How Distributors Can Get Wrung Out & Hung Out to Dry

November 1996
by Howard W. Fisher, Fisher Books

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Several years ago I joined a distributor, and over the course of 18 months, I learned firsthand
what can go wrong in an exclusive publisher distribution business from the distributor’s
point of view. The intent of this article is to provide a look over the fence
to see what a distributor faces.Why Distribute?

First one has to ask the question, “Why would someone choose to become a distributor?” The nature
of the business seems to defy success. Trade distribution is a low-margin, high-riskk business, seasonally oriented to high sales
or high returns. Book jackets from your distributed publishers rarely meet your expectations or
those of your customers. Customers are fickle and can return product in any condition
without reason or recourse. Customers take deductions for anticipated returns. If the distributor
somehow manages to successfully navigate those perils and succeeds in building a publisher’s sales after
two or three years, that publisher can leave. Yet the distributor gets to take the returns
and diductions for up to another year! Some how, nevertheless, distribution — like most elements
of publishing — “gets in your blood.”What a Business!

I suppose most individuals who have started a pure distribution company have done so because
they have vast sales experience and see the opportunity to earn more than just a sales commission on books they
don’t ever have to actually own. Coming mainly out of the sales area, most of these
entrepreneurs have not h…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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