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Distribution – Pick Your Poison

I realize that this post is a tad overdue. While it wasn’t intentional, let’s just say that I’ve been more than a little busy as of late. Hmm – could have something to do with Duality being named a 2019 IAN Book of the Year Awards Finalist!
Ahem, anyway…I guess that makes this particular post more timely than ever because I wanted to talk about distribution and some of the methods I have considered as well as methods I see others participating in as independent authors.
First, I should make something clear. Currently, my work is distributed solely through Amazon. Paperbacks are printed on demand and sold on Amazon.com, and the e-book version is available via Kindle Unlimited. I have no firsthand basis for comparison with having my work distributed¬†through any other means. Actually, it’s been my research while I decide what would be best for me that brought the idea of this post about. There could very well be a better way to do this.
Why did I choose Amazon? Amazon is huge in this market. To say that they’re a known entity is a gross understatement. I chose them because of their name and because of the easy process. However, I do realize that I want my books to have even more visibility and widespread availability than just going through one source.
So, what else is there? I’m going to give a list of names that I have researched and am becoming familiar with. It’s not for me to give any pros and cons of each because that varies based on the individual and would also make this post way too long. Some of the more popular choices are Ingram Publishing, Smashwords, and Lulu. The former two, in particular, also offer more widespread distribution to include Amazon, but also additional e-book choices such as the Nook and placement in the Apple Store. Lulu, however, has the ability to offer the author a larger royalty share by not charging distribution fees.
See why I’m not going so far as to tell you which to pick? Go with what’s right for YOU. I’ll say this much, though – now that I’m more aware of certain options, I may be making some changes of my own very soon. I’ve also very recently become aware of Draft2Digital, but haven’t yet researched it enough to comment much about it as of yet.
I’m glad that there are so many options. A writer can pick those aspects they feel most comfortable with and have the freedom to tailor his or her own “contract,” so to speak, which is something most independent authors might feel is denied to them if they sign a traditional contract.
Going along with that, and something that has come up very recently in a discussion with an online forum is related more specifically to those of us publishing through Amazon. I was not aware until the other day that there are some who “look down” upon ISBN numbers that indicate that a book is independently published. In order to escape this stigma, some writers choose to buy “packs” of ISBN numbers elsewhere to apply to their books.
Is this really a thing? Well, for some it is. But, as far as I know, interest in Duality or Vitae hasn’t waned because I’m an independent author. I also don’t consider a book to be “less than” because the author isn’t traditionally signed. I’m not one to flip through a book to see whether “Independently Published” appears on an inside flap. But, acquiring an ISBN number is a huge part of the distribution process, so it goes along with the overall topic of discussion.
You may have noticed that I didn’t address vanity publishing. In case you aren’t aware, a vanity publisher is one that will charge the author upfront fees for a publishing package to sometimes include book cover design, editing, and distribution. Fees for such a service obviously vary, as does the quality of said service and the results it brings. Some vanity publishers want the entire amount upfront…some might even consent to take a percentage of the author’s sales until the fee is paid.
When I was 16 years old, a vanity publisher reached out to me. Even then, I didn’t think it was a good idea. I’m still not sure about it, though there are likely others who have chosen this path and will swear by it. As I said – whatever works for you.
The bottom line is that we have options and quite a number of great ones. We don’t have to settle for a one-size-fits-all business model for our work and can be free to compare, try, mix and match to our delight. As I mentioned, Duality was published and distributed solely on Amazon. Vitae likely will be as well. However, 2020 is shaping up to be something a little different, and I can’t wait.