Distribution is More Important Than You Think

For years I have been saying that distribution is key to increasing sales for your book.

Distribution increases the likelihood that your book is available where someone prefers to shop, making it easy for them to purchase. We are an immediate gratification society. If we don’t find what we are looking for right away, we will take the closest substitute.

Now a new study backs up what I already knew to be true. Wilke Global discovered that there was a lack of research on what consumers do when they are unable to find a particular product in both the brick-and-mortar and online worlds. So, the company embarked on a focused study in 2016 to learn more.

A few key findings from the Wilke Global study show that distribution is fundamental in winning with consumers. These findings include:

  1. Half of consumers (48% in 2016 and 49% in 2017) reported that they would buy another brand if the product they were searching for was not available on the shelf of the grocery or drug store where they were shopping.
  2. When faced with a product they don’t find at their retailer of choice, relatively few consumers seek to complete their purchase online (7% in 2016 and 10% in 2017). Basically, if a consumer sets out to buy a product in a store, they don’t readily make the shift to purchasing that product online if they can’t find it in the store.

While well over half of all books are now purchased online, some consumers are still brick-and-mortar book purchasers. What this research confirms is that when these readers hear about your book and can’t find it in the bookstore of their choice, they will  buy another book on the same topic that is available in the store instead.

This is why distribution is so important for small publishers and independently published authors. Simply having your book available on Amazon.com is not enough to reach all readers. If you book is not available for purchase in multiple online and brick-and-mortar bookstores (even for the store to order it when a customer asks) you are losing out on sales.

The Wilke Global study also discovered that consumers who purchase online are not terribly likely to visit the brand website (only 8% in 2016 and 6% in 2017 did so). Instead people shopping online generally start with Amazon, Google, or Walmart to find the product they are looking for.

As an author, the more places your book is for sale, the more sales you will catch. Make sure your book is in established book distribution channels so you don’t lose out on sales.

Related Posts:
How to Get a Book into a Christian Bookstore
What Authors Can Learn From Shopping Behaviors
Global eBook Sales are Within Your Reach

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Photo courtesy of Rhys Moult.

Ingram Spark

Move over Random House. The publishing world is changing. No longer do large publishing houses have the same hold on the book industry. Now, small publishers and authors are producing books and selling them, sometimes in large quantities. In fact, small publishers now make up 20% of the publishing industry.


The publishing world is beginning to embrace this seismic shift. Ingram, the largest book wholesale company once only deigned to work with publishers with 10 or more titles. When print-on-demand appeared, they opened Lightning Source and allowed small publishers to use this service to gain distribution. Then, about 2 years ago, they allowed the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) to form an agreement with them in regards to IBPA member publishers. This agreement allows member publishers of IBPA to obtain distribution for a print book with Ingram (with a setup fee of $300) if they agree to participate in at least one of Ingram’s marketing programs.

Now, Ingram is going one step further to engage more small and self-publishers—all in an effort to stay in the game and to make more money. Next month, they are launching a new publishing platform called Ingram Spark.

Ingram Spark will be a “Publish on Demand” platform which will incorporate both print and ebook distribution. By combining print and digital platforms, the program is supposed to simply the entire distribution process while offering Ingram’s worldwide reach.

With Ingram Spark, it will be free to open an account. However, there will be setup fees. Spark will charge a $49 fee to publish both an ebook and a print book ($25 for just an ebook). In addition, there will be a $12 fee per year to be listed in Ingram’s catalog (as with Lightning Source). Publishers will be paid a royalty when books are sold—40% for ebooks and 45% for print books (not sure if that is after printing costs or not). Publishers will have the ability to set that retail price, but Ingram will set a fixed discount for retail sales (unlike Lightning Source where the publisher can choose the discount).

This leaves me with the question of what the advantage of Ingram Spark will be over Ingram’s existing Lightning Source program. The only thing I can think of is that it will make the process of setting up both print-on-demand and ebook distribution easier for a publisher since both will be under the same account. Currently, print and ebook distribution are two separate agreements and processes with Lightning Source. Other than that, I don’t see any other advantages. Maybe you do. If so, let me know.

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It’s Not Just Price…

How do Americans’ shop for books? This question was part of a study done by Simon-Kucher & Partners. The answers they found were interesting.

Shopping trolley on button of computer keyboard

It appears that the study’s findings go against the grain of some long-held beliefs about the importance of price in selling books, especially the idea that people buy books online because they can be purchased cheaper than in a brick-and-mortar store.

The Simon-Kucher & Partners study found:

  1. Convenience is just as important as price when a reader decides to buy a book online.
  2. The more consumers buy books online, the less important price is to them.

Don’t read the findings of this study wrong. Price is still important. However 76% of the survey respondents did not list price as the number one reason they purchase books online. For these respondents, convenience and the ability to shop 24/7 were top of their list.

I have always preached that to sell well, your books must be readily available to consumers. This means that your book is for sale in more places than just your website and Amazon.com. The results of this survey also point to this fact.

Price is important to consumers, but convenience is just as important. Once a person decides to buy a certain book, easy access to purchasing that book is necessary to complete the transaction.

Whether you are selling print books, ebooks, or both, make sure that your books are available on multiple retail channels online so that consumers can:

  1. Easily find your books.
  2. Buy your books on the website they feel most comfortable using.

Remember, it’s not just price, convenience is also important.

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Don’t Let This Happen to You!

A member publisher of Christian Small Publishers Association released a children’s book last month to coincide with the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS). This publisher arranged for the author to do an author appearance with a book signing at the show to promote this new release.

The weekend before the show, the book’s author, Kim Simac, had the chance opportunity to meet Glenn Beck, a conservative talk show host. Glen was so impressed with the author and her book that he decided to feature the book on his show during the week of ICRS. That same week, the Supreme Court handed down the landmark decision in a 5-4 ruling that overturned Chicago’s ban on private citizens keeping handguns in their homes. This decision placed the media’s attention on the Second Amendment, a complete publicity coup for this publisher.

The day after the ruling from the Supreme Court, Glenn Beck did feature “With a Rifle By My Side,” the second amendment children’s book by Kim Simac, on his show.

This is the type of media attention every publisher craves. National publicly generates book sales, often lots of book sales.

In this case, there was a problem. Being a new release and not anticipating such immediate media attention, the publisher was behind in getting the book into distribution. As a result, consumers who heard about the book on Glen Beck’s show could not purchase the book from the major online retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Borders, nor could they walk into their local secular bookstore and order the book. The result—lost sales; many lost sales.

Every publisher can take a lesson from this story. You never know when your big media break will happen. Some happen by chance, some by careful planning. Either way, the moral of this story is be prepared!

Distribution for a new book should be established a minimum of two months prior to the release of a new book; with the optimum time frame being six to eight months prior to the release of a new book, especially if you are seeking bookstore sales. The goal is to have your book available through as many channels as possible. The more places consumers can purchase your books, the more books you will sell when your big publicity opportunity breaks.

Take a lesson from this story. Be prepared. Get your distribution in place before you release your next book.