What Does Book Distribution Mean (and are any Self-Publishing Services Really Offering it)?

Many self-publishing services offer “distribution” to bookstores, but that doesn’t mean your book will ever get placed on store shelves. Wait! Huh? What else could “distribution to bookstores” possibly mean, if it doesn’t mean placing a book into a store? Good question! We’ve looked at a few of the better-known self-publishing companies’ websites to help clarify what it is that they mean by “distribution.”


BookBaby describes its “distribution” program this way: “We offer book distribution to the most stores worldwide. Sell your book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books and more. Being able to sell your printed books in stores is great, but being able to sell them in the biggest bookstores all over the world is the dream of every writer! And that’s just what BookBaby delivers with our Print on Demand book distribution services. Make sure your book is everywhere your readers are, plus everywhere you want them to be.” (BookBaby website 12/18/18)

At face value, this all sounds great, but does it mean your book is being distributed to bookstores? No. It simply means that your book is being placed on a list (usually Ingram), from which bookstores would be able to order your book if they wanted to.

There’s a big difference between distribution to actual brick and mortar stores and distribution to a non-curated list containing millions of titles that most people are not looking for or aware of.

Amazon’s Expanded Distribution

Many self-published authors choose Amazon’s Expanded Distribution service, which offers the opportunity to “reach more readers by distributing your paperback through bookstores, online retailers, libraries, and academic institutions.” (Amazon website 12/18/18)

Once again, this only means that Amazon will place your book on a list, not that your book will be sent to bookstores directly. Perhaps even more importantly, when your book is “distributed” by Amazon to Ingram, their system shows booksellers that the book was added by Amazon, which will, in most cases, discourage retailers from ordering it.

In other words, if a bookstore has interest in carrying your book and they see that you are using Amazon’s Expanded Distribution, the odds of the bookstore ordering your book go way down.

The DartFrog Difference

DartFrog places your book directly into our own specially-branded sections of actual brick and mortar stores. We don’t “distribute” to a list. We place physical books on actual bookstore shelves.

Books curated by DartFrog are guaranteed face-front placement in at least 20 brick-and-mortar bookstores and are automatically considered for direct promotion to 2500+ book clubs through our exclusive partnership with BookClubz.com.

Of course, we can’t put your book into every store on earth, so we also help you (if you haven’t already done so) upload your book to Ingram (yes, that same list!). This ensures that other bookstores will be able to order your book if they wish, but also that you keep all of the royalty from those sales (because we help you upload the book to Ingram through your own account, not ours).

The Takeaway

What counts for self-published authors is visibility and distinction. Being “distributed” to a list gets you neither. DartFrog gets you both, through face-front bookstore placement.

December 18, 2018 by Andrew Dobrow

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