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Book Distribution Channels - From Pen To Shelf

When you’re a book author, you want as many readers as possible to find and buy your book. But how does that happen? In this blog, we’ll explore book distribution channels, including the differences between distributors and wholesalers, direct sales, and the major eBook retailers. Finally, we’ll look at which channels are likely best for marketing your book.

What Are Distribution Channels?

Book distribution channels are the ways a book is sold and distributed to readers. These channels can include physical bookstores, online bookstores, wholesalers, distributors, and more.

When a book is written and bound, it is typically sold by the publisher or self-publisher to bookstores, wholesalers, and distributors. Wholesalers and distributors then circulate the book to retailers, both physical and online. This is how books are ultimately sold to readers.

Book distribution channels are an essential part of the book-publishing process. Without them, books wouldn’t be able to reach their intended audience.

Distributors Vs. Wholesalers

When it comes to book distribution channels, there are two main types: distributors and wholesalers.

Wholesalers are companies that handle the distribution of books from publishers to retailers. They act as a middleman, taking a cut of the profits for their services. Two of the biggest wholesalers in the book industry are Ingram and Baker & Taylor. Wholesalers buy books from publishers in bulk and then sell them to retailers. They charge a lower price for the books than what publishers typically charge. This allows retailers to make a profit when they sell the books to readers.

Both distributors and wholesalers are important to the book industry, as they help ensure books reach their intended audience. In some cases, it can be challenging for publishers or self-publishers to sell books directly to retailers who generally purchase from wholesalers.

Direct Sales

In addition to distributors and wholesalers, authors or publishers can sell their books directly to readers (direct sales). Direct sales can be an effective way for authors or smaller publishers to reach readers, as the books don’t have to go through a middleman who takes part of the profits. Authors or presses can set their own prices, market their books directly to readers, and keep more of the earnings. However, direct sales also puts the entire burden of marketing, mailing, and processing the financial sales of the books square on the shoulders of the author or press.

Direct sales can be processed through an author’s website, a publisher’s website, or even through a third-party platform such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble, although in those cases Amazon and Barnes & Noble do take a significant percentage of the profits. Some industry professionals believe that direct sales will be a primary income source for many publishers of the future.

eBook Retailers

When it comes to book distribution, one of the most popular methods today is via electronic format, or eBooks. eBook retailers are companies that sell eBooks to readers. The most prevalent eBook retailers are Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Google, and Kobo. These retailers make it easy for readers who use electronic devices to store and read their books to find and purchase books. They also offer authors a way to reach a large audience, as eBook retailers can have millions of readers who use their platforms. eBooks also might offer larger royalties upon book sales because they don’t have to subtract the cost of printing a paperback or hardcover to the cost of the sale.

Which Channels Are Best?

The answer to this question depends primarily on an author or publisher’s goals and budget. For example, if you want to reach a large audience quickly, distributors and wholesalers are a great option. They can get your book into bookstores and online retailers quickly, which will help you reach more readers. Often bookstores will only look to wholesalers for product purchases, so having your book available through one of the major wholesalers can be important. Of course, your marketing efforts still have to generate interest in the book; as with any product, a retailer will only purchase book copies from wholesalers if there is a demand and they think they can sell them. Sometimes a bookstore will order your book from a wholesaler if readers walk into a bookstore and ask for it. This can be one way to generate retailer interest.

It’s important to know, however, that retailers have the option to return any books they don’t sell for a refund. In this case, a wholesaler can actually charge you back for any returns.

If you’re looking for a more cost-effective option, direct sales and eBook retailers are a great choice. You can generally set your own prices and market your book directly to readers. The greatest benefit of these two revenue streams, as I’ve said, is that they allow an individual or company to retain a larger amount of profit from each sale.


Book distribution channels are an essential part of the book-publishing process. They ensure books reach their intended audience. In addition to distributors and wholesalers, authors can sell their books directly to readers through direct sales or the sale of eBooks.

When it comes to choosing the best channels for marketing your book, it all depends on your ambition and your budget. Distributors and wholesalers are great for quickly reaching a large audience, direct sales and eBook retailers are cost-effective. But one truth of bookselling can’t be escaped: no matter what distribution channel you use, the key is to have a strong marketing plan that creates reader demand for your book and convinces retailers that it will sell. This will generate more interest from any distributor or retailer. Book marketing can be a daunting task, but with a strong marketing plan and the right book distribution channels, you can ensure your book reaches your target audience. So, take the time to explore the available channels and choose the ones that make the most sense for you and your book.

Good luck!

Written by:

Joshua Adams

Senior Editor

Huntsville Independent Press



Huntsville Independent Press is the premiere publishing imprint of the Southeast United States, and we want to help you, the author. HIP provides, at no cost to our signed authors, a better solution for the publication of your story. Our contracts are non-restrictive and offer higher royalties for our authors. No HIP advance is taken out of royalties. Your advance from us is a one- time payment for the privilege to publish your book and is not a loan. Our passionate team of editors work diligently to ensure that the uniqueness of your story is preserved through the editing process. While you’re here, feel free to look around to see if Huntsville Independent Press is the right home for your work. We are always happy to have talented authors find a publishing home here with us.



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