Distribution Series #2 – why does it matter to you?

Why doesn’t everyone have The Good distributor?

After reading yesterday’s post about The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of distribution, you’re probably wondering why every publisher doesn’t have a distribution agreement with The Good (Cadillac) distributor. It’s the same thing as asking why every author isn’t signed with Random House, or why vanity presses exist. It’s about competition and who is most likely to hit the finish line ahead of the pack.

It’s about a quality product that a lot of readers want to buy.

Since The Good (Cadillac) distributors have entire teams that support all aspects of selling your books, they have their pick of the litter. They want the best. They want what they believe will sell a bucket load of books because sales is what keeps everyone’s lights on. This means that they look for publishers who produce something unique – be it mystery thrillers, romance, history, or educational.

They look at potential publisher clients the same way we look at potential authors. Does the publisher have a unique voice, message, philosophy that will make the genre buyers sit up and take notice? They look at the publishers’ past sales, just like we do when an author is previously pubbed. If sales on your last book were in the tank, then we have to weigh that against the potential of your current book, since you’re basically starting over without much of a readership. It comes down to: are you worth the risk? The Good are asking themselves the very same question.

The Good require larger print runs because they cast a wider net, so this nixes Print On Demand publishers. And yes, there’s more risk involved with a higher percentage of returns. But their sales are also higher…hopefully. I have talked to publishers whose returns exceeded their sales, and it nearly killed them. Some actually did implode. When that happens, there are usually extenuating circumstances that lend a hand in their demise. And that is why publishers can’t afford to ever drop the ball or become complacent. You blink, you can be filing Chapter 11.

There aren’t guarantees in this business, and just because your publisher is with The Good doesn’t mean they’re bullet-proof. It’s still a team effort, and publishers have to have a marketable product and have the bank account to shoulder the risk.

What makes The Good so good?

In a word: reputation. Since most smaller commercial publishers don’t have the clout, time, energy, or staff to handle book distribution, independent distributors were formed to handle those duties. The Good distributors were formed by people who were knowledgeable and respected within the industry. Their reputation gives their clients a larger footprint within the industry, as in, “Oh, ABC is your distributor? Well, you must be a good publisher.” You just can’t beat that kind of press. And that means that your book has a better chance of solid shelf space.

Why does Distribution matter to you?

By now, I think you have a good handle on why distribution matters to you and how it impacts your literary career. Oddly enough, though, distribution is something many, many authors don’t think about. When they sign up with POD or vanity presses, they’re dismayed that their books won’t be in bookstores. They have no idea how hard it is to get books on the store shelves. You can have an amazing book, but if you have no distribution, or The Bad or Ugly distribution, a successful outcome is harder to achieve.

The end result is that the distribution efforts fall squarely on your shoulders, and this is the same as spitting in the ocean.


Wednesday I’ll finish up with:

Distribution is a team effort

How you can favorably impact the use of solid distribution

Questions to a publisher

5 Responses to Distribution Series #2 – why does it matter to you?

  1. Simple. You ask them. I plan on finishing the series tomorrow, and you’ll probably have most of your questions answered there.

  2. authorguy says:

    “This means that they look for publishers who produce something unique – be it mystery thrillers, romance, history, or educational.”

    They do not. Unique means no comp title, no baseline, no metrics. They look for just different enough to not be cookie-cutter, similar enough that we can justify the expense to the suits in corporate. They look for saleable.

  3. Marc, it would be helpful if you could back up your statement with facts. Your own publisher lacks distribution, so I’m not sure where you’re getting your information.

  4. NinjaFingers says:

    So, what is the best course of action, then, for a publisher who is starting out and has yet to develop the kind of reputation needed to attract the best distributors?

  5. They may not have a track record, but if they have a solid lineup of upcoming titles and marketing and promotion plan for their books, then this could attract favorable attention.

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