Get Your Books to the Global Market

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April 2014
by Janice Schnell Butler

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Janice Schnell Butler is a key account sales manager for Ingram Content Group, where she focuses on offset and print-on-demand book manufacturing and distribution as well as on digital content solutions for publishers. A member of the IBPA board, she joined Ingram in 2007. To learn more: janice.schnell@ingramcontent.com.


In today’s all-access-immediately world, publishers are always looking for new opportunities to provide the broadest access to their content for readers worldwide. And thanks to new technologies, e-book formats and expanded book printing options that include print-on-demand, the global market is now accessible to even the smallest publishers.

Given the low barriers to entry, this is a perfect time to confirm that you are taking advantage of all available options for making the most of your content.

For Worldwide Sales of E-Books

Many studies and reports by book industry leaders show that readers like their content both in print and in e-formats. Publishers not familiar with creating and distributing e-books can work with a number of e-book aggregators to develop files and streamline their ability to access widespread markets through a single point of entry.

Content aggregators, such as IngramSpark, BookBaby, Vook, and Lulu, just to name a few, have tools you can take advantage of to easily produce an e-book and make it available to retailers, large and small, all over the world.

When you’re looking for the right partner, carefully review each aggregator’s selection of solutions. Some offer aggregated sales reporting that eliminates the need for you to ingest multiple formats from various retailers and creates a uniform structure to account for sales. Some offer metadata support that often saves publishers much time and many headaches.

Pricing models vary from aggregator to aggregator. Some allow conversion and distribution for a flat fee; some charge slightly lower fees and take a percentage of net sales; while others charge a setup fee and a percentage of net sales. It is also common for aggregators to have pricing and discount structures driven by the retailers they distribute to.

Each retailer usually requires a slightly different version of metadata for titles submitted to its site, but leading aggregators take complete metadata from a publisher and parse it as needed for retail partners so the publisher does not have to do that.

Most aggregators also facilitate conversion services for a fee, and these services are sometimes necessary, depending on the source file you are providing. Generally, retailers accept EPUB files, but if you don’t have an EPUB file, or if you want to optimize your file for specific devices, you will need conversion services. Fees vary with complexity and are usually nominal for an EPUB being optimized for MOBI, KF-8, or another specialized format. Costs will be higher for converting from a PDF to EPUB, and for titles with complex formatting or numerous images.

Some aggregators will let you work directly with retailers such as Amazon or Barnes and Noble while using their services for the rest of the world. This is a great solution if you have already negotiated submissions and terms with certain retailers.

For Worldwide Sales of Physical Books

The growth of print-on-demand has revolutionized the availability of physical books in the global market. No longer is it a matter of selling rights, dealing with long transit times, or missing sales due to inventory issues. Selling printed books worldwide is do-able when you simply have a file ready to print at book manufacturing facilities around the world. Print-on-demand works whether you have your own warehouse locations, partner with a distributor, or just make your titles available for consumer discovery internationally.

There are several ways to take advantage of print-on-demand for international sales. You can choose a short-run, print-to-inventory model, using printers with the ability to produce short-run quantities to drop ship anywhere in the world.

Some printers, such as Ingram’s Lightning Source and Amazon’s CreateSpace, have the ability to print in other countries and drop ship on a publisher’s behalf. This saves both time and money by eliminating the need for you to ship overseas from the United States. It also helps you manage your inventory. When you can have small quantities printed and shipped quickly in a variety of locations, you don’t have to worry about having excess inventory or running out of inventory.

An alternative to shipping inventory into the global market is virtual distribution. Lightning Source and IngramSpark offer print-on-demand wholesale distribution to retailers and wholesalers in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia; and German, Brazilian, and Russian markets with zero inventory. CreateSpace has a similar offering for international distribution on Amazon sites.

Costs are typically based on the print charge for the title and its wholesale price. Print charges for print-on-demand are generally a bit higher than those for offset, but of course you do not have freight or warehousing costs or inventory fees that generally apply for bulk printed stock of a title.

Supplying these companies with print-ready title files and providing rights guarantees and market pricing means you don’t need to preprint inventory. They will make your titles available to all their retail channels around the world, and whenever an order is placed, they will print and ship the books, usually in less than 24 hours from the time of the order.

Publishers are using this option for all types of titles, including backlist, midlist, and frontlist, partly because it lets them devote more time and resources to marketing efforts that will increase their books’ exposure to various markets. Another advantage, now that consumers in all different locations are looking for content in all different languages, is that the language of the content doesn’t limit its range of distribution.

Summing Up

In short, combinations of e-book services and print-on-demand solutions can make it almost effortless to expose content to consumers around the world. Partnering with service providers that facilitate worldwide distribution, streamline the distribution of metadata, and manufacture physical books, publishers can focus on the core of their business—curating and developing content, and marketing that content everywhere that readers for it might be found.

Making the message even shorter, with minimal effort, you can have a global presence for your publishing company and your authors as well, no matter how big or how small your publishing company is.

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