Distributing Your Book to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and More: How Publishers Sell Books

Part of the dream of becoming an author is imagining yourself walking into your local bookstore and seeing your work on their shelves. It might feel completely out of reach if you’re not working with a traditional publisher, but the good news is, it’s not! Any book can be widely distributed to brick-and-mortar retailers with a combination of the right resources and outreach (and the right publishing partner).

The marketing team at Ballast Books and Blue Balloon Books incorporates distribution strategies into our routine marketing activities to help make that dream a reality for our authors. This blog will help give you a deeper understanding of how distribution works, along with all the details on how our team makes your book available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores, and more.

Understanding Distribution Channels

The main channels through which we sell books are: direct to consumer; Amazon; Ingram Wholesale; Baker & Taylor; and bulk order sales.

Direct sales encompass any orders made directly by a consumer, usually on our website (or the author’s). Because no retailer takes a cut of these sales, direct orders result in the highest royalty percentage for you, making this a highly desirable outlet to drive preorders to from your own network.

On the other hand, many people prefer Amazon because of its ease of access and their desire to hit bestseller lists. Amazon Prime, free shipping, and regular discounts are a few of the reasons why your readers may choose to purchase your book on Amazon. Ballast Books has a direct relationship with Amazon as a seller, so we distribute copies of your book to their warehouses for fulfillment.

Ingram Wholesale is where the majority of bookstores and chains like Barnes & Noble get their inventory. Our relationship with them operates similarly to Amazon. Your title will automatically be available to readers on these retailers’ websites, and those orders will be fulfilled directly by Ingram with existing stock. The brick-and-mortar stores, however, usually have to be prompted to order copies for shelf stock, whether that prompting comes from customer demand, media coverage, or outreach from the publisher. Store signings are a sure way to ensure physical stores carry your title, and an emphasis of the Ballast and Blue Balloon marketing team.

Baker & Taylor is an ordering platform like Ingram Wholesale, but it services libraries rather than retailers. In general, they order less than Ingram or Amazon will, but our relationship with them means that libraries are able to stock our titles for any branch that sees demand.

Bulk orders may be for author events, conferences, or simply wholesale deals with independent bookstores who would rather purchase from the publisher instead of Ingram. Ballast Books solicits, accepts, and fulfills these orders out of our warehouse, handling invoicing, collecting payment, shipping orders, and any necessary follow-up.

How to Get Your Book into Bookstores

As mentioned, bookstores won’t order your book solely because it’s available. It requires effort, outreach, and relationship building both on your part as the author and ours as the publisher. With somewhere around a million new books released each year, stores will only stock titles they have demand for. Generating demand and cultivating relationships is key to standing out to booksellers.

We start by providing bookstores in your local area a professional sell sheet to introduce you and your book; oftentimes a store will offer authors a booth at a local event or an in- store signing. These events foster connections with booksellers that can lead to more significant opportunities, like being featured in a display or being recommended by staff.

Most bookstores are happy to support local authors and are willing to, at the very least, carry a few copies of your book to see how they sell. Driving readers to stores where you know your book is in stock is a great way to show these retailers that they should continue ordering.

How to Get Your Book into Libraries

Having your book carried in libraries follows a similar process to bookstores. Librarians order inventory—usually through Baker & Taylor—for titles they have demand for. Most libraries are eager to host readings or signings for authors, which can increase the likelihood of your book being added to their collection. Our Blue Balloon children’s authors in particular will find that offering their book as a potential story time event is usually met with a positive reception.

If you’re eager to see your book on library shelves, there are a couple of things you should be aware of. First, most libraries prefer to have hardcover copies of books, especially children’s books, because they are more durable. Secondly, most libraries require a book to be professionally reviewed in order to be considered for their collection. Some of the most popular review journals are Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, or Booklist. Ballast Books and Blue Balloon Books can help compile your review journal options and take care of the submission process.

Soliciting Organizations for Bulk Orders

For books that align with specific topics or causes, soliciting bulk orders from relevant organizations can be an extremely effective and lucrative sales strategy. Identify organizations, businesses, or nonprofits that resonate with your book’s theme. Together, we can prepare a tailored pitch highlighting how your book will add value to their mission or serve as an excellent resource for their members. We’ll want to offer an appropriate bulk order discount to incentivize these organizations to request more copies.

Engaging directly with like-minded organizations through speeches, presentations, or workshops can further solidify these partnerships and lead to additional orders down the line. Simply put, it’s an easy way to hit your target audience in one fell swoop while selling more books and growing your following!

What Ballast Books Can Do for You

Ballast Books and Blue Balloon Books will work tirelessly to help you sell more books through each of these platforms. We have the marketing, PR, and distribution teams to connect with book buyers and ensure they know about your book. Our warehouse facility and existing relationships give your title the best chance of standing out to readers and buyers, leading to widespread placement and more sales.

Contact us today to learn more about book sales with a hybrid publisher.

If you have an engaging idea for a children’s book, we want to hear from you.

Talk to an Acquisitions Editor