7 February 2013 - 12:37 pm

Independent vs Traditional Publishing: Distribution

This is probably not the most effective distribution method for your books.Picture by Corey Leopold.

This is probably not the most effective distribution method for your books.
Picture by Corey Leopold.

(Part of the indie vs trad series.)

The purpose of publishing your work is to reach an audience and have the best sales you can. That means you’ve got to get your published book out to as many people as possible, so it needs to get to as many stores as possible. For this, you need access to a distribution network.

This is the area where traditional publishing have traditionally held the high ground. The biggest advantage they have is their distribution network and marketplace presence. They will send your book to all corners of the region (whatever geographical region you have signed with them to be published in), and it will appear on bookshelves in front of bookstore browsers everywhere. Traditional publishers are in the business of selling books and getting them out to the customer is exactly something they’re set up to do.

For a self-publishing author, it is difficult to match this when it comes to paper books. It requires a lot of money, contacts, deals, and effort.

However, if you’ve been reading any of the publishing-related blogs or news out there, you’ll know that ebooks are on the rise in a big way. Predictions state that they’ll outstrip paper books in the next year or so, in sales volume if not in monetary worth (due to the disparity between paper and ebook prices).

So what about distribution of ebooks? How easy is that to achieve?

In the ebook realm, traditional publishers’ reach doesn’t outstrip the indie authors’ options. More and more retailers are adding self-publishing options to their services, allowing independent authors to publish directly to their store: over the last year, Barnes & Noble and Apple added their names to the list of venues for this, and Amazon’s KDP service has been going for some time now.

Even better, indie authors can use ebook distributors to reach even more stores. Smashwords is the biggest of these, and distributes books to retailers and libraries beyond what an author can reach alone. Check out Mark Coker’s The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success for more information on the advantages of self-published authors using a distributor.

Having publishing ebooks myself, I can attest that it’s very simple for authors to do themselves.

The real questions: what format do you want to be published in? How important is the format to you? Do you want to see your book on a real bookshelf or a virtual one? Where do you think your audience lives most?

As far as reaching readers and getting your book ‘out there’ goes, traditional publishers win hands-down for paper books, but the war is still raging in the electronic space. I’d say that the stakes are probably even there right now for sheer distribution power.

Next up: Marketing

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (1)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • More pls (0)


  1. Francisco says:

    Whilst I would not want to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm, I would advise people to look into their legal situation before publishing anything. I did and it’s changed my plans drastically:

    I was thinking of publishing on a specific website for authors that has a donation button (where the donation goes to the author). I spoke to someone at HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) and I was advised that the way the website was set up, I would be classified as a business. From my understanding of UK Law, that puts my costs up a lot.

    Now my plans are to publish on the webspace my ISP gives me, have no sales and tell only friends, family and acquaintances about it.

    February 9th, 2013 at 7:50 pm

  2. Mel says:

    Yup, very good advice. Always check out your tax situation before you seek money for your work and make sure you’re covered off.

    I checked it out here in Australia, and as long as I’m earning below a certain threshold, it is classed as a ‘hobby’ and not business income. Which is easier (and cheaper) in tax terms. Still, it’s always a good idea to have a professional (tax) accountant check things out (and do your tax return) to make sure there are no surprises. And don’t forget to keep receipts for everything you might be able to claim as expenses, to ease that tax burden.

    February 9th, 2013 at 8:01 pm