Distribution

Our books are distributed into stores across North America, wherever books are sold.

Our distributors are Publishers Group West (also known as PGW) in the US, and Publishers Group Canada (PGC) in Canada. PGW is widely regarded as one of the best distributors of independent presses in the US, with a forty-year history of nurturing relationships with booksellers of every stripe.

Together, PGW and PGC employ more than sixty sales reps who personally present our titles to all sorts of large and small retailers. In addition to national booksellers such as Barnes & Noble and online retailers like Amazon, this includes airport stores, big-box retailers, specialty shops, and independent bookstores. (Plus libraries and book clubs!) Some of our titles are also distributed into the UK and Australia.

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Our Jackson TN Warehouse

Our Jackson, TN warehouse

OK, but what does “distribution” really mean?

We talk to potential new authors all the time, and if there’s one thing they’re most confused about, it’s distribution. They may have talked to a publishing service provider who says they have “worldwide distribution” through print-on-demand, but who later admits they can’t get the author’s book into a local bookstore. They may have been impressed by statements like “your book will be available to order at any bookstore” and then felt let down when they realize that no stores are, in fact, ordering it because it’s just an anonymous SKU in a wholesaler’s catalog. So, what the heck is distribution? Why are some books only available on Amazon, while others are in actual bookstores? And how did they get there?

Glad you asked

We think it’s super important for you to truly understand what distribution is (and isn’t), so you can compare apples to apples when considering which publisher to partner with.

Here’s a little primer. In a nutshell, book distribution means two things:

  • Selling books to retailers
  • Fulfilling orders (and processing returns)

Let’s take this in two parts.

Glad You Asked

Our all-star sales reps at PGW

Distributors sell books to retailers

Bookstores need a fresh supply of new releases to put on their shelves all throughout the year, every year. To find out what’s coming down the pipeline from publishers, buyers consult distributors’ catalogs and meet with distributors’ sales reps, who then give them a little presentation on all the upcoming releases on their seasonal list. They have a chat about the various titles on offer, and the retailer places an order for the titles they think will sell well in their store. (This is an oversimplification, but that’s the gist of it.)

To make sure our sales force is well equipped to present our books in the most promising light, our publisher flies up to our distributors’ offices in Berkeley and Toronto twice a year to give an in-person presentation to the entire team of sales reps. She describes each book’s main selling points, displays the cover art, explains why the author is important, and lays out the marketing plan that will raise readers’ awareness of the book. Her goal in these meetings is to get the reps excited about our books, and she’s pretty great at it!

Publisher Maggie Langrick in action at the sales conference

Distributors fulfill orders and process returns

OK, back to the bookstore. Months after placing an order, the publication date arrives and so do the books, having been packed up at the distributor’s warehouse and trucked out to the store. If customers come in and buy all of those copies, the retailer puts in another order for more. But if those copies sit on the shelf, the retailer will return them to the distributor. Meanwhile, the distributor is handling all of the back-office stuff around the sale, from invoicing to collection, to monitoring stock levels, to remitting payments to publishers, to processing returns—and so it goes, all throughout the year.

That’s distribution.

It’s a complex, infrastructure-heavy web of sales and fulfillment activity between businesses whose representatives meet on a regular basis. And it’s not something that individual authors can do for themselves.

Do you need distribution?

Now, not every book is right for distribution into stores. Just as the retailer is careful to stock titles they feel they can sell, we are also selective about which books we put into distribution. A book is a good candidate for in-store distribution if:

  • there’s widespread awareness of the author and / or their book, whether from media coverage, the author’s previous books, or their online audience;
  • the book’s topic is appealing to a lot of general-interest readers; and
  • the book offers something different from (and better than) other books on that topic already in the market.

If that sounds like you, submit your book to our Best Book Program today, so we can get that baby onto store shelves!

But what if your book doesn’t meet all those criteria? Maybe it’s on a niche topic or, at the other end of the spectrum, on a very well-covered topic. Maybe you’re just establishing yourself and nobody knows your name yet. Or maybe you’re expecting to sell most of your copies yourself through private events and bulk sales. In that case, distribution might not make sense for you.

But that doesn’t mean the book isn’t worth writing! There are many reasons to publish a book, and all of them can be rewarding, with the right strategy in place. Check out our Private Label Program to learn how we can help you achieve your goals without in-store distribution.

Rights Management with Wonderwell

Rights management

Foreign-language translation rights are the publication rights of a book in another language and geographic territory. The benefit of selling foreign-language translation rights is multifold: your book reaches a broader audience outside of English language–only markets, you earn an additional stream of income through royalties, and in some cases, you may receive invitations to speak abroad as a result of your book’s increased exposure.

Wonderwell will represent your book to foreign publishers who may want to acquire it for translation and publication in their territories. Essentially, we act as your rights agent on a non-exclusive commission basis. As the foreign rights holder of your book, you can choose to manage any sales yourself; however, because we have established relationships with international publishers and agents, we can often secure opportunities that may not be available to you directly, and may negotiate a better deal in your favor.

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