How to distribute a self-published book (Update 1)

How to distribute a self-published book (Update 1)

February 19, 2022

There are oh so many ways to distribute a non-fiction self-published book and over the last few weeks in the lead up to the book launch,  I’ve been rediscovering them all in real-time.

One of the joys of writing and publishing all 396 pages of Look – It’s Your Book! is that in addition to interviewing so many entrepreneurial Australian authors and book experts, I’ve had an excuse to explore (again!) nearly every avenue open to a self-published author.

And if you’re planning on being an authorpreneur you may end up doing some of these too. I cover them off in lots of detail in the book (so don’t worry if some of this goes over your head if you’re coming in fresh), but I’ve also made some slight changes to my strategy for this book as the book launch date has drawn closer. (Yes! Another benefit to being an indie author…flexibility: flexibility in learning, flexibility in acting on learnings.)

I didn’t initially think this (my fifth) book would be printed by three different companies (I’ve only ever gone with two before), but yes…that’s what I’m doing, in part so I can trial it for you and let you know the results, but also, because it actually makes sense for my strategy.

In relation to book distribution for Look – It’s Your Book!, here’s what’s happening:

  • Some wonderful library distributors in NSW, SA, VIC, WA and QLD are taking care of paperback book orders for Australian libraries. (Thank you librarians for all those orders that are coming in!). I’m supplying these books from the main print run I did with an Australian book printer.
  • I’m supplying bookstores including Readings Books in Melbourne, Avid Reader in Queensland, my local Book Face in NSW (and other bookstores, book coaches, book designers and organisations wanting bulk copies) with direct supplies from the main print run too.
  • In addition to the main print run, I’m also using the POD (print on demand) printing and distribution framework of IngramSpark so that any bookstore in Australia who is not buying direct – yet – (including stores like Dymocks, Gleebooks and online stores like Booktopia) plus bookstores around the world (on and offline including Barnes and Noble), have access to the book. NB: Some of the online bookstores and sites are currently selling the book above its RRP…and I’ll discuss why in another post. And another NB (for all the NB lovers out there): Although this book is targeted to Australian non fiction writers, I understand that there may be Australian writers living overseas, as well as US, UK, NZ and other foreign authors who want insights into how some very savvy Australian authors who self publish have achieved their success, which is why I’ve made the book available for global distribution to bookstores, not just Australian distribution.
  • I’m also using the printing and distribution framework of Amazon KDP to ensure the book is available and always showing as “in-stock” on Amazon . So that means the paperback is also being printed by Amazon (even though they can also access it through IngramSpark) and Kindle will also have the ebook version. (I’ll write a post on this strategy down the track…I wasn’t planning on going with an ebook on Amazon Kindle (for a variety of reasons explained in the book) but something happened the other day that changed my mind.
  • In another distribution move, the ebook will also eventually be on Apple Books…but there’s a bit of admin to do on this and I’m not sure it will be ready for download on book launch day. That’ll teach me for leaving it to the last minute!
  • I’m also working with some online (non-book) stores who want me to drop ship the book when they make a sale.
  • Finally – but most profitably for any self-publisher –  I’m also selling the book direct. Yes, DIY book distribution. You may do this using the resources of your virtual assistant (VA), personal assistant (PA) or outsource it to another company, but for me, I’ve been loving taking preorders for the book and workbook direct from my site, packaging them up, writing notes and sending them on their way with a big dose of good vibes to other would-be authors. It’s not a chore, it gives me pleasure to see my book heading out into the world, hopefully to help other books – your book – get out there too. (Apologies to the post office though, sometimes I’m there three times a day as the stash is too heavy and high for one trip. I’ve also briefly co-opted my Mum’s wheelchair to make it easier.) Hey – it’s 2022, we don’t need to be slick, we need to be real.
  • And… there will also be direct sales at the book launch, writers’ festivals, writing workshops and other opportunities that present over time. THESE ARE SO FUN!

So, that’s the basics of how I’m distributing this book.  Sure, what I’m doing might not work for your own goals, book or audience of readers. Perhaps giving 70-80% to a book distributor, or choosing to work with an assisted publisher who can take all the backend off you is exactly what you want. And that’s fine too! Each book is different. Every author is different.

In finalising my distribution plan though, it really brought to light the economics of book distribution. Obviously, DIY direct book sales give by far the highest return per book. But even the royalties made by working with IngramSpark, Amazon KDP and library distributors (minus their take for the great service and distribution they offer) far outweigh what a traditionally-published author would make per copy.

That’s right. Did you know that a self-published author can make the same amount of royalties on book sales as a traditionally published author but by selling 20-30 times LESS books? That’s right, in my book’s case, if I sell 2000 books through a combination of full-priced direct sales, a 40% discount to library wholesalers, and through the Amazon and IngramSpark network, I will be able to make about the same amount in royalties as a traditionally-published author selling 40,000 to 60,000 copies of their book. WILD HUH!? I might go more in-depth on this in another post because it really needs to be explored and understood more by would-be authors as well as traditional authors who are thinking of spreading their wings into indie publishing. Yes, self-publishing can really make sense (not just cents)!

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