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Understanding Your Distributor

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Tom DohertyWhen Adriane and I opened the doors to our distribution company — Cardinal Publishers Group — back in 2000, we started off with one desk, computer, printer, phone line, and fax machine. We were subleasing warehouse space from her cousin, who was good enough not to collect any rent from us until revenue started to come in. It was a pretty simple beginning. Despite each of us having decades of business experience, we didn’t really know what lay ahead.

cardinal-logoAt that time we understood that e-books were coming, but we could only speculate on when or how they would impact our business. We had yet to learn about EDI, ASN, computer networking, and so many of the other details that make a distribution company tick. We have come a long way since those early days, making a few mistakes and enjoying a few successes along the way.

As our education progressed and I spoke with more and more independent publishers, I discovered that distribution is a bit of a mystery to many, and that I could help people understand how a distributor works and thinks, and what publishers can do get the best from their distribution service providers.


Although so much has changed about the way books are distributed during the past 14 years, the reason publishers use distribution services has remained about the same. If a distributor is handling your sales, warehousing, pick and pack, shipping, billing and collections, metadata, and other services at a cost commensurate with what it would cost you to handle those things yourself, you are probably getting the benefits of expertise along with more time to manage the other aspects of a publishing company, and one less learning curve to climb.

The savings in time are often devoted to…

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