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.

Dear Author

From time to time, Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) receives submissions of books with requests from the author to either distribute or market the book. While CSPA does neither of these services directly, we do provide services to publishers and authors to help in gaining distribution and in marketing their books.


CSPA recently received a request for distribution from an author who published a children’s book via CreateSpace. The gentleman was seeking distribution to get his book onto Christian bookstore shelves nationwide. I felt that some of you might benefit from my response to this author, so I am sharing it here.

Dear Author:

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) is in receipt of your children’s Christmas picture book and your request to find a distributor for your book to make your product available in nationwide Christian bookstores.

CSPA provides distribution for our member publishers (see our website for the membership criteria at www.christianpublishers.net under “Membership”). We have two options for distribution. One option is to have books placed in Send the Light, Inc. and the other is to have books stocked with Ingram / Spring Arbor. Both are distributors of Christian literature.

First, you need to be aware that placing your book in distribution will not get your book on bookstore shelves. Distribution only makes your book available for bookstores to order. It is still the publisher’s or author’s responsibility to market the book to bookstores.

Second, it is very difficult to get a book into Christian bookstores. Thousands of books are published each year and bookstores have very little shelf space. Therefore, they tend to stock books by the large Christian publishers and by well-known authors. Those small publishers and independent authors wishing to get their books onto bookstore shelves have to work hard and spend money to make this happen.

Third, your children’s book does not really have a spine. Some distributors will not take books without a spine that has the title of the book printed on it. The reason for this is because most stores do not stock books that do not have a spine. If the book is stacked in a shelf, it becomes almost invisible without a spine showing the book’s title. Since your book does not have a spine, I can guarantee that most stores will not stock it even with a lot of effort on your part.

That being said, there are many other avenues available for you to market your books more directly to consumers. I would recommend that you read the book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace (www.marketingchristianbooks.com) to learn more about other ways to promote your book.

God Bless,
Sarah Bolme, Director
Christian Small Publishers Association

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