After printing, it may be that your books are simply delivered to you, marking the end of your contract with the package provider. However, many all-in-one companies have the facility to distribute books on your behalf, either through their own stores or other online/high street bookshops.
Distribution Through Their Own Stores
Firms providing self-publishing packages often boast their own online bookstores. Investigate these before deciding who to publish with. They should be prominent and well designed, indicating the company places great emphasis on selling their authors’ books, as well as producing them.
Usually the package provider will take a commission on each book they sell, although, occasionally, they simply charge a yearly fee instead. This is another area where authors need to watch out. Some firms take up to 50% commission. Other, more reputable ones, take around 15%, leaving the author with 85% of the royalties.
Please note: this isn’t 85% of the cover price but 85% of the cover price minus printing costs. There’s nothing unreasonable about this: printing costs need to be covered. However, look out for companies who artificially inflate them in order to increase their profit margins. It doesn’t cost upwards of £6 to print the average paperback.
Another area less reputable firms try to skim profits is by adding an unclear and inflated administration fee. The worst claim to offer as high as 100% royalties but have so many hidden charges that you’ll see very little of this.
Transparency is key here. These companies are providing a service by giving you space in their online stores and taking the hassle of distribution away from you. They’re going to charge for this. You just need to make sure you understand what that charge is and that it’s fair and reasonable.
A good way to sort the wheat from the chaff, is to investigate the price tag of the books they sell. Are they reasonable and in line with traditionally published books in a similar genre? Fiction paperbacks, for instance, generally carry a cover price of between £6 and £9. If the package provider’s store is full of novels priced at £12.99, this is an indication that:
- The authors have been poorly advised
- They have to sell their work at an artificially high price due to poor royalties/high administrative charges.
Don’t worry too much if you find the occasional quirkily-priced book. Whilst offering advice, the best package providers give self-publishers the freedom to set their own book price. You’ll always find the odd deluded author who insists on charging £15, despite all advice to the contrary. Focus on the most common price for each genre and compare it with books you find in shops like WHSmith and Waterstones.
A decent package provider will also offer you the chance to sell your book further afield. This should include both online and high street bookshops and of course, Amazon. To do this, your book will need an ISBN. In addition, your package provider should ideally have well established relationships within the book trade.
Check any assertions made with regard to distribution very carefully. Disregard blanket claims of your book being available in a huge range of bricks and mortar bookshops. This doesn’t mean it’ll be stocked on their shelves but simply that a customer can ask for a copy to be ordered in, to collect at a later date.
This isn’t an exclusive service only a specialised company can provide. Any book with an ISBN is entered onto a database which makes it available for bookshops to order. You could achieve this yourself by buying an ISBN from Nielsen for just £89.
As discussed in previous posts, it can be very difficult to make a profit distributing via bookshops and Amazon, due to their 50 – 60% commission rates. On top of this, package providers will, in all probability, charge a yearly fee or an additional commission on each book sold (in return for managing distribution). This can make it even harder for authors to break even.
However, there can also be advantages to distributing via a package provider. Bigger companies have huge consignments of books flying about the country to which they can add yours, at little additional cost. This means the postage (for getting your book to the sales outlet) is often vastly reduced, or even free.
Making a profit distributing via bookshops and Amazon is no easy matter. You need to investigate on a case-by-case basis to discover what’s most profitable for your book. A good company will offer wider distribution but also the ability to opt out, if it’s unprofitable for you.
If your package provider is distributing books on your behalf, they’ll also need to store them. Sometimes there’s a small extra fee for this but more often, it’s included as part of the distribution deal.
Of course, if you’re using the print on demand model, then storage isn’t an issue as your books will only be printed as and when an order is made.