As the name suggests, sellers are the last stop your book makes before getting into readers’ hands. Theoretically, anyone can be a seller, and many authors have created their own storefronts to sell directly to their readers and bypass the conveyor belt of middlemen all together. This is a fantastic option for authors whose books (mainly nonfiction) serve a purpose in their overall business model. For example, a therapist might write a self-help book about destressing in a fast-paced work environment and have it available to her clients in-office. It’s not so great for fiction writers trying to break through. For that, you need the reach and networking power of publishers or distributors to get in front of as many people as possible. In other words, instead of trying to lure people to a secondary location, you need to be present where readers already shop.
A few things to keep in mind with sellers:
- Each one will have different requirements, terms of service, and royalty options
- Some might be international, which comes with its own complications
- Not all stores allow authors to publish directly
This is where publishers and distributors really give you a leg-up in the process. They’ve already done the hard work for you: made contact, synchronized their systems, aggregated all requirements and incorporated them into their own so everything is automatically in compliance across the board. No need to worry, just sit back and let them do their thing.
However, there may be times when you want to self-publish at a particular store, or open your own. In that case, don’t skip ahead. Do your homework, and read every line of their terms of service, terms of contract, royalty rates, payment schedules, etc. They’ll tell you what you can do, what you should do, and what you are prohibited from doing. There are a lot of times when being a rebel or pleading ignorance are acceptable. This is not one of those times. If your book violates any of the store’s terms, it can be pulled from the catalog immediately, and depending on the severity of the infraction, you could get your publisher’s account frozen, or permanently shut down. That’s the kind of bad PR you really want to avoid.
The best way to deal with industry professionals is to meet them at their level, not halfway. Understand that, as a writer, you are one drop in a very big river, and it’s much easier, not to mention more productive, to move with the current than try to swim against it. Also, it always helps to learn about the requirements well before you need to actually adhere to them. You don’t want to get to the final step of the publishing process and discover your cover image is too small and has to be redone from scratch.