SMALL PRESS DISTRIBUTION WOES

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
What can POD small press do for you today? The question should be, what can't they do, most often?

Submitted: December 24, 2009

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Submitted: December 24, 2009

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Below are the requirements for a small press that is seeking distribution:
 
 
  • A copy of your best-selling titles (or artwork, page spreads or galleys for books in production)
  • Complete title list with backlist and any upcoming publishing plans
  • Sales history of each title, including original pub date, sales Year-to-Date and previous year, Lifetime sales,
  • Available Stock and Location, and sales projections of future titles
  • Marketing and publicity plans, including copies of recent advertising and reviews, and marketing plans and budgets for upcoming titles
  • Current catalog, if available
Never mind the cost to the publisher, which can be substantial and based on a per title account, it is these points that discourage 90% of all small press from EVER obtaining meaningful distribution.  First they have to list their best sellers, and that means that they've hopefully sold something that might break the four-digit thresold.  Not likely.  It is most likely they will manage two-digit sales from internet display only, and possibly three-digit sales if the author has gone out and performed speaking engagements, books signings, and hand-to-hand physical sales.
 
Determination:  They don't qualify.
 
They better have a healthy backlist that proves they've been doing this for a couple years.  We're not talking about a dozen books. 
 
Determination:  They probably don't have the backlist stock--don't qualify
 
The original pub date, sales Year-to-Date and previous year, lifetime sales of every single title, can be a very embarassing disclosure.  A house might have one copy that has sold 1,200 copies in three years, believing this to be their ticket to distribution, but if the rest of their backlist has average total sales of 45 copies (each) sold in three years, the chances are slim to none they will be picked up.
 
Available stock means just that--warehoused books.  That equates to offset runs, or very high initial POD runs (right from the gate).  Extrememly unlikely with POD publishers, and that's just about all you see out there who call themselves small or independent presses.  Expense is the culprit.
 
Determination:  Will not have sufficient inventory:  Does not qualify
 
Marketing and publicity plans--it's possible that a small POD press might have some ideas, tricks and gimmicks, but it is extremely unlikely that they will have any record of advertising dollars spent, or any real legitimate industry reviews.The major review sources are more interested in the big movers, large NY houses, and celebrity titles.  Expense and credibility are the culprits in this example.
 
Determination:  Won't qualify.
 
They better have an up-to-date HARDCOPY catalog, preferably a color one.  Sadly many of them don't.
 
Determination:  Won't qualify.
 
Folks, these are just some of the bare bones requirements for simple, relatively economic distribution.  The chances that your POD outfit (publisher) has a distributor is very unlikely.  Which will mean NO bookstore placement.  There are a few print-on-demand publishers who have offered very deep discounts and managed to get a few titles distributed.  But this is the exception, not the rule. 
 
Publishing today is black and white.  There is no such thing as a medium-sized publishing house anymore.  There used to be when I started in the late eighties.  Either a publisher has distribution or they don't. It's the difference between selling 46 copies and 4,600.  It's as simple as that.  Sadly, if you don't have an agent batting for you and sending your manuscripts out to the majors, you will be inclined to accept contracts from the smaller guys.  Good luck.  Your only recourse then is to work/negotiate the contract until you feel comfortable with the deal.  You'll be hard-pressed to get an advance, but it is possible. I've done it.  Anything's possible.
 
Good hunting.
 
P.S. three words have always defined legitimate publishing for me:
 
MASS-MARKET PAPERBACK
 
See if you understand the reasoning behind this.  It leads to a complicated but understandable formula.
 


© Copyright 2018 Chris Stevenson. All rights reserved.

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