New Book Distributor

I found out this week that my publisher, Autumn House Press, is using a new book distributor. A year ago, I didn’t know what a book distributor was! Basically, the press prints the book and stores it at their office. Individuals can buy directly from them. But how does a book get into a library or a bookstore? Most libraries and bookstores don’t order directly from small presses: too cumbersome and way too much paperwork. Hence: book distributors.

Big Houses such as Penguin Random, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster act as their own distributors. They buy. They sell. They send out. They have a sales team that meets with the big stores: B&N, Target, Costco.

Smaller houses and presses don’t have the money for a team, let alone a sales person! They don’t have the facility, time or staff to handle shipments. Instead, they use book distributors.

So what do book distributors do? They take orders, fill orders and ship. They handle returns and complaints. Some distributors are regional. Some are genre specific. Some are classroom and age specific. They may or may not keep your book in stock. They may or may not advertise your book.

There are a LOT of book distributors in the United States. Here’s a list of top distributors from BookMarket.  It’s quite surprising to me. I never really thought about how books get from the press to the public. I imagined the press did the work. Nope. Book distribution is a whole other job. They take a certain – it varies – percent of sales. That’s how they make money and exist.

The two biggest distributors in the U.S. are Ingram and Baker & Taylor. When my book came out Autumn House Press already had a working relationship with Baker & Taylor. I was really excited to hear about it! Baker & Taylor! Many stores and libraries have accounts with these two distributors.

In theory, you should be able to buy my book from B&T. In fact, they don’t keep my book in stock, so it is not very attractive to buy from them as the process is slow. If you type the title of my book or my name as author into the Baker & Taylor website, nothing shows up. Nix. For months they carried my book at the wrong price. A local bookstore owner tried to buy my book from them and wasn’t able to. So much for distribution!

A few weeks ago, Autumn House Press began using SPD: Small Press Distribution out of Berkeley, CA. According to their website they  were founded in 1969 and are “currently the only distributor in the country dedicated exclusively to independently published literature.” They are a non-profit and proclaim “Everything we do is aimed at helping essential but underrepresented literary communities participate fully in the marketplace.”

I can go to the SPD website, type in my book or name, and there it is: So Many Africas.  30 copies currently in stock.

I am very happy to be able to tell stores or libraries that my book is available at Small Press Distribution. It’s legit. Look … there it is on their website. Who knows if it will make any difference in sales. I certainly don’t know. But if your library or a local bookstore wants copies – HEY! Tell them to BUY a copy!- and  then send them to SPD. It’s in stock.

Jill Kandel
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