The Realities of Distribution

June 2002
by Thomas Woll

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For many publishers, getting distribution is the hardest part of the process. You have the idea, you can control editing and production, but when it comes to distribution, you are at the mercy of companies that specialize in sales, warehousing, fulfillment, and accounts receivable. Will they take you on or won’t they? Will your books make it into bookstores or not?

As Kathy Welton’s article in this issue shows, there are options for most publishers. Ideally you could find your company courted by one of the big three, Publishers Group West, National Book Network, or Independent Publishers Group. On the other hand, many publishers, in their enthusiasm–or desperation–to get distribution, sign up with distributors that have tenuous backgrounds and shaky financials. These publishers are so eager to sell books that they don’t do the rudimentary research to determine whether the distributor they’re enamored with is solvent. Too many ignore warning signals they should have heeded.

Over the past years (OK, decades), we’ve seen many well-known, respected distributors go bankrupt–Kampmann & Company in the ’80s, Atrium in the ’90s, and now Login Publishers Consortium (LPC) in the early 2000s–after having provided a valuable service to their publishers and, indeed, to the industry. Many less well-known distributors lived briefer lives only to flare out in a blaze of ignominy. Current rumors allege that others may f…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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