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Distribution

Distribution is broken. Let’s fix it — together!

Most national distributors are happy to play the role of the fat-cat middleman, charging additional fees and passing along the distributor’s own costs. Retailers feel the squeeze, too; some of them only earn a 30 percent discount on the books that the publishers gave up for 55 percent off. Is it any wonder that Amazon — which combines distribution and retail into one Prime-supported package — has laid waste the traditional publishing industry?

Before we launched, we explored nearly two dozen different, high-profile distributors, each of which either refused to disclose their fee schedules in advance of signing a contract (i.e., before being upsold by a sales person), or shared online fee schedules that read like a Spirit Airlines bill — charge after charge after charge after charge.

Consider:

  • One distributor assesses a $270 flat annual fee for the privilege of doing business with them; another charges a $200 “setup” fee.
  • One only pays the publisher after it earned $200 in revenue.
  • Several require exclusivity, despite their relatively modest market share among retailers.
  • Some make the publisher pay for shipping and warehousing, resulting in a convoluted “net” payment that eats into the publisher’s already minority stake in the book’s revenue stream.
  • Most refuse to disclose publisher-acceptance criteria, but instead insist that the publishers submit material like marketing plans, financial reports, detailed title histories, and related information.
  • One charges a 5 percent “restocking” fee if books are returned, on top of the fact that the payment was reversed!
  • Only one supports self-published authors — but only if they’ve got a “huge” [sic] platform.

Wow. Just … wow. Literary distribution is broken. Profoundly broken. Only Amazon really wins. To save our industry, we must do better. And we think that by treating distribution as a service, rather than a separate profit center, is a key part of improving the financial prospect for authors and small presses.

But succeeding at distribution is only one part of the puzzle.

At Lakeshore Literary, we believe distribution should do three things:

  1. Empower independent booksellers to present emerging talent at a reasonable margin.
  2. Help small presses get their product to a larger network of retailers, without paying racketeers’ rates.
  3. Provide high-quality self-published authors with a mechanism to get their books into bookstores without the hassle of consignment agreements.

Ready to get started?

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