Epigraph Self-Publishing Service - Print Books On-Demand


Understanding Book Distribution

Four methods of book distribution every author needs to understand

How Print-on-Demand Distribution Works

Print-on-demand is a relatively new, though now widely used, printing technology, which is sometimes referred to as ‘digital printing.’ Print-on-demand books are printed directly from electronic files such as PDFs or InDesign files rather than mechanical plates. Digital or print-on-demand presses are capable of printing single copies of a book “on demand,” meaning when purchased by a customer. What most of the larger self-publishing companies mean by print-on-demand publishing is the combination of digital printing with digital online distribution. Digital distribution means that an image of your book’s cover along with catalog copy is uploaded to sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble (bn.com), and IndieBound, where the book is made available for sale. When a customer purchases your book on one of these sites, the book is printed and shipped to the customer. Because the customer pays for the book before it is actually produced, the cost of printing the book is deducted from the sales receipt, with the balance of the money going to the author/publisher. This kind of print-on-demand publishing is an economic breakthrough because it allows sales receipts to finance printing in exact quantities thus eliminating the necessity of a large investment in inventory in advance of publication. Major trading partners of Epigraph's on-demand distribution include Ingram, the largest book wholesaler in the US with over 25,000 US based (38,000 internationally) bookseller accounts including libraries and bookstores, Baker and Taylor, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, IndieBound.com, Powells.com, Booksamillion.com, BetterWorldBooks.com, and BookDepository.com. 

How Wholesale Distribution Works

Wholesale distribution refers to the use of established book wholesalers, such as Ingram and Baker & Taylor, to provide fulfillment of book orders from bookstores and libraries. Having your title(s) available through a wholesaler removes the need to set up a new vendor account for these very busy venues. For chains, such as Barnes & Noble (bricks and mortar), distribution through a major wholesaler is a precondition for stocking titles. The requisite terms for book wholesalers are 50% to 55% discount plus the ability to make returns. It is important to understand that wholesalers are primarily passive suppliers who are dependent on publishers and authors to drive sales. Therefore, wholesale distribution setup is generally a preliminary to bookstore marketing. Wholesale distribution setup is available through Epigraph's Custom Publishing with warehousing available. Print minimum is 50 copies. 

How Trade Distribution Works

Trade distribution refers to the use of a traditional distribution process with an established distributor. Distributors are a notch up on the supply chain from wholesalers, with whom they are often confused. Whereas distributors sell to wholesalers, the reverse is never the case. Another difference is that distribution contracts are always exclusive, whereas wholesale agreements are not. Distributors perform the dual function of sales and order fulfillment, including warehousing. Unlike wholesalers who are primarily passive suppliers, the main job of the distributor is to sell new titles to bookstores and libraries before they are published. As sales organizations they adhere to traditional publishing timelines with sales presentations (and catalogs) happening 3 to 6 months prior to publication. Having advance sales before printing is the factor that allows publishers to know how many copies to print. Because of the higher costs associated with trade distribution, it it is generally thought necessary to print a minimum of 1,500–3,000 copies with offset or web printers in order to reduce per-unit printing costs sufficiently. 

How Consignment and Self-Distribution Work

Self-published authors are recommended to sell copies of their book on a consignment basis to their local and special interest bookstores. The terms of consignment differ from store to store, but in general consignment means that the store will stock copies for a designated period of time. Sales minus store discount are paid to the author once the stock is sold, or at the end of the designated period. Any unsold stock is returned to the author. If a book is selling well, the process is renewed.The minimum standard bookstore discount is 40% (from retail price) and is acceptable to most bookstores stocking on consignment. In the case of books with a higher retail price, a lower discount may also be acceptable. The main advantage of offering books on consignment is that the arrangement is well established in the book trade.