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Books In Print and Distribution

I recently had a question from an author/publisher who was essentially thinking that all she had to do to get "distribution" was have her book listed in Books in Print - a Bowker service that goes along with your ISBN. She is planning to have her book printed digitally and couldn’t understand why using Lightning Source as the printer was so important to her due to their connection with Ingram (Lightning is part of the Ingram Book Group and provides all publishers who print with them access to Ingram to supply the book trade). This is the response I gave her.


If I’m reading your post correctly, I think we are talking about apples and oranges.

Yes, you are correct that the retail systems get their information from the BIP database - including Ingram. But it is just that - a database of information about who the publisher is, who distributes the book, what size and type of book, etc.

So let’s think this through for a moment. Your book is listed in BIP with you as the publisher and no distributors because your book is printed on demand by X Printer (no one has inventory). So let’s say that the retail store has lots of time on their hands and they really want to get your book for their customer (an unlikely scenario - they are more likely to say "we don’t handle it" because they can’t get it easily through their normal channels of distribution).

What do they do? Where do they go? Without the Ingram connection as a wholesaler, the only choice is to call you directly - the publisher listed in BIP. How will you get them the book? They won’t (in all likelihood) buy directly from you as you aren’t set up in their system as a "vendor." They want to buy from one of their established sources - their own warehouse - or perhaps Ingram. So you have probably lost the sale.  Does that make sense?

You must have some sort of "trade distribution" in order to have "trade sales" - just being listed in a database does not give book sellers "access" to your book - a place to source it from.  That is why the Ingram connection is so valuable.

If you don’t print through LSI as an on demand printer, then you will have to strike your own deal with someone like Baker & Taylor to handle your book if you want it available to the trade.  You would then have it printed by your on demand printer to fill their orders and arrange to have the books shipped to your wholesaler (in this example Baker & Taylor). They require a 55% discount from list, plus you pay shipping. With your cost structure, can you afford to do this with your on demand printer? Printing with Lightning makes it simple and affordable.

2 Responses to “Books In Print and Distribution”

  1. Zal Puchkoff says:

    I’m in the same situation as the scenario above, and you do make sense! And i need an education. I have a new book ready to be printed. I don’t need many services. I will buy the ISBN and bar code from Bowker. OK?

    I do need the printer. I will add the book to my website to sell direct.

    You are saying that I need LSI (or a similar printer) that prints the book POD and handles the distribution of it to the retail trade through Ingram?

    If I retail the book at $13.95 (it’s a non-fiction soft-cover of 72 pages, 6×9),what does Ingram get as the wholesaler, and what does the retailer get? Is there anything left for me? Can the book be discounted without my permission?

    If I want copies for me, what would LSI charge me?

    Thanks for your input!

  2. Carol says:

    Zal -

    I can see that you are at the beginning of this very exciting journey - and you have made a good choice to start - you have decided to truly self-publish by establishing your own ISBN block at Bowker. That will separate your works (in a good way) from all the people who use the “POD Publishers” or better known as the “vanity or subsidy presses.”

    I as mentioned above, yo do not HAVE to have trade distribution - if you have a strong following on your website, you can certainly market just there. However, I would advise, at a minimum to get an Amazon Advantage account and have a presence on Amazon. They take 55% of your retail price and you ship to them as they order from you.

    If you want it available (not stocked, but available) to the book stores, then you must print with LSI (as of now) because they are the only on demand printer that has the connection to the book trade. If you do that, you don’t need a separate Amazon account - LSI will supply Amazon.

    LSI will let you set your discount anywhere between 25-55%. Of that, the retailer normally gets 40-48%. Unless you set it at the industry standard of 55%, you will get less orders (only fill demand). You cannot control what the retailer sells it for - that would be restraint of trade - a no-no in the US! You also need to make it returnable, if you decide to “play the trade game” as that is also industry standard. You can figure your printing costs on the LSI website.

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"And I thought after 40 years of writing, I could write a sales letter... WRONG! Carol White's letter went beyond my imagination and into the sales stratosphere. Thanks, Carol! " -- AD Walker