What It Takes to Self-Publish:
Part II: Distributors
Distributors are publisher driven. They create
demand by generating orders from stores, usually through a catalog and
sales reps who go out on three 3- to 4-month tours of independent bookstores
each year. Between selling cycles, most stores will continue to order
their stock from distributors they've worked with. Today, more distributors
than ever before are willing to take on single-title publishers. Some
will want an exclusive contract with you, whereas others will not. Your
best bet is to work with one or more distributors that specialize in titles
similar to yours, because these suppliers already have a relationship
with stores that feature this genre.
What does a distributor do? Typically, a distributor who
takes on dozens of self-publishers as clients, does so based on the sales
potential of their books. Basic services include warehousing, cataloging,
sales representation to independent and chain bookstores (and sometimes
libraries), shipping, billing, collections, and marketing. Most operate
on a consignment basis and will send you a check each month, reflecting
sales that took place 90 to 120 days earlier. Most also send sales catalogs
of their books (with new titles frontlisted) to the trade. Distributor
catalogs are usually published in January (with an acquisition deadline
of October) and June (with an acquisition deadline of March).
What does a distributor look for in a new book? For a
distributor to sell your title to the US book market, it must have: (1)
an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) on the copyright page, (2)
a bar code (for inventory control) printed on the lower right side of
the back cover, (3) a subject (cookbook, self-help, parenting, men's studies,
women's spirituality) or two or three printed on the upper left corner
of the back cover, (4) a CIP (cataloging-in-publication) datablock on
the copyright page, and (5) a sophisticated, sales-oriented cover design.
How to approach distributors? Call those that seem experienced
in your genre. Describe your title. If they seem interested, ask if they
would prefer to see page proofs (galleys) or a bound book, and request
submission forms or a copy of their guidelines for submitting a product.
If they are not interested, ask them to recommend a distributor with a
more compatible line. Most will be glad to give you a recommendation.
What to send an interested distributor? Along with the
page proofs (galleys) or review copy, send a cover letter describing your
target audience, your unique qualifications as author of the book, why
you think it will be successful in bookstore (and library) markets, and
sales records of any previous books you have written. A news release is
also helpful, though not necessary. All your material should go out well
ahead of your pub date.
Please request a current listing of distributors
by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let us know how we can help you. Contact us at
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Self Publish? | Part III: Wholesalers
WHAT IT TAKES TO SELF PUBLISH: Editing
& Production | Distributors
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