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October 2012

Reporter: Peter Leavell

Peter LeavellPeter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of the Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest for Gideon’s Call (Worthy Publishing). Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Whenever he has a chance, he takes his wife and two homeschooled children on crazy but fun research trips. Visit him online and on Facebook.

Presenter: David Sheets

David SheetsSheets is a book industry veteran with experience with some of the top publishers and distributors in the Christian book industry. He led the sales and marketing teams at STL Distribution as Sr. Vice President. In 2008, David was named as one of Christian Retailing Magazine’s “Top 40 under 40.” Most recently, Sheets launched a consulting company to work with independent authors, publishers and ministries; and joined Snowfall Press, a rapid growth, short run print solutions company.

Workshop 1: Getting Your Book Into Bookstores: How Retail Distribution Works

Blueprint“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?

  1. Retailers expect authors to have a platform.
  2. 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.
  3. Retailers expect authors to have a tribe.
  4. 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.
  5. Retailers expect to work with a professional.
  6. 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/

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