Distribution. You gotta have it, one way or another. So how do you get your books out there, into the hands of readers? Keep in mind, of course, that some ways are more effective than others—in other words, it’s a good thing when someone reads your book, but you have to weigh time and cost when it comes to getting the book to the reader.
And, too, you have to look at the value of the reader.
Yes, I said that whenever someone reads your book it’s a good thing—and it is—and while Mom and Grandma might tell their friends about it, or your friends might tell their friends, unless these are other relatives and friends of yours, no one is vested in reading that book. Likely no one will buy more than one copy; they might even share and pass around the same one.
The friends and family method is only going to net you, wild guestimate, 50-100 sales.
So, what’s next? Footwork. Pounding the pavement.
One of my author friends keeps a case of books and a small table in the trunk of her car. Whenever it strikes her, she sets up shop. I know a several authors who go to community festivals, markets, craft fairs, and so forth. Some of them do quite well, although I don’t know their figures.
YOU can do this too—but again, keep in mind the cost of entry, booth space, time involved, etc. For instance, if you spend $50 on one booth space for one event, and you net $5 per book, you have to sell ten books just to break even. If you’re sitting there for four hours, and sell those ten books, you’ve just “earned” $12.50 per hour—except you really didn’t, because of the cost involved.
You earned zero dollars. But you sold books, right? And yes, that’s a good thing! Realistically, though, how often can you do this? Every Saturday? Probably not, if you have a full-time job and a family. Will you sell ten books every time? Probably not. From experience, I can tell you that author events, regardless of venue, will generate from zero to 40 copies sold. Unless, of course, you’re a NYT bestselling author. But then you likely wouldn’t be reading this.
The same goes for events at indie bookstores—except most won’t charge you to appear in the store. They will, however, probably request that you bring your own books and they’ll pay you a percentage, usually 60%, of the sales; some stores pay 70%. Of course, eventually you’ll run out of local stores and will have to travel—which eats into both your time and your cost, and that means you have to sell even more books.
Unless you have distribution—surely, your books are on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. That’s pretty much a no-brainer. And your own website, for convenience. This stuff is easy, and free. There’s no excuse for not doing it.
But national or worldwide distribution? With all the books being published on a daily basis—nope, don’t have figures, try Google—you MUST be findable. MUST.
Booksellers—indie and chain—get their books from Ingram or Baker & Taylor. Yes, there’s a cost to list your books there—quite minimal, considering that ANY bookstore can look up your book in the Ingram catalog and ORDER IT! And yes, they get a discount. But because Ingram is a wholesaler, you have to give them a discount too.
Sure, you can do events at stores on consignment, where they pay you that 60%, and you can lug books all over the place to garner sales. But wouldn’t it be much easier to have someone else do that, like UPS? And, well, it’s a little more professional. Think about it.
The other part of mega-distribution is whether or not your book is returnable—if it’s not, via Ingram, booksellers are going to be very, very hesitant to order. Oh, sure, they can just get a couple copies, and many do. But if you want to sell, especially if you want to do a signing, you need booksellers to be able to order 20, or more—and not get stuck with them if your event flops.
Of course, it’s up to you to SELL the book, and yourself. Just because a book, along with hundreds of thousands of others, is available, doesn’t mean that a bookseller will notice it. But if you can tell a store that yes, your book is available, at a regular discount, and is returnable, they’re more likely to schedule you AND order your books.
Some stores, particularly chains, will ONLY have you in for an event if these criteria are met.
It’s really the easiest way to get your books out there.