The Mystique of Distribution

On the myths perpetuated by some publishing houses.
Feb | 7 | 2012

I’ve been saving this rant for a while but it’s time has come.

I know a guy who’s working on a manuscript. He’s been talking to some publishing houses and subsidy presses interested in doing his book. Of course, they are willing to take his money. Why wouldn’t they? They’d be silly not to.

They offer the usual services: editing, cover design, indexing, and the other things that a first-time author needs–at a hefty price. And, for their trouble, these companies are also offering fifteen percent of the net royalties of the book and onerous contracts.

It makes no sense for the prospective author to incur all of the risk and so little of the reward.

So, what gives? In short, these publishers are preying on the desire of new authors to get their books out at all costs. As an added carrot, they offer distribution–an intentionally amorphous term meant to confuse potential customers authors.

Key Questions

So, what does distribution mean and is it really a big deal these days?

The way I see it, distribution merely represents the ability to place books in desired locations. The ability, not any sort of guarantee. Getting a book listed in a catalog with hundreds of thousands of others does not guarantee prime placement in the front of Barnes and Nobles and in airport books stores.

These days, desired locations are increasingly online. Any author can get a book into the major electronic formats using a wide array of services.

So, before you sign up with a subsidy press, do your homework. Ask them what they mean by distribution. You might find that there’s no magic to it.

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1 Comment

  1. Kristen Eckstein

    I agree – distribution is the ability to get the book into a store. Marketing is what actually gets the book on the shelf. Marketing and the book meeting the proper guidelines, which I can guarantee you this type of vanity press won’t meet.


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