A question I often get is “do you have national distribution?” And the answer is yes. Of course I will be using Midnight Ink as an example, but you can extrapolate your questions from what we do when you are talking to a publisher.
First we have internal sales reps that sell to some bookstores and to the big outlets (I will talk about indy bookstores next). Our sales reps go to Barnes and Noble for face to face meetings to present our books. That salesperson also works out co-ops with them. (I will talk promotions in the near future.) We go to Books a Million. Other internal reps sell to:
Baker & Taylor
Thorndike (large print)
We also do advertising and co-op with these folks. There are a bunch more places our internal salespeople sell to, but these are the biggies.
Here is the one thing that authors need to know – we can NOT make any of these companies stock books in specific stores or distribution centers. They buy and stock according to their own expectations of sales. They usually stock the stores in the region the book takes place and/or where the author lives. I don’t know how many panicked emails I get from authors reporting to me that the store can’t order books because their Ingram or B&T doesn’t have any in stock. This is why I always suggest that for signings and events, the store should always order directly from us.
So, as you can see, we sell to the large stores and distribution centers. What about indy stores?
We have commission sales rep groups throughout the country. I think we have every area covered except Texas. These various rep groups will visit a store and present our titles (including Llewellyn) to the bookstores. This is a very good thing! Back when I owned my store, I loved meeting with the rep groups. I bought more from the reps who came into the store versus the ones who called or emailed to take my orders. It is simple – by being in the store, talking to me and looking around, they had a better understand of my customer base and what I could sell. I even had sales reps tell me that I wanted to order LESS of some books. And while that may seem crazy, it was a very good business decision. Sales reps don’t just want to sell a ton of books. They also need good sell through. It does the rep no good to sell a store 100 copies and then have 80 returned. Much better to sell them 25 or 30. Better for the publisher, the store, and the rep.
One last thing about distribution… when we receive books into the warehouse (we are all in one big building here) as soon as the books are entered into the system, we beginning the shipping process. B&N has their own distribution warehouses. We ship to one location and they sort and ship to their stores, which is why they are sometimes slower to get on the shelves. Stores are free to start selling the print books as soon as they get them. Quite often that is 3-4 weeks before the publication date. (Ebooks are always released on the pub date.) Even with that lead time, we ask authors not to plan any events right on the pub date as occasionally a snafu occurs.
OK, I think that is it. If I missed anything, let me know!