Distributors handle the warehousing, invoicing and delivery of books to whoever orders them—wholesalers, retailers, book clubs, bookstalls, authors, etc.
Wholesalers serve smaller retailers and Amazon, and promote our books to their networks. Most retailers and libraries prefer to place orders through a wholesaler so that they are getting from one source rather than dealing direct with many publishers and distributors. Wholesalers supply smaller retailers faster than a distributor can.
Four months before publication we present new titles to key trade wholesalers such as Ingram, Bookazine, New Leaf and Quanta in North America, and Bertrams, Gardners, Westnedge and Bookspeed in UK. We, or our representatives, present titles to larger retailers such as Amazon,, Hudson, Hastings, BAM, NACS and Folletts in USA, Indigo in Canada, and Waterstones, Blackwell, Foyles, and John Smith in UK. We also present to library suppliers such as Brodart in USA, and to Bertram Library Services, Askews and Yankee Book Peddler in Europe. We supply book metadata to international bibliographic distributors such as Nielsen, Bowker and Bibliographic Data Services.
Over the years we have built strong relationships in certain subject areas. For instance in the Mind/Body/Spirit sector we have close links with specialist bookstores such as Watkins Books in London, and Banyen Books in Vancouver. In the Christian market we have close links with the wholesalers A Great Read and Goodnews Books. Our imprint for radical politics and culture, Zero Books, is popular with booksellers such as Blackwell, Bookmarks, Housmans, Folletts, Powell’s and City Lights. In general, our trading terms are effectively sale or return (returnable) and we offer trade accounts a discount off the recommended retail price RRP of 35–60%. We never refuse returns from an event and often offer increased discount.
These outlets market and sell our books by hosting events, and displaying books on their shelves and websites, as well as publishing articles, reviews and adverts. We also work closely with festival organizers, colleges and academic institutions, churches and retreats, arts centers and galleries, therapy centers and healing groups throughout the world.
Several months before publication day, we email newsletters to booksellers, journalists, foreign publishers and readers. These highlight author events, articles and interviews, and new and better-selling books. Our trade contacts include foreign publishers to whom we sell rights, and retailers, who are encouraged to pre-order new books ready for launch.
We cannot guarantee to get your book into shops. The strongest possibilities are in the independent, more specialist sectors. Chain stores will not in general stock books by first-time authors unless the author is already known, or has great endorsements from well-known names. Supermarkets will only stock books that are already selling a few thousand copies a week. More on expectations in Estimate of likely sales in Chapter 4.
Distribution, currency exchange and the state of the book industry locally mean that sales outside North America and Europe can seem disproportionately low. Increasingly, most sales outside these areas are through the big online retailers such as Amazon. It is particularly hard to sell fiction in paperback in Australia and South Africa. In other parts of the world, the numbers of English-language speakers might be very high, as in India, but local retail prices do not make it possible to deliver and sell our print books there.
We are continually building relationships with booksellers, new and established, big and small. The Contacts database contains about 1500 bookstores (2016) which is added to and used by authors and JHP alike. While JHP is in regular contact with many stores, offering new and bestselling books, it is unlikely that a particular book will have been pitched individually. However, authors can sift local, niche or particular bookstores from Contacts and pitch their book to them. Authors are often the best advocate. Start with email and follow up by phone. Use the AI sheet. They like local connection, topicality and a reason why their customers would pick your book off their shelf. Are you known locally, has anyone well-known endorsed your book, have you been interviewed by national or local media, does your book content relate to a current, hotly-debated topic? You could ask to sign copies or do a talk. There’s more on this in EVENTS/SIGNINGS in Chapter 11, and more on how booksellers can order books in ORDERING.
Trade advertising and promotion
We exploit any opportunities to have your book noticed by booksellers. We run adverts for qualifying books in trade catalogues published by wholesalers such as Ingram and by the trade press such as The Bookseller. These catalogues and journals are both in print and digital, and offer booksellers details of new books several months in advance of publication. Occasionally a book will be picked to feature in a special preview with extra column space. This advertising is recorded on your Marketing page in Activities.
We offer certain booksellers extra discount or free books in return for higher profile on their website or in their shop window, inclusion in promotional mailings to their customers, running an event and sometimes special “publisher shop front” space online.
We don’t run front of store table promotions in the big chains. When you see piles of books at the front of a bookstore, understand that the exposure was “bought” by the publisher. It’s mostly relevant to mass-market fiction and celebrity self-help, not the more specialist kind of books we generally publish. For example, it may cost $5000 to get a book on the "New Arrivals" table at all Barnes & Noble superstores. Or it may cost $15,000 to $25,000 to be the “Book of the Week.” For more serious widespread prime exposure around a single main bookshop chain you’re looking at $50,000–100,000. But it is not down to us to choose the book, the main bookshop buyer at head office does that.
Libraries generally do not buy from publishers, but from wholesalers, who we do contact. In the UK these are organizations like Bertrams, Askews and Yankee Book Peddler. There's a similar spread in North America, where Baker & Taylor has about 70% of the library business. These wholesalers pass on information to libraries through online feeds. There are useful articles on libraries at: http://www.strategicbookmarketing.com/services-library.html and http://www.library.pima.gov/contact/authors.php.
The degree to which libraries continue to receive taxpayer support varies enormously by region. The one common thread emerging recently is "PDA"—Patron Driven Access, i.e. "Patrons" or "readers" will have a greater role in book acquisition. Libraries need to make themselves more directly relevant to reader wishes. So though the library market is shrinking, the possibilities for direct author intervention are increasing.
- If you are an academic, please encourage your university library to stock your book, and others on the list, and subscribe to our newsletter. Do you know of courses where your book could be a course text or on a reading list?
- Add your library to our contacts database.
- Public libraries select books for the general reader but also consider books by local authors. Contact the collections development staff of your local library. They look to be told what the book is about. This should be brief and include how to order along with pertinent reviews and a complimentary copy. Public libraries now offer e-books too, so go online and check your local library has your book and, if not, recommend it and any others in the imprint. All our books in e-book format are distributed to Overdrive who run most public library platforms in UK & US.
- Reviews in library review journals, such as Library Journal, Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, can help. We submit a number of books each month to these journals and record this on your Marketing page in Activities.
Public Lending Right
In some countries the government pays authors a small amount every time their books are borrowed from a library. Authors have to register for this directly. It does not happen in the USA. For the UK, check on www.plr.uk.com.
Also, in the UK, you can register at www.alcs.co.uk. It’s a central body for collecting payments from schools etc. for photocopying. Payments will not be sent to you unless you register. It usually only applies to books being used as a classroom text.