stored and how they will be delivered to your customer.
Your distributor should be able to give you a clear plan.
Another option for getting your books to people is by selling them in an e-book format. Since their debut, digital books have revolutionized the world of reading thanks to their convenience. Readers can have an entire library on a device that is smaller than a single printed book. The popularity of e-books is not likely to fade anytime soon, so it is important for authors to take advantage of this option.
Digital books also offer authors a big benefit. It is easier to publish yourself without having to work with the traditional gatekeepers of the retail world. You do not have to convince a store to stock copies of your book or list it on their site. You can put your book out there and let a consumer buy it directly from you.
E-books allow more authors to get their names into the world, but this also creates more competition. Think about how many book downloads you see on Amazon from independent authors. You need to put a lot more effort into your marketing and promotions to stand out among the crowd.
Each of these distribution choices can help you grow as an author, and you may find that you want to pursue some combination of options.
Key Players in Book Distribution
As you work to get your book into a reader’s hands, you will work with a lot of different people and organizations. Understanding the publisher services available in the distribution chain will make your process easier, and you can have more control over what you want to happen with your book.
Printer or Publisher
At the top of the chain is your printer or publisher. You need this service regardless of whether you plan to sell physical books, e-books, or the fast-growing category of audiobooks. A printer will take your words and format them properly so they make a nice volume for your future readers.
In the case of print books, there are different levels of control you can have when you get your book printed. Working with Disk.com for printing offers you the option of hardcover or paperback books. You can also get alternative bindings, such as spiral-bound books or journals, for different types of books you may be offering.
A choice you will also get to make is whether to opt for print-on-demand services or ebook distribution. In the book distribution world, this means that your printer will create copies of your book as orders come in. It is an alternative to printing a big batch of books and storing them until they sell.
Even if you are going the e-book route, you still need a publisher. They will be your partner in transferring your manuscript into a format that is readable for the leading e-book devices. You can technically do this yourself, but going it alone increases the chances of a mistake that will hurt the end-user experience, such as bad formatting.
Your e-book publisher can also help with metadata and digital rights to protect your book from piracy. We can help you simplify the process. Talk with Disk.com today.
Once you have printed books, you need a place to store them. This is where the warehouse comes into the book distribution pipeline. There are different options when it comes to what a warehouse can do for you, depending on your needs.
You can find warehouses that will store your inventory and do nothing else. This puts the burden on you to track your supplies and manage how orders go out. That means a lot more work for the self-published author.
More often, you will find warehouses that are run by distributors or wholesalers. For instance, Ingram manages warehouses but also works to get books to retailers. Think carefully about your needs as you pick a service.
A book wholesaler plays a big part in getting your book into retail spaces and libraries. They make deals with buyers to move large volumes of your books into spaces where customers will have access to them. A good wholesaler should be actively working to get your book into new spaces.
A drawback of working with wholesalers can be pricing. According to SelfPublishingAdvice.org, retailers look to wholesalers to get books at major discounts so they can guarantee themselves a profit. If a wholesaler sells your book at too large a discount, it impacts your bottom line. You have to be careful to monitor the numbers.
Of course, if you can get your books at a wholesale discount, this makes it easier for you to promote and drive book sales.
The last member of the book distribution hierarchy before the customer is the retailer. As book publishing has changed, so have retailers and their platforms. Brick-and-mortar bookstores are still around, and many people love going into them and picking out physical books. That means it is still important to get your printed books into stores.
In addition to their storefront presence, bookstores have also made big improvements in their online presence. They offer robust websites that allow customers to order physical or digital books in just a few clicks. This is a big opportunity. If you cannot get a retailer to stock your book on the shelves, they may still carry it on their website.
Thanks to the internet, you also have the ability to be your own retailer. By setting up an e-commerce website and sales system, you can allow customers to order directly from you. You can work with good book distribution companies to fulfill those orders as they come, cutting down on overhead. However, this will require more work on your part.
Of course, if you go with this approach, you want to get your books at a wholesale discount and the difference in the markup is your profit.
In some ways, you may choose to act as your own independent publishers group. You work to set up your book publishing process, work with a printer to print-on-demand, build out the sales process, connect with a warehousing and fulfillment company, set up a network of booksellers (also known as affiliates), and get your book in the hands of customers.
Similarly, the retail process for digital books can go through large retailers such as Amazon, Amazon KDP, or be handled directly by you. Consider your time constraints and the benefits of having more visibility from large companies to decide which option will work best.
Remember that book distribution is not a straight-line process. Some of these services can be combined into one. That is what Disk.com does with integrated fulfillment, which unites several steps into one so things are easier for you.
How To Start Your Print Book Distribution
Now it is time to start getting your book out to the world. There are several steps you can take as a self-published author to get your books on shelves and in the hands of your customers online and off.
If you are trying to get retailers, libraries and reviewers interested in your book, a good place to start is a book launch. During this special event, you can send special copies of your book along with supplemental and promotional materials to all the right people and increase the likelihood that someone will buy and stock your book.
Your book launch materials should include a quality print of the manuscript along with information about the author and how to get in contact with you to order more copies for retail purposes. Book fulfillment services can handle printing the advance copies, then quickly turn around a batch order if needed.
Once you are ready to move forward with selling your book, it is time to get it published for mass consumption. Disk.com can help you produce the right amount of books you need to successfully meet orders and demand. This could mean producing a one-time batch of books or using the integrated fulfillment services for ongoing printing and shipping.
Publishing your book also involves finalizing the product design for the cover art and any blurbs or information that will be printed on the jacket cover or back of the book. You can provide your own artwork or get help from in-house graphic designers at Disk.com to get a look that you will be proud of and that will attract readers.
Your books need to be cared for when they are sent to their next destination. Work with book distribution services that have a proven track record of properly storing and packing your products.
Packaging should happen quickly, and each container should be consistent in quality. Investigate what your products will look like when they get to customers.
With your books published and packaged, it is time to think about how they will get to people. This means you need to consider shipping for your physical books. This is a critical step given that the shipping and delivery industries around the world have seen significant delays and obstacles in recent years.
Ask your book distribution company about how they deliver orders. This includes investigating where the warehouse is located, which delivery services your company contracts with, and what the typical delivery times are for orders of varying sizes.
Disk.com has a distribution center that is centrally located in the U.S., making shipping fast and cost-effective. We work with all of the major delivery services, including the United States Postal Service, UPS, and FedEx, to get the best service for you. We can also ship worldwide. Our printing and shipping solutions can also help you scale your business when demand picks up.
Packaging also plays a big part in shipping, so make sure your company can properly pack and load your books for the most efficient delivery to retailers, libraries, and customers. Your items should arrive in pristine condition, ready to be displayed on the shelves.
Book Inventory Management
Not every copy of your newly-published book will sell on the first day, and that is okay. However, it means you need somewhere to store your product until there is an order. This is where book warehousing factors into book distribution and growing your business.
Your warehouse needs to serve a few different functions to make sure your business runs well. First, it should keep all inventory protected from damage.
Next, facility staff should be able to easily access and pack your books for orders. Also, they should give you inventory updates.
That final part is crucial so you can manage supplies and costs effectively. You will need to know how much stock is left to determine if you need to order another printing. Similarly, you will want to avoid ordering more copies if the ones you have are still waiting to be sold.
You can start small and print-on-demand or if you need larger quantities you can likely get a better wholesale rate for your books.
For best results, you can get all of these book distribution services combined to make your life simpler.
How To Start Your E-book Distribution
Dealing with an e-book is simpler than a physical one because it is easy to upload and send your text for publishing. However, this still involves making some very important decisions. You need to pick a platform, decide on exclusivity and pay close attention to prices and sales.
Publishing an e-book cuts out many steps between publishing and selling, but there are still a few factors to watch for. A major consideration is an exclusivity agreement. Digital publishers, such as Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, apple books, and others, will offer authors the chance for higher returns and access to marketing tools.
However, the trade-off is that you cannot offer your book on other platforms for a set amount of time. You have to carefully think about whether that is something you are willing to do.
E-book sellers are well known for having sales and price reductions on digital items, including books. Unfortunately, authors do not always get a say in the final price of their books. Take the time to review the payment agreement to make sure you do not miss out on money.
Moving Forward With Book Distribution
Now that you know more about how to get your book published and distributed, you can move ahead with a plan. To get started, see your options for printing, storing, packing and shipping your book. The book distribution team at Disk.com can help you with that today.
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