So in time these new middlemen with a distributor base for
bookstores to order from, and contacts with some of the best writing
America had to offer made life much easier for both sides of
the publishing business. A few even went international and the
author's work could be sold through outlets worldwide.
The workings of the jobber or small press distributor in the
beginning was relatively simple. They would hire armies of
salesman to go out to the retailer with lists of new titles,
samples, information about the authors and details of the
discounts to take orders direct. It doesn't work that way today,
but it was effective back then.
In today's world that system works exactly the same with
the big difference being in the modern high speed
communications tools available. Instead of the enthusiastic
groups of salesmen the jobber of today uses a printed catalog
and an on-line database, with periodical updates through the
year on a microfilm database or computer disk. Orders are taken
toll-free by computer, telephone and fax machines.
This is what happens when you get a distributor to handle
your products today. The first thing is their being able to look
at every transaction as a part of the business without emotion.
The distributor is looking for a much different set of criteria than
a small press publisher imagines. Their reasoning is very much
along the same lines as the retail store that will eventually stock
your book. This jobber wants to know the same things the
retailer does so that he may be able to convince them to buy
your product. They do not read your samples to make this
decision. They are very accomplished skimmer's. These
jobbers can glance at a few pages at intervals of any book,
look at the style, weight, size and price of the product and tell
how many they may be able to sell within three or four copies.
If your book conforms to what they think their select customers
can sell, they will make you an offer to stock the title. Normally
they will order two or three hundred of what they perceive to be
a fast mover and perhaps fifty of the rest.
Now at this point the jobber has to figure out how to address
the information the retail store is going to need to determine if
he or she should stock this particular item. The things the
retailer wants to know are, once again, not what the small
publisher would expect. They want to know the following
1. How many were printed in the print run and how fast can they
get delivery if the title starts to move. If the first run is small,
they'll need to know the turn around on another printing. This
tells them how much of a hard-sell they can do and not run out
of books to ship.
2. They also will want to know if your book is going to fit in with
the other titles like it on the shelf space allowed for them and if
the price is not out of line with the others around it.
3. Then comes evaluating the attractiveness of the cover. Will
it cause people to buy it before something else near it on the
shelf? Is there enough information on the back to tell someone
what the book is about and convince them to buy it?
4. They are not interested in the contents of the book. They
only want to know if they can sell it. It will NOT do any good to
make an emotional plea on their need to stock it on the ethical
grounds of providing the consumer with the information or
anything. On the other hand, they do need to know where the
book is going to fit in the store with others of the same kind. In
the paragraphs describing the type of book you are offering, you
can make your short emotional pitch.
5. They need to know title, author and cost. What kind of person
will buy the book? Why would they pay this much for it? What
discount is offered to the store? Does anyone else stock it?
Will it cause other books in that section to be sold with it?
6. Now they'll want to know everything you can tell them on your
return policies. Can they return them in six months for cash or
7. What did the reviewer's say about your book? Do you have
any flyers or advertising material to promote it, or will you share
local advertising space cost, etc.?
Once you've covered most of these items in your mailing and
flyers the chances are very good that you'll get some kind of an
order. Even a token order to see how well you deliver is a step
in the door. Once the jobber starts to handle the book you'll
start getting the large orders on a regular basis. If you have a
good book these orders could run into the thousands of copies,
so be prepared to reprint as fast as needed. The oldest, bigest
and best of these distributors is The Ingram book distributing
company. They are modern and geared to an electronicly
ordering world. They were also the first to offer to print
Christmas catalogs for the retail stores to mail out to their list
of best customers before the holiday season. That practice by
itself more than doubled all of the pre holidays orders for books
every year from the jobber that printed the catalog. The retailer
had to make sure they had enough books on hand that was
listed in the catalog because the people who received the catalog
were their best customers and expected the store to have what
they advertised. Sound familiar? That's just exactly what the
large publishers had been doing to them all along. This time
the store name was on the catalog. That made it more important
to stock the books. I've done the same thing a time or two by
printing a Christmas book, wish list, with flyers and a few pages
of books for big stores. I always made sure a couple of my own
titles were on the list of course. It works. The Christmas catalog
is a real bargain for the stores. The publishers of the various
titles in the catalog pay to be included, so the store gets the
magazines for between 10 and .20 cents a copy. They save a
great deal by not having to print these catalogs themselves. All
of the financial responsibility once again falls on the small
Don't ever be timid about dealing with any of these things I
tell you about. There is one thing you all have to remember.
That is that the small press publisher pays for everything to
keep all of these people in business. No other person who is
part of this business takes any risk what-so-ever. If the retailer
can't sell them, you get them back, usually damaged. If the
distributor can't sell them or gets them back from the stores,
you get them back, usually damaged. And so on it goes.
Because of this, you must feel you are contributing more than
anyone else and can be on an equal footing with any other part
of book selling. You have to be competitive, that's true, but
you also deserve the biggest profit since you take all of the
risk. Don't let anyone back you into a corner and convince you
to make such a close deal that you lose money. They need you
and your products to make anything at all, so they'll be the ones
that will need to back up and take less.
If you can cover most of the things mentioned here, in a good quality
presentation, you stand a good chance of the distributor or retail
store asking for a review copy. That will be followed by a nice
starter order if the book makes the grade. It takes three things
in today's fast paced electronic world to be successful.
Information, Equipment (tools to do the proper job), and WORK.
With this kind of article you have the information. You can
rent or borrow the equipment. That only leaves one more thing for
you. With a little belief in yourself and some dedication
the WORK part will come about in abundance, because you'll
enjoy the effort you put out for the rewards
The next subject was about mailing manuscripts to dozens
and dozens of publishers over time and the total postage
involved in doing it.
Main line publishers are a strange breed. They aren't able
to conform to change as easily as some of us. They get used to
seeing that box of paper come in the door for a reader to glance
at before going to someone with decision making capabilities.
We all know that, that manuscript is going to have to go into a
computer at some point for any typesetting or editing to be done
anyway. Still, you'll have to start training publishers at some
point to understand that by taking a little risk up front. It will
save you a bundle on postage. I'm not saying anything I haven't
done myself. I've drafted the best query letter and short bio.
possible and included a computer disk with the book on it.
What happens is the normal reading or not reading is done from
the information in the letter. The old way would be requesting
the manuscript if they are interested. Since they have it on the
disk up front, it will probably be read instead of waiting for you
to send the ten-dollar box of paper. I had this happen many
times, so I know it works this way. If they are not interested
from the query letter, they would not ask for the paper anyway.
Why not start trying these things out your own way? Maybe
you'll upgrade a few publishers into coming back into the real
world instead of sticking by the old methods.
Another letter from Janis Fisher at Bay Shore really got my
attention. I was impressed with the fact that anyone remembered
this. She said her mother told her I wrote a newspaper column
about twenty years ago and wanted to know if it was true.
Yes I did write a column on a regular basis for almost four
years while I was going to school in California. It was more than
twenty years ago, though. It was mid-seventies. Your mother is dating both of us by
remembering it. It was called "Letters to the Wizard." I also did
all of the "Betty Bimbo & the Gumball Phantom" comic books for
the same underground publisher. Those are really very, very
valuable today if your mother has any of them. I did a lot of
painting, writing and sculpting while attending college. I've not
had time for doing much of it lately but I did win a few nice awards
with my oil paintings back then.
One of my novels deals with those years. The name of the book
is called, as you might expect, "Letters to the Wizard."
BEST PRICING ON BOOK PRINTING
Chelsea Michigan 48118-9977
For an estimate provide the following
PHOTOS... Y or N
COVER...10pt. coated or?___________
BLACK INK +_______Other colors
PAPER... 50lb. 60lb. 70lb.
BINDING... Perfect (Paper Cover)
Case (Hard Cover)
CHAPEL HILL PRESS
Now PROFESSIONAL PRESS
Chapel Hill NC 27515-4371
Send for a complete information package. Very good pricing
on books. Extra services not recommended, like copyrights,
bar codes, etc.
MANUFACTURERS OF CHRISTMAS CATALOGS
Remember this, it's very expensive and harder to get your
book accepted by these catalogs. Be prepared with your best
product and presentation.
BOOK CHAT 29 South Wabash Ave. Chicago IL 60603
This one is a part of Kroch & Brentano. The cost per
section is over $5,000.00
AMARANTH PRODUCTIONS P.O.Box 9471 Minneapolis
A part of the B. Dalton chain stores. The cost per space
is over $700.00
CHRISTMAS BOOK CATALOG
586 Fifth Ave. New York NY 10036
The cost for a space is about $500.00
THE SCRIBNER BOOKSTORES 597 Fifth Ave. New York NY 10036
Cost $400. per book
COKESBURY GIFT BOOKS 201 Eighth Ave. South - Nashville TN 37202
INGRAM GIFT BOOK CATALOG
347 Reedwood Drive. Nashville TN 37217
PAPERBACK CATALOG STORE
Roaring Brook Lake Putnam Valley NY 10579
Cost, $1000.00 per space.
Here is the list of Bulletin Board Systems Linked together on
the FIDO world wide web. These are the telephone numbers to
hook onto their computer modem and request information, etc.
The FIDO address is also below the direct line telephone
number, then the Systems Operator name. You'll use your
to call and ask to talk to the person who runs the system, then
request information about advertising your books. Pick one
close to you or ask for a list of FIDO connections. This list is a bit outdated but there are
over five megabytes of them to choose from.
Blazing Islands BBS
Silver Springs MD
The Feel & Heal Ordeal
Los Angeles CA
Grand Central BBS
Law Mug BBS
Colorado Springs CO
The Support Network
Redwood City CA