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How Does Book Distribution Work?

Photo of dough being made
A few years back, I looked into the food consulting business. I wanted to know what it would take to get my homemade pizza sauce onto store shelves. I met up with a man who had over 30 years experience in the grocery industry. He explained the process very clearly. He said that for a fee, he could get the pizza sauce ready to go into a distribution center. One of the most important steps that needed to be taken was to get a UPC code for the back. Without that barcode, stores could not place an order for the product. The UPC is much like an ISBN number for books. Now that the pizza sauces would be available at the distribution center, I don’t have to do as much work, right? Wrong! The food consultant explained that I would still need to create demand for the pizza sauce. The product does nothing but collect dust unless stores order the product. If demand is not created to move the pizza sauce from the distribution center to the stores, sales cannot happen. The same is true for books. Having your book setup with a distribution network only makes your book available for bookstores to order and place on their shelf. But if there is not demand for your book will the bookstores order it? Many self-publishing authors are under the impression that once they are in a distribution network, the distributor will advertise and sell their book for them and no more work is necessary. The distribution network only makes the book available. The author still needs to create demand for the book. Authors really need to take into account how they are going to promote and market their book. Do they have a website setup and optimized for the author? Are Internet ads being placed concerning their book? What about working with a team of public relations experts to help with social media, radio, and TV promotions? Leave little to chance- create a marketing plan and stick to it. Creating demand with readers is the best way to take advantage of a vast distribution network. On the flip side, a great marketing plan without distribution leads to frustrated fans who are not able to buy your book. Both marketing and distribution go hand in hand.

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