How to distribute self-published books
April 14, 2011 10:15 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know of a company or companies that do sales and distribution of self-published books?

I mean something beyond what is offered by most subsidy publishers, and comparable to what a royalty publisher might do.
posted by partner to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Assuming that you don't need anything other than sales and distribution--that is, you're doing the editing, design, marketing, getting an ISBN, etc, on your own--I believe that Lightning Source will accept publishers with a single title.

Lightning Source does POD, basically, but they're affiliated with many distributors and handle print production for many small presses. For example, at the publisher I work for, Lightning Source does all of our print books. Some come back to us, some go to Barnes and Noble stores, some go to Amazon, some go to indie stores on the other side of the world, whatever. These orders are all placed through and filled by Lightning Source, who take their cut and then send the publisher a check for the rest.

Effectively, you'll have *access* to the same channels that standard publishers do. Then you have to convince the bookstore(s) to actually carry your books, which is the more difficult part of the equation, but not really what you're asking. That said, if you've got an in, somehow--you're a big-shot local guy and have half a dozen local stores begging to carry your book, whatever--this is probably the easiest way to do so.

Obligatory disclaimer: I work in publishing, but not in production. My company uses Lightning Source to fill their print orders, but I'm otherwise unaffiliated. I have no first-hand experience with the company other than Ooh, hey, that book I wanted is here!
posted by MeghanC at 10:47 PM on April 14, 2011

I've used CreateSpace, a part of Amazon, and I'm quite happy with it. And the costs start at $0, which is a pretty attractive price. Of course, it won't be in bookstores (though they can order it); but that wouldn't happen with subsidy publishers either.
posted by zompist at 2:18 AM on April 15, 2011

I've never used it, but may be what you're looking for. Good luck!
posted by caoimhe at 4:15 AM on April 15, 2011

I have used both LuLu and LightningSource:

Lulu does the distribution and sales for an extra fee -- I think it's less than a couple hundred bucks, which is a deal, plus it comes with an ISBN. Plus, they do a good job of making book-formatting easy.

I'm not sure you can sign up with LightningSource unless you establish yourself as a publisher -- get your own ISBNs, predict ongoing publishing, etc. If you only have one or two books to publish and distribute and are unsure about where the next book is going to go to, LuLu is probably the better bet. If you're doing a series and have some book-design skills, LightningSource probably has better distribution and product quality, plus I've had good experience with their typesetting people; I was intentionally doing something odd with characters in the footer running off the edge of a page, and they actually called me on the phone to make sure it was supposed to look like that.

I've never used CreateSpace, but I have heard good things. When it comes to other self-publishers, make sure you get references or research well...most are just entrepeneurs who run your book through LightningSource/LuLu/CreateSpace and take a cut.
posted by AzraelBrown at 5:26 AM on April 15, 2011

I guess I should edit regarding "sales": LightningSource and the premiere LuLu product get the book on Amazon, B&N, etc., so they put it directly in front of end-customers, and they get the book into some of the larger distributors -- but getting into a distributor doesn't guarantee any bookstores will ever actually stock your book and put it on the shelves. That marketing falls on the shoulders of the distributor and/or the kinda stops being self-publishing when your publisher handles all of the marketing and sales and promotion on top of the printing and distribution, so if you're looking for that sort of service you may be better off just shopping your book to publishers.
posted by AzraelBrown at 5:41 AM on April 15, 2011

Thanks to you all. This is a big help to my research.
posted by partner at 9:13 AM on April 15, 2011

Coming in late to recommend dropping by the Absolute Write forums. There's unbiased information there on just about every facet of publishing, including self-publishing, and you can see if what you're hoping to do is viable. Be sure to check out any publisher you're thinking of submitting to in their Bewares forum, too.
posted by Georgina at 11:06 PM on April 16, 2011

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