As a traditionally published author, one seldom has to worry about book distribution. Traditional publishers shoulder all the responsibility of book distribution; they know the market, they know the target audience, and they know where book sales mainly come in from.
However, as a self-published author, one has to not only understand what book distribution is but also learn how it's done. This article is for all the self-published authors who are trying to wrap their head around this confusing aspect of publishing.
Book distribution, in the most simplest of sense, means where your book is available for purchase and in which format it is available. Self-published authors have the choice of deciding their marketplaces, selling platforms, as well as bookstores (if any).
Earlier, brick and mortar bookstores did not stock up and display self-published books. But now that has changed. Steadily, the number of bookstores that are open to accepting self-published books is increasing.
A significant number of paperback copies are, however, sold online. Most of the self-published authors owe their major share of paperback book sales to online platforms.
There are numerous platforms available to sell books online. One can either hire a distribution service and let them do all the work, or they can choose to do everything themselves.
To sell paperback copies, there are two ways to go. Either one can have a few hundreds or thousands of books printed and then sell them (the print run) or they can opt for print on demand. Print on demand means that your book is printed only when someone places an order. This is risk free and requires no investment.
If you have chosen to have a print run, then you can open seller accounts on sites like Amazon. For print on demand (which most platforms support), you will be required to open an account on Amazon's KDP.
There are other platforms like Barnes and Nobles, Kobo, Google Books, etc.
Talking about e-books, these are the easiest to sell. Compared to paperback copies, these easily sell more faster and in larger numbers.
E-books can be sold on more platforms than paperback copies. The major source of e-book sales happen on Amazon KDP.
One thing to keep in mind is that a few platforms demand exclusivity, like Amazon's KDP select. Exclusivity means that the book cannot be sold on any other platform and should be made exclusively available for purchase only on that particular platform. In such cases, one has to weigh the pros and cons of both the options and then decide.
The author’s website is also a good platform to sell books. However, for paperback sales through website, the author will have to own a few hundred copies of books at hand. The shipping of the book will also be the author’s responsibility. E-books will be easier to sell, as the file only has to be made available for download after payment. The simpler way for both formats is to merely link the book’s Amazon sales page to the website.
Once published, an author can also approach local libraries, cafes, schools and universities, and ask them to display their books.
Authors can also speak in public events, litfests, etc. These are good places to promote and sell your books.
Apart from paperbacks and e-books, one can also consider audiobooks. You can hire voice artists and create your audiobook. There are many upcoming platforms that allow you to sell your audiobooks.
Book distribution is a vast ocean of possibilities and ideas. Remember that a book does not have to be available everywhere. For self-published authors, trying to make their book available for sale everywhere can become overwhelming, tiring, and time-consuming. Just because a platform is available for use, it does not mean that one has to use it.
Good and extensive research can provide valuable results. This is helpful in identifying the target audience, which platforms they frequent and which book formats they prefer. Keeping this in mind, the author can choose the platforms accordingly.
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This article is written by Kulsum. Kulsum is the bestselling author of The Bleeding Wounds Series on Amazon Kindle. Her debut novel Love of a Stranger is published globally.