The Book Distribution Conundrum

The big news this month is that Baker & Taylor announced that they will no longer sell books to retailers as of July 15, 2019. This is industry-changing news.

For years, there have been two wholesale companies that sell books to retailers and librarians—Ingram Content Group and Baker & Taylor. Of the two, Baker & Taylor was a small publisher’s friend.

The Distribution Conundrum

Historically it has been very difficult for a small publisher to get their books stocked in Ingram (and in Spring Arbor, the Christian book division of Ingram). Publishers must have at least 10 titles and meet a set annual sales figure in order to place their books directly with Ingram for sales to retailers and librarians. If a small publisher does not meet these requirements, then they have to use a distributor who stocks their books in Ingram. Some of these book distributors include Anchor (Christian books), Independent Publishers Group (IPG), Consortium Book Sales, and Baker & Taylor Publisher Services (formerly BookMasters).

Using a distributor has benefits as well as pitfalls. A distributor is a middleman, so a distributor takes an additional 15% or more of each book sale—over and above the 55–60% discount that the wholesaler (Ingram) requires. Additionally, distributor’s vet the books they represent. So, a publisher has to pass the additional requirements of a distributor in order to be represented by said distributor.

Baker & Taylor, on the other hand, was small-publisher friendly. Small publishers could open an account with Baker & Taylor and have their books stocked directly so that retailers and librarians could place orders for these books.

With the cessation of Baker & Taylor’s sales to retail stores, only one wholesale book company is now selling books to retailers—Ingram. Some in the industry are concerned about what this will mean long-term for retailers and publishers.

 

Baker & TaylorIf you are an independently published author, Baker & Taylor’s decision to cease distribution to retailers will most likely not affect you. Sadly, it will affect a number of small publishers.

Independent authors have been able to make their books available for sale to retailers and librarians through Ingram using one of Ingram’s print-on-demand (POD) services (IngramSpark or Lightning Source) or Kindle Direct Publishing’s expanded distribution service. You may wonder why the loss of Baker & Taylor is such a big deal since small publishers can also use the POD sales route.

Here is what most independent authors do not understand: Retailers rarely order print-on-demand books to stock the shelves of their stores. Print-on-demand titles have a special code in the wholesale system that retailers can spot. As a result, if you are actively trying to get bookstores to stock your title and your book is only available print-on-demand, you have an uphill battle. If your title is listed as a Kindle Direct Published book, you have an even harder climb to get a retailer to stock your book, since retailers consider Amazon their direct competition.

Bookstore

Small publishers understand that they need to have print copies stocked (not POD copies) with wholesalers to increase their chances of book sales to retail stores. This is why the loss of a small- publisher friendly wholesale option for small publishers is a big deal.

While over 50% of books are purchased online, a good percentage of books are still purchased in stores, including bookstores. Savvy publishers know that they must have their books available in multiple locations to garner the most sales. Therefore, access to a wholesale sales option is important for these publishers.

If you are an independently published author, you can take a lesson from small publishers. Having your book available in Amazon alone is not enough. Not everyone shops on Amazon, and, for certain, libraries and retailers don’t order books from Amazon.

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Photo courtesy of Samuel Zeller.

 

Get Caught Reading; It’s Good for You!

May is Get Caught Reading Month. Reading is good for you. It is a wonderful de-stressor and actually prolongs your life.

Here are four more interesting tidbits about reading:

  • U.S. residents spend an average of 16.8 minutes per day reading.
  • U.S. households spend an average of $118 yearly on reading material including newspapers and magazines.
  • Revenue for U.S. book publishers grew 4.6% in 2018, largely due to the increase in audiobook sales.
  • People who read 30 minutes or more a week reported feeling 20% more satisfied with their lives.

I hope that you read on a regular basis.

Each year Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) puts together a cooperative catalog featuring books by our Members. This year’s catalog features 84 titles from 37 CIPA Members.

I invite you to click on the catalog cover pictured below to check out the great Christian titles CIPA Member produce! I am sure you will find within the pages of this catalog a new book you can “get caught reading” this month!

CIPA 2019 Book Catalog

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You Can Make a Difference!

Studies show that 80% of people feel that they have a book inside of them.

Book inside

Surprisingly, the biggest motivating factor to write a book is not fame or money. Most authors are driven to write for one of the following reasons:

  1. To share expertise or pass on knowledge.
  2. To motivate or inspire others.
  3. To tell a story.
  4. To market a business.

My main objective in writing Your Guide to Marketing Christian Books was to pass on knowledge. As someone who has been immersed in the world of indie publishing and marketing for the past 15+ years, I want to give authors and new publishers the resources they need to be successful in promoting their Christian books. I also hope that the book motivates and inspires readers to do the hard work of marketing.

Your Guide to Marketing Christian Books

It is always satisfying when one receives confirmation that the purpose of their book is being fulfilled. A few recent reviews of Your Guide to Marketing Christian Books inspires me to keep going. After all, most authors—myself included—want our books to make a difference.

Following are a few recent review quotes for Your Guide to Marketing Christian Books:

  • Your book is amazing! You saved me hours (maybe years) of research.” ~Crystal Bowman
  • This is a book that will become a dog-eared reference for authors to use during every phase of their book’s publication. I highly recommend this book as a practical and valuable reference!” ~Ava Pennington
  • The competition for readers has never been greater than it is today. Sarah Bolme shows you how to get your book the visibility it needs to sell.”  ~Jacquelyn Lynn
  • This exceptionally well organized and presented guide walks authors and publishers step-by-step through the various aspects of book promotion. It is an ideal and thoroughly ‘user friendly’ resource for authors and publishers.” ~James Cox, Midwest Book Review

What about you? Do you feel that your books are fulfilling the purpose for which you wrote them? Do you long to publish a book that is inside of you?

If you feel that your book has not reached its potential, or if you desire to publish the book that is inside you or in manuscript form, then you can get the information you need to do just that.

1. Attend one of my upcoming intensive workshops on “You Can Indie Publish and Market Your Book”. I will be teaching this extended workshop at the following two upcoming Christian Writers Conferences:

2. Get a copy of my book Your Guide to Marketing Christian Books and read it. Learn the important steps in marketing your book so that it leaves your hands and goes into the world to fulfill the purpose for which it was published.

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Are You Backed Up?

More than one author has told me a tale of losing all their work when their computer crashed in the middle of a project. I hope that this has not happened to you.

A couple years ago, my house was hit by lightning. It fried the Internet router box, a phone, my computer, and a printer. Everything on the computer was lost. Fortunately, I had backed up all the data on my computer.

World Backup Day

As a publisher or author, you create vast amounts of data regularly. All of this data can be lost in a moment to a natural disaster, a virus, a computer crash, or even a theft. It’s not uncommon.

  • One in ten computers is infected with a virus each month.
  • 113 phones are lost or stolen every minute.
  • 29% of disasters are caused by accident.

Yet, 30 percent of people have never backed up their data. The best precaution you can take so that you do not lose material on your computer is to actively back up your data.

Keeping your data safe is important. March 31 has been declared World Backup Day. The purpose of World Backup Day is to raise awareness of the need to back up data.

A backup is a second copy of your important files—both for files on your computer as well as for files on your website. A backup allows you to keep another copy of everything somewhere safe.

Did you know that only one in four people regularly backup their data? Is your data safe? Do you have backup copies?

The 3-2-1 Rule

The 3-2-1 Rule is widely hailed as industry best practice for data storage. The rule states that you should have three (3) copies of your data at all times. This data should be kept on at least two (2) different types of storage, and that you have at least one (1) copy of the data offsite.

3-2-1 Rule

Many people choose to keep a backup copy of their data on a USB thumb drive, an external hard drive, or an SD card. This copy is kept in their home or office. Then, they also opt for cloud-based backup for keeping a copy of their data offsite such as Google Drive or Apple’s iCloud service.

Do you have a website? Don’t forget to backup the data on your website. It, too, is not immune from hackers or viruses. Most web hosting companies provide some type of backup or at least a referral to a website backup service they recommend.

World Backup Day asks everyone to take this pledge:

 “I solemnly swear to backup my important documents and precious memories on March 31st.”

Don’t just do it on March 31. Do it regularly and you won’t ever lose your important manuscripts and book documents.

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Don’t Just Be Anyone

The growth of independent publishing is truly astounding. Consider these figures from Bowker (the ISBN provider):

  • The number of print books independently published grew from 235,639 titles in 2012 to 879,587 in 2017. That is 273% growth in six years.
  • In 2017, 85% of all independently published print books were published through Amazon (CreateSpace) for a total of 751,924 titles.

Amazon has leveled the playing field for publishing a book. Almost anyone can publish a book through Amazon (using Kindle Direct Publishing—previously through CreateSpace). Of course, the ability for anyone to publish a book has both positive and negative consequences.

Positive Consequences

1. Anyone can now be an author.
Anyone means anyone. Amazon does not discriminate with respect to whom they allow to upload a book.

2. No gatekeepers.
No subject is taboo. No one has to approve of the content, style, or quality of the writing.

3. It’s free.
Yes, absolutely free to upload a book to Amazon. It does not cost a cent. All it requires is Internet access.

Negative Consequences

1. Anyone can now be an author.
Anyone can be an author whether or not they take the time to hone the craft of writing, understand proper book design, or learn anything about marketing a book.

2. No gatekeepers.
Anything goes. This means that there is no check on quality. There are no guarantees for buyers.

3. It’s free.
The easier and cheaper it is to publish a book, the more people will publish books. The more books published, the more competition all books have for readers’ eyes.

Here’s the deal: Don’t just be anyone.

In other words, be an informed author. If you are thinking about publishing a book, don’t do it just because you can. Take the time to hone your writing, learn about proper book design and layout, and understand what you need to do to market your book. Both you and your book will be better for it.

Colorado Christian Writers Conference

I am thankful that it is both easy to independently publish a book and it is easy to learn what you need to know to do this. Many sources exist to help independent authors who want to learn.

You have the opportunity to learn directly from me at the upcoming Colorado Christian Writers Conference in Estes Park May 15-18, 2019. I will be teaching a Continuing session on “You Can Indie Publish & Market Your Book.” This session will teach you what you need to know to publish an industry standard book and to begin the process of promoting your book.

If you can attend this conference, I encourage you to do so. You will learn valuable information, not just from me, but from the other presenters as well. Don’t take my word for it; here is what a couple people said about my “You Can Indie Publish & Market Your Book” sessions on Facebook:

Don’t just be anyone. Learn what you need to know and be an author that people want to read and share with others.

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Photo courtesy of NeONBRAND.