Indie Publishing and Book Distribution

Susan Violante Managing Editor

By the time their second book is published, Indie authors should know enough about book distribution to understand the differences between a distributor, a wholesaler, and a bookstore or online bookseller.

Okay, for those that don’t know this is the deal:

Distributor – gets your book into wholesalers and bookstores (See the list of top independent book distributors Distributors may sell to wholesalers but not vice-versa.  Distributors have sales reps, wholesalers don’t (they just wait for the phone to ring). Distributors need a 60% to 75% discount.  For wholesalers, typically 55% is standard.

Wholesaler – takes orders from bookstores and libraries unless they are a distributor themselves (Ingram, Baker & Taylor, etc.)

Lightning Source
– this is neither a distributor nor wholesaler.  They are a printer of print-on-demand (POD) books.  But, their parent company, Ingram Book Company, distributes books that are printed through them. – this is a seller of books, no different than your local B & N. They sell to the general public – the reader.  They do not distribute or wholesale books.

How an author sells their books really depends on their ultimate goal. Working with a distributor gives some advantage of having books accessible to multiple stores and libraries across the country.  Even though they are currently more flexible than in prior years in a local level, bookstores like Barnes & Noble most likely will require that their stores order only through a book distributor rather than dealing with individual authors on a national level. Other stores may just prefer to order only from a distributor like Ingram or Baker & Taylor because it’s easier to pay one vendor instead of fifty individual authors. If you want your book in a major bookstore chain or in some libraries, you’ll need a distributor. (Some libraries do order direct from the author or but not all of them.) Here are some tips when deciding how to figure out how to publish and sell books based on distribution:

  • Do your research on publishers before choosing one. If your goal is to try to get your book in big stores, then making sure the publisher uses the stores’ main distributor is a must.
  • The above step is true also when choosing the print-on-demand platform. So don’t be afraid to call and ask questions before signing up. In my case, I chose Outskirts Press because they have Ingram and Baker & Taylor as distributors.
  • Don’t stop at the publisher/printer’s distributor. Look for others yourself and sign up with the ones that make sense for your personal goals and title.

In the end what really makes the difference in getting your book out there is your knowledge of the industry and willingness to research before doing the work.

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