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Do You Have a Book Distributor? Are You Sure?


I had so much fun talking with the authors and indy publishers at AuthorU earlier this month.  Here is a snippet that explains in detail the difference between Wholesalers, Distributors and Fulfillment Houses.

Too often I get calls from authors/small press owners who tell me that they “have a distributor”… then they mention Ingram or Baker & Taylor.  CLOSE!  But no…. check out this 2 minute video to see why:

Book Distribution vs. Book Wholesalers





Math Lessons for Small Presses – Part 2


Lesson #2

WHOLESALERS and how they sell books:

Book wholesalers are companies that buy books from publishers at a deep discount and hold them in their warehouses so that Internet and “brick and mortar” stores can order the books from them. Bookstores like to use wholesalers for a number of reasons: namely speed, convenience, and less financial exposure.

Book Distribution is not easy!

When a bookstore orders a book from a wholesaler, they will usually get their order in twenty-four hours. Next-day service is the standard from the top wholesalers. The discount a store can usually expect to receive off the retail price of the book from a wholesaler is 40 to 45 percent. What the bookstore loses in profit margin, they often make up in convenience and risk reduction. A book ordered from a wholesaler can be combined and shipped with hundreds of other books.

Some stores hire wholesalers to stock, manage, and handle all aspects of their book departments. There are large “big-box” chains that happily hand their title selection and discount negotiations over to a wholesaler that will manage the entire department for them. The same can sometimes be true for libraries. There are many U.S. library systems dependent upon wholesalers for all their new books. People at the chain or library office work with the wholesalers and oversee the choices, but how closely that is managed depends upon each individual situation.

The difference between a wholesaler and a distributor is this: A distributor works FOR the publisher.  A publisher hires them to handle the warehousing, shipping, order processing and sales of their book.  A wholesaler does not work for a publisher, they are the publisher’s customer.  They buy books from the publisher and resell to THEIR customers.

Most wholesalers have the word “distributor” in their name. This is to identify them as companies that distribute books to bookstores and libraries, but they are not the same sort of distributor that you need when B&N sends you a letter telling you to “get a distributor”.

If you want your book to have a chance at a bookstore chain like Barnes & Noble or BooksAMillion, and if you don’t want to hire a distributor, a wholesaler is your next best bet.

The two biggest book wholesalers for the book industry right now are Ingram and Baker & Taylor. You can find their application processes on their websites. Send your books in with the proper paperwork and try to get your titles into at least one of these wholesaler’s warehouses.  Ingram and B&T do not usually take small presses, but B&T will sign up a small publisher if they have enough marketing and sales plans to support the book.

Ingram has recently partnered with IBPA and through them, a small press CAN get listed in Ingram’s system.  However, only a very small fraction of those books get ordered and stock at Ingram.  Only the books with strong demand get stocked, the rest are just listed and Ingram will order a book from the publisher when a store backorders one.  (and the kicker?  Most bookstores will not back order.)

Remember, if you get an order, you will be selling your books to the wholesaler at a discount of at least 55 percent. They will usually order only as many as they need to fulfill the demand coming in from their customers … stores and libraries. If they are overstocked or books come back from the stores, they will return those books to you for a full refund. (Having fun yet?)

So, back to the math:

A book priced at retail is $16.95

A publisher sells it to a wholesaler for $7.63 (55% discount)

The wholesaler has paid $7.63 for the book.

They then turn around and sell it to the bookstore for $9.83 (40% discount off of the retail)

The wholesaler pays for the overnight shipping and packing materials.  The profit for the wholesaler is $2.20

Many of my clients want to know why they have to give so much of the profit to distributors and wholesalers. The short answer is: they don’t.  It is possible to convince your local stores to stock your book on consignment or to sell them directly on Amazon yourself.  However, the shipping costs, time spent and number of venues that will not take your book often turn out to cost publishers FAR more than a wholesaler’s cut….


Social Media and Online Book Marketing


We had a wonderful time today talking to Sherrie Wilkolaski about Social Media and Marketing your Book Online.

Here is a recording of her great advice for authors:



Your query letter IS your cover letter


Would you spend hours working on a resume only to throw together a quick generic cover letter and hope you get an interview? Probably not. In fact, in today’s tough economic times, your cover letter is probably the most important piece of your “package” in any job search.

A good query letter is much the same. This is your calling card. This is your first introduction. This is the one page you have to make you, and your book, stand out from the hundred if not thousands of proposals that publishers and literary agents receive every year.
Writing a good query letter can be daunting. It can be scary. It can be overwhelming. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
  1. Address your letter to a specific agent or editor at a specific agency or publisher. Don’t send out something generic.
  2. Make sure that you’re sending your letter to an agent or publisher that works in your genre. One of the biggest mistakes that authors make is not doing their research. Agents and publishers list their interests and previously sold titles on their websites. Check them out and make sure your project is a good fit.
  3. Show that you’ve done your research. Mention a book or an author than an agent has represented in your first paragraph. Identify why you picked this particular agent or publisher to query.
  4. Sell yourself. Give you and your platform a full paragraph. Explain why you are the best author for your book and how you can sell yourself and generate book sales.
  5. Be courteous. Let people know if your project is on multiple submission.
  6. Identify a market for your book. Really. A real market. Add a statistic or two.
  7. Be respectful. Use appropriate business etiquette.
  8. If you’re just sending a query letter, let the agent or publisher know what else you have available – i.e. A full proposal and two sample chapters are available upon request.
  9. Have someone else read your letter before you send it. Even the best of writers needs an editor. Typos have no place in a good query letter.
  10. Be succinct. Keep your query to one page. Identify why you’ve chosen a particular agent or publisher, pitch your book, identify your market, sell yourself, thank them for their time.
Good Luck!