Essential Guide to Book Distribution

Book Distribution guide for those who self-publish

To a self-published author, the book distribution will be of particular importance, which should be as comprehensive as possible, considering the cost and your book niche. Often book distribution is used interchangeably with book sales and book marketing. These three steps are interrelated, and each directly influences the other. For a self-published author, it is essential to clearly understand the scope and meaning of book fulfillment and distribution

In this blog post, we’ll discuss distribution’s various costs and benefits and how it can help authors.

What is book distribution?

The process of making physical, eBooks or audiobooks available to the public for purchase or borrow—the process of reaching books to potential readers.

  The above process of book distribution is influenced by book promotion and book sales and visa versa.

Book distribution, book marketing and sales are interrelated

How do book sales influence distribution?

The more books you sell, the more the demand will be for your books. A larger number of distributors will come forward to sell your books.

Book sales influence book distribution

Book distribution in modern times

Various factors have considerably changed the way books are distributed in modern times.

  • Digital technology has allowed for easier and faster distribution of books
  • Books are now available online and in physical stores
  • Distribution is more widely accessible and cheaper for readers

How does book distribution work?

Online stores have significantly changed how book fulfilment and distribution happen in India and elsewhere. The distribution process and book distributors in India were arbitrary and closed institutions. With the establishment of online book stores, a large chunk of the book sales/distribution shifted away from the informal book distribution channels. This shook the distribution system in India, forcing them to take notice. The result is that they are more organised and less arbitrary. The physical book distribution is no longer the Laxman Rekha for either a publisher or author. Most book sales happen from the major online stores. That said, physical bookstores and their distributors still maintain the importance of books to reach the widest audience and outlets, libraries, colleges and universities.

How does book distribution wor

Once the book is printed, it is ready to be distributed. For free distribution through online channels before the printed book is in your hand:

  1. Identify the distribution channels that suit you.
  2. Identify whether you would like to stick to online distribution only (Amazon, Flipkart)
  3. Whether you would like to tie up with distributors for physical stores.
  4. Tie up with the distribution channels that suit you. This takes time; hence, we suggest that physical store distributors start six months before your book is out and, for online stores, about a month before.
  5. At the same time, start book promotion.
  6. Tying up with different distribution channels should happen before the printed book comes into your hands. This way, you also know how many books you need to get printed in the first round.

If you are an individual, it is beneficial to tie up with a publisher who will follow the POD model of book warehousing and distribution. This will incur distribution costs but also means you are not tied down to keeping stock, printing, maintaining inventory, orders, packing, dispatching, etc. You must provide the publisher or distributor with the distribution rights to your book. Publishers can also judge how many books to print in the first, second, and third rounds. This avoids piling up inventory and frees you from locking up your money in unsold stock.

1. Global connect program

Can your work be available around the world? Sounds impossible. It is now possible for individuals to sell their books in the International markets. One way is to tie up with Amazon, which is expensive but doable. Another is to pay distribution costs to a self-publishing company that already has tie-ups and save yourself a bother.

2. How do stores and libraries know about my book?

Make a list of libraries and stores. Find their contact. Design an emailer. Be careful to include all information about your book and give convincing reasons for them to distribute it. After 10-20 days, send a reminder email with any update regarding your book, like crossing a significant milestone in the number of books sold. The distributors will love that. Or connect with a publisher, they will help for a fee.

3. Who can order my book?

Three main factors determine who can order your book: 1. Whether the store is available in a particular region. 2. Whether the store has delivery to the location where the reader is based. 3. The ability to pay for the book.

4. Don’t limit your distribution

Yes and No.

  1. Distribution should look at your capacity to service that distribution channel.
  2. Keep in mind the cost-to-profit ratio and the effort put in. Some channels give too many returns. In some distribution channels, the ultimate profit is too negligible. Often the inputs of packing and shipping the item are overlooked but it is an essential cost in online sales.
  3. During the period of exclusivity (ebook)(minimum 90 days), you cannot distribute your book digitally anywhere else, including on your website, blogs, etc. although you can continue to distribute your book in physical or audio format on other platforms.

5. Printed book distribution

Two leading platforms for printed book distribution

  1. Online distribution
  2. Distribution to bookstores, libraries, colleges, schools etc

6. Where should you distribute your book?

To ‘go wide’ is the self-publishing jargon for distributing your eBook/print book via multiple platforms, such as Kobo, Apple Books etc., either directly or via an aggregator who will distribute from one dashboard to many distributors on your behalf.

7. Online distribution system. How much does it cost?

The cheapest distribution/ free book distribution is online, with negligible book warehousing and distribution costs. Far more expensive is the distribution to physical stores, high inventory cost and a lag in availability.

There is no free party. Even free book distribution has a cost attached to it, though no upfront cost, except for the cost of inventory. Distribution costs are usually calculated as a percentage of the retail price and can vary between 15% and 55% of MRP for each item sale. In online stores, there is no upfront cost, the cost is calculated only when you sell an item.

Amazon Kindle, Apple takes a 30% – 65% royalty cut on all ebook sales, regardless of the book price, depending on the distribution channel and the type of distribution rights. Whether exclusive or non-exclusive. For non-exclusive distribution rights, you receive lower royalty.

Book distribution is a cost-effective and efficient way to get books into the hands of readers. It can help boost sales, reach new readers, and allow authors to keep their books in the public eye.

Read more about eBook publishing and distribution

For help in book publishing and distribution, get in touch with Zorba Books