Below you’ll find a list of terms and their definitions to common book distribution terms.

Chain: A large company that owns many bookstores under the same name. The biggest chain in the U.S. is Barnes & Nobles. A “superstore” carries 100,000 or more titles and can include a coffee shop and other amenities.

Direct-to-Reader Sales PageA page where readers can order books directly from the author, resulting in higher net profit.

Distributor: A company that warehouses, catalogs, markets, and sells books to bookstores, libraries, and wholesalers on behalf of a publisher.

Traditional Distribution: Traditional distribution is similar to the traditional model of book distribution, where your book is printed ahead of time and stored at a warehouse. A distributor then fulfills orders using your printed inventory.

Independent Bookseller: A retail shop, not owned by a large company, selling books to the general public.

Institutional Sales: Book sales primarily to schools and libraries, especially by children’s book publishers.

List Price: The cover price of a book, also called the retail price.

In-Store or On-Sale Date: The date a product arrives in the stores and is shelved for consumers to purchase.

Marketing Plan for Distribution: The specific marketing activities recommended by the distributor pitching your book directly to Barnes & Noble Small Press and to wholesalers like Ingram and Baker & Taylor. These include detailed book signing information, secured media coverage, and any other concrete plans you have that might convince them you’re likely to sell books in a specific geographic market.

OP or Out of Print: When a distributor has no copies of a book on hand and future reprints are unknown.

Out of Stock: When the distributor temporarily has no copies of a specific title on hand.

Print-on-Demand (POD) Distribution: POD means books are printed to order; there’s no physical inventory of your book. When someone purchases your book through or, the order is sent to the POD printer, where your book is printed and sent to the customer.

Publication Date or Pub Date: The day when a particular product will be available. Typically, the pub date is set for a few days after the book’s arrival in stores to help ensure that marketing and publicity can begin on schedule.

Returns or Returns Program: Unsold copies of a book that are returned to publishers from booksellers. In most cases, the bookseller returns any unsold books to the distributor’s warehouse.

Trade Bookseller: A company that distributes books to the general public. Example trade booksellers include superstores, chain stores, independent booksellers, and online retailers.

Wholesaler: A company that buys books in large quantities from publishers at high discounts and sells them to bookstores and libraries at a mid-level discount. Baker & Taylor is a wholesaler of books, videos, and music products to libraries and both traditional and Internet retailers. Ingram Book Group is a wholesaler of books, audiobooks, and periodicals to booksellers, librarians, and specialty retailers.