Amazon is Not a Distributor

Last week I had the death flu. As I lay in my bed for four days in a cough-raked body in a fever-induced state of mind, I began to ponder the important questions. Questions like “When will ISIS be stopped?” and “How far will the Chinese economy fall and what impact will that have on economies around the World?” Then came the question, “Why do so many self-published authors think that Amazon is a distributor?” With that my brain said, “There’s a blog post,” and I knew I was on the road to recovery.

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Does Walmart buy books from Target to sell in their stores? Does Lifeway buy books from Family Christian to sell in their stores? Of course not. If one retailer bought product from another retailer, they would not make any money and would go under.

If you asked bookstore owners and managers who their biggest competitor is, many would say Amazon. That’s right. Amazon is a bookstore. It happens to be the largest bookstore in terms of sales in the United States. It is not a distributor.

Yet, so many independently-published authors seem to think that Amazon is a distributor. When I ask authors to list their distributor, many say Amazon. Why would a bookstore buy books from their largest competitor? That would simply help Amazon grow bigger and put the bookstore out of business.

Bookstores buy books from distributors, not their competition. Distributors sell books to bookstores at a discount, usually at 40 to 45 percent off the retail price. The bookstore then sells the book for the full retail price, keeping this 40 to 45 percent of retail price as their profit.

The larger distributors (and wholesalers) that bookstores buy books from are:

  • Ingram
  • Baker & Taylor
  • IPG
  • BookMasters
  • Spring Arbor (Christian bookstores)
  • STL (Christian bookstores)
  • Anchor Distributors (Christian bookstores)

There are also a myriad of smaller distributors around the country. Getting a bookstore to stock an independently published title is an uphill battle to start with. Unless your book is listed with a major distributor, you often don’t have a prayer of having bookstores stock your title.

Bookstores do not buy books from Amazon. Although, they will purchase the book directly from the publisher or author if a customer has asked the store to special order a book that is not listed in the bookstore’s distributor’s database.

So, if you are an independently published author and someone asks you who distributes your book, don’t say Amazon. That is where consumers buy books, not retailers.

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