A few days ago I received this comment from Jessica Powers:
Hey, Terena, I'm starting my own press this year--website not up yet but you can read the blog at www.catalystbookpress.wordpress.com--and I was wondering what you are doing for distribution. I've been going back and forth on whether I should even try for distribution since I want to focus my efforts on online sales. Curious about your thoughts.
Distribution is a tricky thing. How best do you maximize your opportunities for sales of your book without breaking the bank? There are so many choices out there for distribution, and each one has its own requirement. But first, you need to understand what distribution is, and is not. A distributor will help you market your book, for a price, if they agree to take it on as part of the catalogue they take to their clients, namely bookstores, to sell books. So having someone out there spreading the word about your book is great. And they want to make a profit, so odds are they'll try very hard to get your book sold. But it can be difficult to get a distributor to take your book, much like it's hard to get an agent. Look for a distributor who matches your niche for the best chance of being accepted. You probably already know this, Jessica, but I want to be sure anyone else reading understands as well.
I am not using a distributor. Instead, I'm using Ingram, which is a wholesaler, meaning they have the book in their catalogue and will fulfill the orders from bookstores, but I have to go out there and knock on the doors to get the orders coming. Ingram is my wholesaler because I decided to use Lightning Source, a print-on-demand printer, as my printer. They are a subsidiary of Ingram. Anyone who uses Lightning (LSI) can list their book in the Ingram catalogue. Most bookstores, including on-line retailers like Amazon and Powells, use Ingram to get their books. I pay a little more per book printed, but it's worth it to me for the ease at making the book available to retailers. You don't have to use Ingram or Baker and Taylor (the other big book wholesaler) to get your book listed on Amazon or the other on-line retailers, but it makes it easier. Amazon has their own program for publishers to get listed on their website. Powells also has a system, but when I read their information about submitting books for inclusion, it stated they prefer books listed with Ingram. I'll bet there is a more cost effective way than using print on demand with LSI and Ingram, but for sanity's sake, I decided to go this route.
I'm marketing Laura's book via the internet. If you are a niche publisher, then it's very easy to market on-line. The internet is full of websites and resources for people who will be interested in your book. I'm talking to everyone I can in the Orientation and Mobility field, as well as family members of blind people, support organizations for the blind, other Special Education and Rehab professionals, and Educators about Laura's book, as well as people who are blind, once the accessible version is available. We started with just O and M specialists and have been increasing the circle to other professionals who might be interested. I think of it as throwing a rock in a pond and watching the circles reverberate outward.
If you're a non-fiction or niche publisher, I don't think you need a distributor. The internet makes direct sales a thousand times easier.
Hope I answered your question. And remember, I'm still new at this too, so if other's have a different opinion, please let me know.