Distribution is the engine that drives the business of publishing. In traditional publishing–in the old days–distribution was altogether different from what is has become with the rise of the Internet. Traditional publishing distribution grew out of the Depression in the 1930s in America. It’s model was to produce many thousands–or hundreds of thousands–of copies of a single book and then store them in a warehouse. From there, copies were shipped to small bookstores and libraries throughout the land. This elaborate network is still largely in place in 2009; however, it is being challenged by a new model.
That new distribution model involves print-on-demand technology, where copies of a book are only printed when an order is placed, and printed from a digital file. E-book versions of a book can become a viable share of the market. “Storm Over Morocco” (ISBN 978-1935444251), by Frank Romano, is a case study in new distribution. That book has been marketed according to the marketing plan based on new distribution. Many readings were arranged at Barnes & Noble stores in the first year of the book’s publication and these were successful. For each reading, B&N ordered between 20-50 books, though sometimes leftover copies were soon returned to the publisher at a loss. (Note that the loss for returns with POD publishing is minor, a matter of cents on a dollar; and then the returned book can be used to obtain reviews–or resold. Returns, overall, with POD publishing are nominal, which is in sharp contrast to traditional publishing business models.) With approximately 25 readings, that could amount to as many as 1,250 copies sold. In the world of POD publishing, where the profit per copy sold is high compared to the traditional publishing model, that amounted to a significant profit. Sales through the distributor, Ingram, to individual bookstores; or sales to customers such as those at Amazon.com, were low but steady, and overall increasing. There are other distribution methods, such as Kindle e-books or direct sales to customers, and libraries. But initially, large bookstores were the key.
In the subsequent year, Dr. Romano gave another worldwide tour but now B&N had issued a new policy that forbade it to stock or sell POD books. The author relied on contacts he had made on the first tour with independent bookstores and had a measure of success. With the help of a hired publicist, he was able to secure much media on the 2nd tour as well. This media, such as radio and TV interviews, was then housed on the publisher’s and author’s Web site and used in Web marketing efforts. Over time, a network began to build of the author’s book, which in turn spurred greater sales of the book.
The following year, the present one, the author again gave a worldwide tour. This time Borders had opened its doors to POD books, while B&N remained closed. However, there were problems with Ingram shipping the books that Borders ordered to the stores on time, apparently because of the longer time to ship to the West coast. The author again relied on contacts with independent bookstores to give readings. And he acquired more media, of a wider variety, and greatly suited to Web marketing. For example, the author appeared on a Web TV channel watched by college-age students that was recorded and used for marketing. This is a summary of Frank’s events on the 2nd tour: May 26th to June 26th, he participated in 9 Borders events in London and the E. Coast. Then he went to the W. Coast for 7 Borders events, June 27 to July 19th.
By building up a network of media on the Web, in conjunction with POD technology, Storm Over Morocco is able to arrive at a self-footing in terms of sales. The book produces its own marketing and its own customers through that marketing. And that marketing increases over time, as with the Web, one article or story or piece of media is linked to greater numbers of places on the Web. A simple, well-placed advert can immensely boost this network and thereby increase sales, overall, which makes that advert very much worth its cost. There is no time limit to this kind of marketing; the reach of the book to its customers only increases over time as its network expands. Furthermore, there is always the chance that with greater exposure–given that the book is one of quality–much larger media outlets will seek out the author for an interview. The opportunities for Web marketing for an author are endless–everything from YouTube to BlogTalkRadio to posting discussions of videos on Blog Star, or simply blogging about the book.
Publishers are still battling the old system of distribution. Traditional publishers still control the lion’s share of the book market–and most of its capital. Unfortunately for them, however, it takes much time–as I have demonstrated–to properly market a book on the Web. Therefore, the old houses will soon wither and die and new publishing houses will be able to take the market share from the old houses and apply it assiduously to the business model of New Publishing. When that changeover occurs is anyone’s guess; but it likely seems to be very close now.