The job of the distributor is to get books to storefronts. That doesn’t seem like that big a deal, until you think about how many bookstores there actually are worldwide. Distributors are distinct from publishers in that they don’t do anything to the books they receive, aside from maybe convert eBooks to multiple formats and then ship them out to stores.
Reasons to use a distributor:
- Access to dozens of stores, many of which don’t accept independent author uploads
- Streamlined process (one and done)
- Aggregated sale and royalties information
- Quick and easy process for updates or changes
Smashwords is an example of an eBook only distributor. They ship to most major storefronts worldwide, except for Amazon. They require some formatting on the author’s part, but conversion is automatic, and authors can choose where to distribute and where not to. They can also choose a price point, a separate price point for libraries, and what percentage of the book to make available for sampling. Pros: wide reach, streamlined processing, full control over distribution, formatting, and pricing. Cons: Somewhat more work on the author’s part, no distribution to Amazon, no print distribution.
Draft2Digital is another option, very similar to Smashwords, but they do all the work for you with formatting, conversion and distribution, so all you need to do is give them your manuscript and some basic information, and they take it from there. Pros: Less work for the author. Cons: slightly more limited reach than Smashwords, reported issues with formatting.
IngramSpark is an example of an eBook and print book distributor, used by self-published authors and small publishers as well. They have a POD service like CreateSpace, but offer paperback as well as hard cover options, and because they aren’t opposed to returns, they are also eligible for brick-and-mortar store orders. The catch is that IngramSpark has an upfront setup fee, and you pay to be listed in the store order catalog. This fee is annual and does not guarantee your book will actually get ordered. Pros: more options, widely used and respected, both digital and print publishing available. Cons: has upfront costs that can get expensive.