When I began to look into publishing my first e-book several months back, I asked on the forums if anyone had worked with an e-book distributor before, since I was considering using one. Since I got few replies back, I thought it might be helpful to others if I wrote about my experience using a distributor. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to extensively research the e-book distribution market, so this article will be more geared towards some of the analysis I did when making my decision, and my experience with the distributor I did choose to use.
For my part, the main consideration I made was the fact that I could turn over my completed manuscript to someone else who would format it correctly and send it to electronic booksellers for me. If anyone else out there has more money than time, I can heartily recommend this as the way to go. I ended up going with BookBaby as a distributor, mostly because I’m in a band for which we’ve used CDBaby as our distributor for many years, and have been happy with their services as well as their distribution network.
Speaking of which, another thing that people will probably want to think about when considering a distributor is the strength of their distribution network. Obviously, some e-book sellers will generate more income for you than others, but from what I’ve experienced in selling art independently, it seems that the more places your work can be available to those who might want it, the better. BookBaby distributes to a number of American book sellers (Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, iBooks, Scribd, Kobo, Oyster), some international book sellers (Gardners Books, Ciando, Flipkart, Copia, eSentral), and some wholesalers that supply bookstores, libraries, etc. (EBSCO, Vearsa, Baker & Taylor).
Some of the other considerations that you might want to make when evaluating a distributor are what other services they provide (like the electronic formatting I mentioned earlier). One of the things I’ve enjoyed about working with BookBaby is the fact that they take care of all money collection and I simply set the threshold at which I want them to send me a check. As an artist, it’s kind of nice that I get to focus on my writing and let them handle the money, at least until it’s time to hand me some. They also offer some free and some discounted publicity options for your work through other services, something I’m just starting to investigate. Another consideration might be how easy it is to work with the distributor to fix any issues with your manuscript. During the publication process, I realized that my word processor had balked when I put together the whole manuscript for my book, rather than the individual chapters it had previously been stored in, and it randomly left words out through the whole of the book. I contacted customer service and informed them of the issue, and they worked with me through the process of getting them a fixed version to re-send to e-book sellers, the whole fix only costing me $60.
Cost is also going to be a consideration. For me, I paid $200 for the initial service of e-book conversion and distribution. Since BookBaby keeps no cut of what you sell, I get all the money the e-book sellers send when I make sales. Per my experience so far, it’s been worth every penny (in my case, simply for the ease of setup and maintenance), even if I didn’t sell a book, but so far I’ve recouped about half of what I spent for setup. Which is kind of cool, since I initially thought I might sell no more than 10 copies.
In short, I’d definitely recommend using a distributor if you have more money than time. Some of the major considerations you’ll probably want to think about if you’re considering using one are the services they offer, the strength of their distribution network, how easy it is to make changes, and the cost. I know this is not a comprehensive look at this topic, but I thought this would at least act as an introduction to get some information out there that might be useful to others. Please let me know in the comments if you have questions about any aspect of dealing with a distributor that I didn’t touch on, and I’ll get you answers if I have any.