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Trade Distribution Program Picks

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What types of books are trade-book buyers looking for? This is the key question all publishers should ask before deciding to go to print with a book that they want to distribute primarily through the national bookstore marketplace.

Having just finished looking at more than 200 books entered in PMA’s Trade Distribution Program, I thought I’d share news about some of the titles that were accepted and some of the reasons that they won the committee’s support.

A bit of background for those who may not be familiar with the program: PMA convenes a committee twice a year whose members include the independent press buyers from Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Border’s, and Barnes & Noble. Also on the committee are some independent publishers who work primarily within the bookstore trade market and some distributors and reps who sell to it. This committee’s job is to select titles that the distributor familiarly known as IPG (Independent Publishers Group) will represent.

The committee must be very selective. It can accept only books that have great potential for sales to the general public because books accepted in the program must sell through, not come back.

Here are a few of the latest choices, along with information about their strong points.

The World’s Greatest Fighter Teaches You: How to Master Bruce Lee’s Fighting System by Joe Lewis from Seconds Out, Inc. The cover is spectacular; the national bookstore market is receptive to this kind of book, and the title alone can help it sell through. Although manyAAAAilar titles are on the market, it is not oversaturated.

Winning the Paper Chase by David Lam from Joy Life Publishing. A good example of a well-designed and well-edited book that presents information the general public wants–in this case, how to use your computer and manage your email. Basically, it tells how to wean yourself away from the need to print. A great idea, and another great title.

The Stork Club Bar Book by Lucius Beebe, The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book by A. S. Crockett, and The Bar Tender’s Guideby Jerry Thomas from New Day Publishing. These books reproduce recipes from years ago in books designed to look as if they came from the ’40s, and they’re fantastic. Humorous side note: One of the members of the committee was a bit too young to know what the Stork Club was, but the rest of us aged ones filled her in on its popularity. So many of the cocktails that are fashionable now came from this era.

Lovin’ You Is Wrong by Alisha Yvonne from Ebony Literary Grace Publishing. This is an African-American novel with an eye-grabbing cover and a title that sticks in your head because of the song. People always ask, “Is fiction ever accepted?” It’s more difficult to get fiction into this program, but, as you can see, the answer is a definite yes, provided that the fiction is well positioned, well designed, and well edited for its market.

A few books are accepted with conditions. For instance:

The Athletic-Minded Traveler by Jim Kaese and Paul Huddle from SoCal Publishing. As the title indicates, this book rates hotels in terms of the kinds of health clubs/equipment on site or nearby. It was priced a bit too high for the market but will be accepted in the program if the price is lowered.

Literary Law Guide for Authors by Tonya Marie Evans, Susan Borden Evans, and Dan Poynter from FYOS Entertainment LLC. A very good book, but a 2004 edition. A 2005 edition would be accepted.

Sweet and Snappy Cherry Drinks by Lori Hall Steele from Eighth Sea Books. The title will sell the book from the shelf, even if it is shown spine out. The open question is whether the bookstore market in the area where this book is most likely to be sold is already saturated.

A Decade’s Bestsellers

It’s interesting to follow up on each title accepted in the program to see how well it sells. Some have outstanding success. Others that get the exposure do less well, maybe because the publishers’ marketing didn’t support the titles enough once they were on the shelves, or maybe because the public decided not to purchase the book for some unpredictable reason. Would that we could foretell what the public really will spend money on.

Here’s a list of the 10 top-selling books in the 10 years since this program’s inception.


  • Birthing from Within


        , by Pam England and Rob Horowitz; Partera Press


  • The Brand Called You


        , by Peter Montoya and Tim Vandehey; Peter Montoya


  • French Quarter Fiction


        , edited by Joshua Clark; Light of New Orleans Publishing


  • Massage: A Career at Your Fingertips


        , by Martin Ashley; Enterprise Publishing


  • Nonviolent Communication


        , by Marshall B. Rosenberg; PuddleDancer Press


  • Nonviolent Communication Workbook


        , by Lucy Leu; PuddleDancer Press


  • Seabiscuit vs. War Admiral


        , by Kat Shehata and Jo McElwee; Angel Bea Publishing


  • Signs for Me: A Basic Vocabulary


        , by Ben Bahan and Joe Dannis; Dawnsign Press


  • Southern Fried Divorce


        , by Judy Conner; Light of New Orleans Publishing


  • Yellowstone Treasures


      , by Janet Chapple; Granite Peak Publications

As you can see, there’s a great variety of topics, from self-help to fiction to children’s to career. And, in each instance, the title really tells you instantly what the book is all about. Maybe a lesson there!

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