Workshop 1: Getting Your Book Into Bookstores: How Retail Distribution Works
“Distributing and selling your book is like building a house,” said David Sheets in his ACFW conference workshop Getting Your Book Into Bookstores: How Retail Distribution Works. “You can hire a contractor and let them do the work.”
Sheets, a book industry veteran with experience at some of the top publishers and distributors in the Christian book industry (Tyndale House and Multnomah Publishers), went on to explain self-publishing in the same context. “You can learn how to build the house yourself, since all the tools are available.” Either way, you must surround yourself with experts. Those who can help you maximize distribution potential.
What do retailers expect from authors?
- Retailers expect authors to have a platform. A platform includes the tools a writer uses, such as Facebook, Twitter, a blog, and speaking opportunities, to reach the public. Not only does a platform give authors legitimacy, it allows the authors direct contact with readers, which allows writers to sense market trends.
- Retailers expect authors to have a tribe. Your tribe is the people who follow you. This can occur through many forms of social media, but the quality of work must be such that your tribe is willing to pay to read it.
- Retailers expect to work with a professional. You must know how the system works. What’s your business plan? Who is your book targeted to? What’s your plan for promotions? What’s your book’s hook? Is it good enough to catch not only the reader, but also the retailer?
Do I really want to go to retail?
Fifty-two percent of books sold are not sold in brick and mortar stores, but through online services. Most chains and booksellers need nine months notice when a book is coming out. Online sellers don’t. Many authors are choosing to sell online only, where the seller asks for a discount, but shelf space is not an issue. Plus, the seller doesn’t return the product despite several months of slow sales.
Building your house
Whatever you decide is best for you when finished with your manuscript, know that all tools are available to you as the author for distributing your book. Traditional publishers are valuable and offer solid services—just like the contractor you hire to build your house. But tools are also now available for authors who want to publish their own work. In the end, you have to decide which is the best way for you to proceed.
Blueprint image courtesy of Archipoch/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net