There are a few things the aspiring indie needs to understand about his distributors and printers if you’re using a POD service like CS or LL or even LS. First things first, the second you become an indie – you need to conduct yourself professionally. So remember this. The rules that apply when you’re dealing with service providers (distributors and printers) and customers (readers) during your day job also apply to your indie career.
Now some things to consider:
Before entering into ANY agreement with a distributor, make sure you know what you need and expect.
Then, before placing your book with them – make sure you understand how they work. Make sure you understand how you’re paid and how your sales are reported. Make sure you understand all costs.
Once you’ve chosen a printing service/distributor realize that it’s not their job to promote your books. Just because your book is available is NO guarantee there will be sales. Marketing the book and generating an interested audience is your job.
If you have a problem, DO contact your distribution/printing service to let them know about your concerns. Don’t stew in silence. I kind of feel like I (among thousands of other authors) was one of the beta-testers of the PubIt eBook system. They’re still working out glitches and I keep an open line of communication with them so that they can work out those glitches. They don’t know about them unless you say something. So instead of immediately jumping to the conclusion, “My distributor is fucking me!” at least give them the opportunity to try to help you.
Here are a few things you should do to periodically check up on your distributor/printing service. I like to view it as quality control.
- 1. Order a copy of your book from a local bookstore and see if there’s any hassle and how long it takes to get the book. In doing this you are simulating the experience your buyer might have when trying to acquire your books through a local bookstore. Not only that, different distribution companies may outsource their printing jobs to different printers which means you can check the quality.
- 2. Randomly order copies of your eBooks just to see how long it takes for sales to log and to make sure sales are being logged. I suggests using gift cards and a second online account to buy these random copies.
- 3. Randomly order one copy of your book from Amazon and one from Barnes & Noble online. See how long it takes for your service to report the sale. It will also give you a clearer look at the quality of the books being sent to your customers.
Do this at least once a year. It will keep you updated on what your distribution service/printer is doing (how sales reporting is going), how the product quality is, and how your customers are being served. I know some authors are out there saying, “Yeah, but I can’t afford that!” Here’s the thing — if you want to make sure you have quality control, sometimes you have to spend a little money. Besides, if you make enough writing income to have to claim it on your taxes — this sort of thing is a write-off.
Now following the above to the letter will not alleviate every problem you’re bound to encounter with a distribution/printing service. I had some interesting issues with Amazon earlier this year on one of my titles. But they fixed it once they knew what was going on. The key is communicating and trying to figure what’s going on before flipping out.
What should you do if things go wrong? Well find a new distributor of course. Distributors are not all created equally. You may find after time your current distributor isn’t attentive enough or that you get a better product with a different distributor. I’m not a fan of keeping all my eggs in one basket. That’s my advice. 🙂