Saturday, March 13, 2010

Baker & Taylor, Createspace's Expanded Distribution Program, and More

I thought I'd use this next blog to clarify a few things given feedback and questions I received.

First question: You stated that CreateSpace users need thier own ISBN. Does that still hold true in light of the new expanded distibution program implemented in December?

Response: Just to clarify, I did not say that Createspace users need their own ISBN. You are free to use the one provided free by Createspace, just understand that in using their ISBN you lose control over how that ISBN number is used. Remember that all the advice I provide is based on the premise that the author retains as much control and flexibility over their book as possible. So, using the CS ISBN won't have any impact on your Amazon sales but once we get into bookstores things get a little stickier. You can check out my second or third post in January which goes into why authors need to retain as much control as possible.

Createspace and Expanded Distribution

I must admit that while I use Createspace for Amazon sales and printing services, I am not sold on the effectiveness of the expanded distribution program. I think many authors who use it have not done enough homework to understand how it really works. So here are some key issues that I have with the program.

  • Expanded distribution does not allow you, as an author, to accept returns. Why is that important? Because one of the key things major retailers expect before they stock your book is that your book will be returnable if your book doesn't sell well. If it's not returnable most won't stock it. So, to offer a program that's supposed to get your books into bookstores without offering returnability is pretty pointless.
  • Createspace, as I understand it, does not disclose how much of that 60% wholesale discount actually goes to the stores. Why is that important? Because most major retailers won't stock your book unless they receive a wholesale discount of 40-55%--the higher the better. If Createspace is only offering 35%, as an example, then most likely a store isn't going to stock your book. So, again, the program is useless. Even with a higher discount, the returnability issue may hurt your chances. You really need to be able to offer both.
  • Too many authors think that a listing in Ingram means a bookstores and libraries will just start stocking your book. This couldn't be further from the truth. An Ingram listing only makes your book available through a store's normal distribution channel so that if by some miracle they find it, they could purchase it. But the chances of them flipping through a catalog of hundreds of thousands of books, seeing your independently published book, and picking it up--with all the traditional publisher salespeople beating down their door to get their books on the shelves--has about the same probability as a second virgin birth. It ain't gonna happen. If you enroll in the ED program and you aren't sending out letters and postcards, visiting, or calling retailers to get your book in libraries and bookstores, don't expect your book to magically appear on the shelves. Not gonna happen.

There are a few positives about the program:

  • You book gets listed on Barnes &
  • Your book gets listed with the International Amazon retailers

These things happen even if you do nothing. And the more places your book can be found, the more exposure it gets.

Baker & Taylor

Okay, so I spoke previously about having a time getting my book listed with Baker & Taylor so that I could be in the Borders Bookstore distribution chain and get my book on the shelves. Another author indicated that there was a way to do it, but suggested I purchase his new book to find out. Of course I wasn't going to do that because I'm the cheap indie author!! But I spent an hour yesterday figuring out a solution and here it goes. So--if your book is already listed with Lightning Source and you want to expedite the listing on Baker and Taylor, here's what you need to do.

Send an email to

In the email, explain that you are listed with Lightning Source and would like to get your book listed on Baker & Taylor. Include in the email your company name, your name, address, contact phone number and ISBN(s) and book titles EXACTLY as they appear on your Lightning Source account.

Once they receive this information, they will list your book in Baker & Taylor's systems as an inactive listing. When they notify you via email that your company information is listed, you will log onto Lightning Source, fill out their help form or call your customer service rep...and ask them to transmit your information to Baker & Taylor. At that point, B&T can pick up your information. But they can't pick it up before they put your information in their system--so the first email is the KEY.

And that's it. It can take up to a week for the listing to go live with B&T (maybe longer). But you'll know your book is available when it shows up on


I think that's about all for today.

Until Next Time,

Keep it real...and keep it real cheap!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Getting Bookstores to Carry Your Indie-Published Book

By the grace of God, and with lots of hard work I was able to get my book into Barnes & Nobles stores across the country (see for a list). I'm often asked how I did it. First, understand that this starts with a good book. You need to have a marketable cover that doesn't look "self-published," you need a well-edited book with a professional-looking book interior.

The Hard Way...

(Note: This is a repost from another forum. I figured there was no need to reinvent the wheel. This is the method that I used BEFORE I did it the "Easy" way which can be found below. If a bookstore tells you they don't stock "POD" please see my post on PODs for further explanation and don't give up.)

So, I promised to come back and let you know how my experience was getting into bookstores this morning. Keep in mind, everyone's experience may be different but I will just tell you how things went for me.

I woke up Saturday morning, loaded my truck with press kits and copies of my novel, and headed to Borders. When I arrived at Borders I asked to speak to the manager and told them I was inquiring about the process to get my books on the shelves in Borders. I told them my book was available in Ingram, told them the wholesale discount, and told them that it’s returnable. So, the manager turned to me and asked me if my book had a BINC? “What the heck is a BINC?” I asked. She said this is the sticker placed on all books sold in borders stores. Once your book is approved by Borders HQ (yes, it has to be approved), books are purchased from one of the distributors (Ingram or Baker and Taylor), the books are shipped to Borders warehouses where they are stickered, then the books are sent to Borders stores and shelved.

Long story short, your book must go through the corporate to get approved to be shelved. No way around it.

Deflated, I left the store with their standard author-book signing brochure in hand. I got in my truck and read the brochure. Funny enough, the brochure didn’t say anything about needing a BINC to do book signing, so I called another store and spoke with a different manager. Turns out, you don’t need a BINC just to do a book signing, but your book MUST be available through Ingram or Baker and Taylor. What they do is order enough books for your signing, and depending on how your signing goes, they can request to get a BINC and shelve it or they ship your books back to the distributor, which is why your books MUST be returnable. So, then I said, “Ohhhh, well can I set up a book signing? My book is available through Ingram and it’s returnable.” And they said, “Sure!”

This is where I learned the second lesson to apply when querying Borders stores. There are managers and then there are managers. Not all managers can set up your book signing. Moreover, if the manager on duty is not the right manager, they will be completely disinterested in your little press kit and looking at your book. Lesson learned: Save your gas, call first, tell them you’re a local author that wants to set up a book signing, they will either connect you with that manager OR give you an email address to send your information. Ensure that you have a link to your press kit on your website, save some trees.

Barnes and Noble

Barnes and Nobles stores operate in this century. You’re not required to have any special stickers. Once again, the process is the same to conduct book signings and to get your book into stores nationally. Call for the correct manager, ask to set up a book signing, they will ask you whether your book is in Ingram or Baker and Taylor (it must be), then they will fit you into the schedule. Once again, they took no interest in me handing them my press kit or looking at my book at the time. Maybe later they will, but they didn’t initially.

Indie Bookstores

Indie bookstore not only want to your press kit and a copy of your book, but they want to read through your book before they agree to order it. That was my experience when I went to the two Indie stores. They wouldn’t even discuss carrying up my book or scheduling a book signing withou\t reading it. The great thing is, Indie bookstore owners know their inventory and seem to be the best proponent for selling your book. If they like it, they will push it to everyone who walks in the door. I lingered for a while and bought a couple of books and the owner could tell you the plot of just about any book you picked up. That doesn’t happen in the big stores. One author sold 3,000 copies between one of the stores and Amazon alone. You want to be nice, make a purchase, and make them a fan of you and your work.

So, to sum up my advice:

For Borders and BN: · Call first · If your book isn’t in Ingram or Baker & Taylor – Fuhgedabouditt! · Just ask to do a book signing, don’t even bother asking to get shelved initially · Make sure you’re speaking to the right manager. · Make your press kit available on your website!! · Make your signing as successful as possible so they’ll push to carry it on the shelves.

The process is much easier in Barnes and Noble than it is in Borders from an inventory perspective.

Indie stores: · It’s okay to drop by, most of the owners also run the store. · Bring a pretty press kit · Be prepared to leave a (free) copy of your book. · Linger, shop, and make nice with the owner.

The "Easy" Way...

An easier way to get your books into the major bookstores is to send your book to the book buyers at the corporate level. If they approve it, your book will be made a part of the chain's official stock and this makes getting your book stocked in individual stores and doing booksignings MUCH easier.

To get your book approved you need to do several things.

First, for Createspace users, you must own your own ISBN, and you must have the price barcode on your books. You must use an approved distributor. B&N uses Ingram which means you have to use Lulu, Lightning Source, or some other printer that offers Ingram distribution. Borders uses Baker & Taylor. BooksAMillion uses both.

You must send a cover letter, 1 copy of your book to BN or BAM/2 books to Borders, and a press kit (including a marketing plan) to their Vendor/Small Press Department. You should emphasize in your letter what makes your book special, why it will sell, and an information sheet with all the details about your book. The information sheet should contain: a picture of you cover, your book's bio (ISBN, size, type, suggested retail price, etc.).

Most importantly, you need a marketing plan that discusses who you've submitted your book to for review, online marketing strategy, off-line marketing strategy, radio interviews, newspaper articles, tv appearances, etc. etc.

Barnes and Noble: Small Press Department, 122 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York, 10011.
Borders: New Vendor Acquisitions Borders Group, Inc. 100 Phoenix Drive Ann Arbor, MI 48108
BooksAMillion: Director of Merchandising,, P.O. Box 19728, Birmingham, AL 35219

I am now working on getting into Borders, which I'm finding is a little bit different. You MUST work with Baker and Taylor to get into Borders. Even though Lightning Source has an established relationship with Baker & Taylor, I can tell you that I have jumped through a gahzillion hoops and still have not been able to figure out an easy way to get listed with B&T, until yesterday. The reason I keep getting the run around at LS is because B&T now has its own POD service-TextStream. If you set up your title through TextStream, you're automatically listed with B&T retailers and libraries, which means that you're taking away some of LS's business (certainly a reason why they keep giving me the run around).

To list your book with TextStream POD, you need to have your print-ready files ready (which should have already done through LS or CS (although their specifications require a .25 bleed which is a bit more than LS or CS). You can find out more info here:

This process can take 6 to 8 weeks, so be patient. The faster you get a response, the more likely it is that your book wasn't approved. Also, from my understanding, if they return your book, they probably did not accept it.

So that's it! Get out there and get your books shelved!

Until next time...

Keep it real...and keep it real cheap!