How NOT to Distribute Your Work

This one is for my fellow writers and self-pubbers. I thought it would be a good idea to write a series of “lessons learned” now that Crimson Son is out, on the shelves, and seeing some sales.

This first post is all about book distribution. Distribution is another one of those reasons to get your work finished and ready to ship well before your release date. Most marketing gurus will tell you to have a finished product 4-6 months ahead of time anyway. This is so you can send out Advance Reader Copies, enter contests and start a pre-order campaign and other promos. But, it also helps with distribution and making sure every retailer channel will have your book available at roughly the same time.

For those who haven’t read about my distribution decision, I chose to handle distribution with Amazon directly and let Smashwords handle the rest.

Smashwords is great because, unlike Amazon (as far as I can tell), you can upload your book and set a release date. You can then accept pre-orders on your book – but only from the Smashwords store. That last bit is important. Just because you set a release date for the Smashwords store doesn’t mean it will show up at all the retailers they work with on that date.

Each one of the 15 channels they distribute to has their own time frame. Of those 15 only two, Apple and txtr, were able to provide the book on release day. Barnes and Noble took another 4 days. I’m still waiting on Google Play, Kobo and a host of others (5 days and counting). At this time, I was most concerned about Apple, B&N and, of course, Amazon because they are the market leaders for digital books and would be at the lead for my sales efforts.

With Amazon, the Kindle version uploaded through KDP was live in a matter of hours. It was scary easy.

For the paperback, I uploaded through CreateSpace (an Amazon affiliated company which provides their Print On Demand services). That process was done in a matter of hours. Within a day I could have made the paperback go live. I held off though and ordered a proof first. I did this even though I was behind schedule due to a glaring problem with the cover (more on that when I can type about it in words longer than four letters).

I’ve created enough print advertisements to know the process of going from your screen to a printer isn’t always a WYSIWYG operation. You HAVE to lay eyes on the finished product and examine it for any defects before allowing potentially thousands of orders to slip through. There’s nothing like getting bad reviews not because of your prose but because the quality of the printing. So I resisted the urge to skip that part of the process. This meant waiting several days for the priority shipment to arrive.

To CreateSpace’s credit, once the book was ready to proof, I had the printed version ordered and shipped within an afternoon. After waiting two days for the book to arrive (like I said, super priority shipping) I looked it over and clicked the “Approve” button. From that point, it still took some time for Amazon to add it to their catalog. Oddly, Amazon UK showed it available within 24 hours. Amazon US took another day to process things.

What does all this mean for you? Don’t do what I did.

Make a schedule for your book and then double the time you anticipate for your cover, formatting and editing. Make sure that all wraps up 4-6 months PRIOR to your release date. Then, follow these steps:

Upload to Smashwords. Set a “release date” for one week prior to your actual release to allow the book to work through the other channels.

Next, upload to CreateSpace. Proof your work but don’t hit the “approve” button quite yet. In fact, you can print multiple proofs and use these as ARCs to send to reviewers and outlets that require a printed copy. Three days or so before your release (a week to be safe), approve the paperback proof and hit the “publish to Kindle” button through CreateSpace (or, like I did, go to KDP and publish it to Kindle yourself the day before release.)

Finally, double check your major outlets on the night of release. If you started all this early, you’ve probably already begun collecting the links to your work as they become available. Smashwords “releases” a set pre-release at midnight. I was up until 3 am collecting the links, posting to Facebook, Twitter and drafting emails to my mailing list.

Collect all of these links in one place. You will need them. Reviewers want them, any marketing effort or press release needs them, your web page your Facebook author page, your email signature, etc. etc. Life is so much easier when there is one file you can open and cut and paste these from.

In the end, you may just be able to send out one glorious email with all the retail channels that will have your book (or at least the important ones) instead of shelling them out piecemeal over several days like I was forced to do. Then, watch the sales come rolling in! (Well, don’t just sit around and wait…more on that next time.)

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