We use the word “distribution” a lot at Mill City Press, so it may seem like it’s interchangeable with some of our other services. To clarify, when we say “distribution” we mean the sale of books to other commercial third-parties like wholesalers and retailers. Examples would include Baker & Taylor (wholesale) and Amazon.com (retail).
Wholesale Book Distribution
Wholesale book distribution means that our distributor sells your book to a wholesaler like Ingram or Baker & Taylor. Many bookstores and other retailers can then order books from these wholesalers. When you look at your distribution reports in the Author Center, you may see orders initiated by Ingram and others. Those are technically sales, but Ingram (and others) have 90 to 120 days to pay our distributor for the books, so if they don’t sell the book to retailers, libraries, etc., they can return the books and not have to pay for them.
This is not the most ideal model for authors, but if you want retailers to be able to buy and stock copies of your book, you need to play by their rules. This is, for better or worse, the current way of the publishing world.
Retail Book Distribution
Retail book distribution means books are sold directly to a retailer (such as Amazon) from our distributor. There are cases where, for a high enough trade discount, a retailer may purchase books as non-returnable. This is a rare occurrence, especially with books by unknown or first-time authors. In cases where books are returnable, retailers do not have to pay for the books for a certain amount of time (60-90 days), and can return whatever doesn’t sell.
We know this may not be ideal, but it’s all part of the process if you want a chance to get your book on shelves. Despite the current realities of the publishing industry, we are trying to change things for the better by giving authors alternative options for distribution. We always encourage authors to focus their efforts on online sales because it gives them more control over their book sales. We strongly believe that the best strategy for selling books is to sell directly from your website, at events, or in ebook formats. A book does not have to be returnable to sell through any of these channels. You will avoid the red tape of dealing with retailers and you will make much more money per book sale than through either wholesale or retail distribution.