View Full Version : Published vs. Distributed

01-04-2008, 08:52 PM
This may simply be an exercise in semantics or too pedantic for its own good. But, something ticked into my brain yesterday and I can't let it go and it's this: do you want to be published or distributed?

You, your neighbor, your uncle and even, with some help, your dog, can get published. A worthy color inkjet printer and a ream of paper will do that. Lulu.com will do that. So will a handful of other self-publishing houses. Publishing is easier than ever, really. An once you've got a copy in your hand, well, that's that. You're published. Next goal, please.

However, for many, isn't the brass ring today distribution? In creating a tabletop board game back in 2002 (Counterterrorist, $19.95, I've got 857 copies left, if you play Warhammer, you'll love CT, order now! :) ), I found that actually creating and buying things like dice, boxes, tape measures and pewter figures, packaging them and creating the game was relatively mundane. What we couldn't do was conquer the distribution chain.

Paralleling this, the recording industry has gone through a metamorphosis that’s left it dead. Much of that metamorphosis entailed distribution of music and how music listeners changed the business model (P2P networks). So, as the technology (e-book readers and whatever else may come) ebbs forth, how will the paradigm of publish/market/distribute change? Realizing that the book publishing industry and the recorded music industry are apples and oranges, I also understand each delivers similar content: entertainment, data and experience.

On another note, you might say distribution is also accessible: you have the Internet. There are 175 million other people who do, too. So, you have both. The challenge there, however, is that along with distribution, marketing is also a key arm of the process. Sure, you can dump 2,000 words on a Web page, but who’s gonna know to look for it? Why would they look for it? Marketing embeds the why. Independent distribution via the Web is a work-intensive process, like self-publishing.

Amazon is accessible. But there are a number of gates to hurdle before your listing takes place (ask Neurofizz about that; he's got a great post about his Amazon publishing adventure somewhere; no, I couldn't find it). However, and this is an entirely different line of thinking, but isn't there some tangible legtimacy walking into a book store and pulling your book off the shelf? And that’s at the core of a lot of writers’ wants: legitimacy. And money, which is why you crave the distribution points in the first place. Big publishers, too.

Yes, the major publishers are probably the sole conduits to the Wal-Marts, B&Ns, Books-a-Millions and Targets of the world. So, the "publishing" part and the "distribution" part go hand-in-hand. Still, the business model is changing into the 21st Century. The paradigm is the entrepreneurial writer is how to access the distribution point. Therefore, the question, then, really, becomes, do you want to be published, or do you want to be distributed? It's a paradigm shift in thinking, but, it does refocus your efforts a little toward the real prize, which is many eyeballs on text.

Your thoughts?

01-04-2008, 09:30 PM

My agent and I discussed this when we were talking about where I wanted to send my paranormal romance. One of the reasons she was pro Harlequin was their worldwide distribution, and the likelihood of selling through. Distribution came up in our discussion, and it was a factor in every publisher we talked about. I had other criteria, too -- author support and loyalty among them -- but my agent drove the distribution discussion.

So, again, distribution all the way.

Sheryl Nantus
01-04-2008, 09:32 PM

without it, your book is as dead as if you had run copies off at the local Kinko's.


01-04-2008, 09:35 PM
I don't consider any of those things you listed as "published." To me published is when a NAME book publisher prints your book. So in the traditional sense of the publishing industry, I want to be published.

Heck, I "published" my own magazine, and I "distributed" it to local books stores. Neither made me any money.

01-04-2008, 09:58 PM
I always understood distribution to be part of publishing. Printing is another part of publishing, but the "vanity publishers" and pods don't do publishing, they only do printing. The confusion appears to come from the abuse of the word publishing by small outfits that do/have limited or no distribution, yet claim they do publishing.

01-04-2008, 10:02 PM
As a point of reference:

Publish - 1. to issue (printed or otherwise reproduced textual or graphic material, computer software, etc.) for sale or distribution to the public.

01-04-2008, 10:19 PM
Distribution is the key to sales, recognition and true trade publication. I've sacrificed two books to a small press, and one to a POD. I won't be doing that again, unless I'm totally shut out with ALL future books.


01-04-2008, 10:28 PM
Distribution, definitely. When I sent my agent a publisher I wanted her to look into, her first concern wasn't even whether they paid advances (which was rather assumed since they only dealt with agents) but whether they had good distribution.

Getting on those bookstore shelves. That's the key.

01-04-2008, 10:34 PM
2007 was my first foray into the writing / querying / rejection / self-publishing world. After spending a year on AW, I'm much the wiser and feel more confident to up my personal goals.

I basically approached writing as a hobby and once I'd finished writing a book and couldn't get an agent or publisher, I approached self-publishing as an experiment. "If I self-pub and do my own promotion and send emails to everyone I know, could these books grow legs?" I knew the odds weren't good, but sometimes it's fun to gamble, innit?

After several months, it's safe to say that my tadpoles still haven't grown their own legs. It's been very gratifying to hear from people who enjoy my books (which is ultimately the most important thing to me), but it sure would be nice to hear from thousands of people who enjoyed them :D.

So now I'm re-focused on a new, more mainstream manuscript and I'm determined to find an agent for it or simply flush it down the toilet. It'd just be really nice to have a company who knows what they're doing promote my books instead of just little 'ol me. It's always encouraging to walk into B&N and see a big stand full of another AW author's books. Makes me think I too might achieve that someday.