Many new authors are mystified about how in the world to get their books into a bookstore. While is it fairly easy to list your book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com, getting your a course in miracles into a physical bookstore is very difficult for a new, self-published author.
According to Eric Kampmann, principal of MidPoint Trade Books, large bookstore chains are not interested in dealing with self-publishers or even small independent publishers. They are reluctant because they are not sure that the books will be of high quality with a professional cover and great editing, and it is too time consuming for them to deal with small orders.
That’s when a book distributor comes in.
A book distributor is the intermediary between the publisher and store buyers. Distributors put books in catalogs and send sales staff to pitch books to buyers. They are experts in wholesale book marketing and moving books into stores from warehouses. They also negotiate contacts with stores for special sales, front of store displays, and any type of special promotion for books.
There are different kinds of distributors. If you print your book with Lightning Source, as I do, Ingram Distribution will automatically distribute your book. This is good. However, Ingram has a very large catalog so your book will probably not get too much attention from their sales staff unless you are appearing on Oprah.
Other distributors are smaller and take a more personal approach. MidPoint Trade Books, for example, only agrees to distribute a book after a very rigorous screening process. If a book passes muster, the sales staff will enthusiastically represent it.
Most distributors start working with a publisher 6-12 months before the book is printed. However, distributors will also evaluate books that have been launched if they have sold 300-400 copies on Amazon in the first three months after release. Those Amazon sales figures show that the book can generate sales so a distributor would be interested in pitching it to bookstores.