Marketing Matters: Distribution

books filed neatly on shelves

There are many keys to successful marketing of a self-published book. Besides having a quality product to begin with, you have to push and promote relentlessly to make your product into a success, just like in any other business. You have to advertise in the right places at the right time to reach the right audience. But before any of this–before the ad design and marketing campaigns can really begin in earnest–comes one important ground-level factor: availability.

Let’s say you have your book done and ready for publication. What comes next? Well, unfortunately, there is more to publishing than simply clicking a couple buttons and watching your sales grow. First and foremost comes distribution. It’s all good and well to get the word out about your book and why it is so great, but unless people can find a place to purchase it, those sales will never happen.

Now, it is true that a handful of really good distribution points can go a long way. If you know how to make them work, they may be all you need to achieve success. However, in the interest of maximizing sales, it is always a good idea to achieve distribution to as many bookshelves as possible–digital or physical. Remember: your primary purpose is to achieve your own success. Unless you have some special deal with a particular distributor through which both you and that distributor benefit, there is no reason to limit yourself to just that one outlet. Doing so only benefits the distributor more: not you.

So then, numbers are important. And there are two ways of achieving this broad distribution: directly or through intermediary distributors. Intermediary distributors are places such as Draft2Digital, StreetLib, etc. who will take your book and distribute it to numerous places for you. It’s usually quicker and easier than doing it yourself, and it is much easier to keep track of sales. So, there are definite advantages to it. But there are drawbacks as well.

For instance, these intermediate distributors take a certain percentage (usually 10) out of the royalty after the individual retailer where the sale was made takes their cut. For example, If you make an e-book sale for $4 and the retailer takes a 30% cut, then your actual royalty is $2.80. But if you’ve got an intermediary distributor who takes another 10% out, your actual gain is $2.52. A small difference with one sale, perhaps, but you can see how it might add up after a while.

If you do not mind this, then perhaps intermediary distribution is for you. If, however, you’re more interested in maximizing your royalties and creative input–and you don’t mind some extra work–then it is best to distribute directly as often as possible. Some places will not accept small or self-publishers to approach them. In these cases, you’ll have to go through a distributor plain and simple. But in other cases, it can really pay to go straight to the top, so to speak. This is especially true of the big outlets I mentioned earlier.

In conclusion, then, distribution is really important. If your book’s not available, it doesn’t matter how good it is or how well you talk it up. Of course, these factors are important too, of course, and may warrant their own posts in future. But for now, just remember: distribution is step one towards sales success.

I would also like to mention that my new e-book editions are currently showing up for pre-order in various places across the internet (print versions to follow June 1st). Go check out my Books page for more info if you’re interested. Also, the submissions page for Ash Tree Media (my new publisher) is now open, so if you’ve got a manuscript ready to see the light of day, head on over there and take a look. Otherwise, I’ll see you later!

Published by J. S. Allen

J. S. Allen is a writer, linguist, historian, and nature-lover from Kansas City, Missouri. He is the author of the young adult series 'Sauragia' and the 'Woodland Tales' anthology for children, as well as several shorter works in various online and local venues. In between writing and publishing, he likes to draw, spend long hours outdoors, and read. His favourite authors include M. I. McAllister, Brian Jacques, and Alexandre Dumas.

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