Okay, this is a big bag of worms. And one that’s changing at the speed of light.
One of the biggest differences in self vs. traditional publishing is something “they” never tell you.
They being all those companies that want to sell you services to get your book in print. And this thing is something that writers are often shocked by—after the fact. It’s something new writers don’t even think about, until the horse has left the barn and they’re faced with the reality of what they have done.
And what is that thing?
Not the sexiest thing about writing and selling books, but it determines entirely whether your book even has a chance to be found in bookstores.
And, book-shelf space has gotten so incredibly competitive these days that only about one in a thousand traditionally published books get space on bookstore shelves.
But here’s the deal: The specific distributors that distribute traditionally published books, don’t handle indie and self-published books. Now, while this is starting to change somewhat, it’s still pretty much the case.
Bookstores order from these distributors. In the traditional model, the sales force gets materials early, pitches books to accounts, and preorders are placed—which is how print decisions are made.
All retail outlets (beyond Amazon) favor books with traditional distribution.
See the dilemma? If you self-published your book and want to see it on the shelves at the local Barnes & Noble, you’re out of luck. There is no distribution method to get there.
That door is closed before you even knew it existed.
And it’s a shame, because local bookstores like to have local-author signings. Some of them will bend those rules now and then, if you bring your own books (after jumping through about a thousand hoops!).
So just understand this before self-publishing your book.
Now, here’s the other kicker we can learn from what traditional publishers got wrong about all of this:
In the ever-changing world of all aspects of publishing, because of the distribution model they’ve always used, the big publishers got caught with their pants down. Until the last few years, most books were still purchased through brick-and mortar stores.
We all know what’s happened to that.
Bookstores have folded right and left. Even the monolith of Barnes & Noble.
Barnes and Noble currently has 647 stores and plans to only have 450 by 2022. This means they will have to close down 197 stores between now and then. In order to meet this target, they will have to shutter 19.7 locations every year.
Now that these big publishers are fighting with Amazon (another post entirely!), sales channels have narrowed even more.
Amazingly, the big publishers didn’t have virtual storefronts.
They had websites, but those were to publicize books—not to sell them. They didn’t sell directly to customers, but rather, they sold to bookstores who sold to customers.
Just in recent years have big houses finally opened storefronts online to sell to readers. Wow.
Make sure your author website has a method to actually sell your books to readers. Sounds like a no-brainer, but I’m always amazed when I go to an author’s site and the book is there, with a note as to where it’s available. Most websurfers won’t go that extra mile to find your book.
The game is changing. It continues to morph into things Traditional publishing never saw coming. Learn from what they did right. And what they did wrong. No one knows what’s around the next bend—no one.
Stay aware. Be ready to try new things. Plough new fields. Be a trail blazer. Who knows, you just might be the next Amanda Hocking!
What do you see as the next big trend?