< back to full list of articles
President’s Post: IBPA FAQ — Part 1

or Article Tags


by Florrie Binford Kichler


IBPA FAQ, Part 1

What’s the difference between a wholesaler and a distributor?

How do I convert my traditional book to an e-book?

How do I keep people from copying my e-book without permission?

Crucial questions for those of you new to publishing—and just a few of the hundreds that come to IBPA on a weekly basis. The friendly, knowledgeable, and patient Terry Nathan, Lisa Krebs, and Patti Grasso in the IBPA home office are ready to help demystify the publishing game by providing answers.

Of course, all members are welcome to call Terry, Lisa, or Patti when a need arises, but I thought it might be useful to all publishing beginners, and a good refresher course for the rest of you, to provide responses to at least a few of the basic questions that regularly come into the IBPA office.

What follows is the first in a series of publishing Q&A columns that will appear from time to time. Not a comprehensive resource, the answers below are just enough to get you headed in the right direction. I encourage you to consult the numerous how-to books on publishing and online publishing resources for additional information.

And of course IBPA’s very own Independent archive of past articles and the upcoming Publishing University 2012 are two of the best sources of knowledge you will find–which is why “For more on this topic” after each question directs you to a recent Independent article or two and to a related session at Publishing University 2012. More articles on each topic are also available via “Independent Articles” in the navigation bar on the home page at ibpa-online.org.

Publishing Basics

What’s the difference between a wholesaler and a distributor?

Both wholesalers and distributors function as places where retailers (including bookstores and specialty shops) and libraries can get many print and e-books from multiple publishers with one order.

As noted in this month’s Tool Chest column, a major difference between the two lies in the way sales are handled. A traditional distributor, such as IPG or NBN, has a sales force that proactively makes sales calls and presents titles to buyers. A traditional wholesaler, such as Ingram or Baker & Taylor, makes books available to retailers and will process orders. No salespeople will call or visit, and a wholesaler will not proactively market your book, although they do offer opportunities to participate in advertising vehicles that are pushed out to retailers/librarians.

For more on this topic:

Independent (February 2011): “Conduits to Customers, Part 1: Distribution Options”

IPBA Publishing University 2012: Distribution Basics

Do I need a wholesaler and/or a distributor for my book?

It depends. It depends on your marketing plan and whether you can sell enough books to make a profit given the discounts wholesalers and distributors require.

If you’ve determined that you’re going to pursue sales through bookstores and libraries for your book, remember that they prefer to purchase from wholesalers and distributors rather than from individual publishers because (a) it is more efficient and cost-effective to pay one invoice that includes 50 titles from 50 publishers rather than 50 invoices with 50 single titles from 50 different publishers; and (b) wholesalers and distributors allow customers to combine orders from many publishers to achieve a higher quantity discount than they could receive from an individual publisher.

Another option, which again will depend on your marketing plan, is to make your book available via one of the print-on-demand/short- run printing services such as Lightning Source, CreateSpace, Lulu, and others.

In general, these companies will give your title entrée into the major wholesalers and online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble (bn.com), but costs can mount up quickly; and, as with any service, you need to read the fine print to ensure that you are clear on what you would be receiving in exchange for your hard-earned dollars.

What’s crucially important to remember is that no matter what method you use for getting your books into readers’ hands, you as the publisher bear the final responsibility for marketing your titles.

For more on this topic:

Independent (December 2008): “Do You Need a Distributor?”

Publishing University 2012: Working with Distributors/Wholesalers—Explore Your Options with Print and E-books

How do I find wholesalers and/or distributors to contact?

IBPA has relationships with wholesalers and distributors such as Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Partners Distribution, and Small Press United, and you can find more information about them at ibpa-online.org under “Member Benefits.” A more complete list of distributors may be found at bookmarket.com/distributors.htm.

Caveat: Before you sign any contract, be sure that you understand the terms, and don’t hesitate to contact an attorney or consultant for help.

For more on this topic:

Independent (March 2011): “Toward a New Distribution Paradigm for Startups and Self-Publishers”

Publishing University 2012: Distribution Basics

How do I convert my traditional book to an e-book?

Options range from do-it-yourself with guidance from how-to books, articles, or online resources, to hiring a full-service conversion company, and various levels in between. You will need multiple e-book formats that are compatible with different e-readers, so unless you’re a techie, research and time will be needed if you choose to go it alone. (See “Save Time and Money by Designing with E-books in Mind” and “Proofing Books in the Digital Age,” in this issue, for advice you can use right away.)

There is a huge number of e-book conversion services. For help in making a choice, start by asking other publishers who they recommend by posting a question to the IBPA LinkedIn group.

For more on this topic:

Independent (October 2011): “E-book Conversions: Ten Pointers to Ensure Reader Enjoyment (and Minimize E-book Returns)”

Independent (January 2010) “E-book Basics”

Publishing University 2012: E-book Production Primer

How do I keep people from copying my e-book without permission?

When creating your e-book, you have the option of adding Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology designed to keep it from being copied or distributed to others.

Publishers’ opinions continue to vary widely on the benefits and drawbacks of using DRM technology for e-books, as the very same technology meant to prevent copying restricts readers from reading e-books on multiple devices; and the jury is still out as to whether DRM is an effective deterrent to piracy. Instructions on how consumers can remove DRM are easily accessible on the Internet.

For more on this topic:

Independent (January 2012): “DRM Decisions”

Independent (this issue): “Amazon’s Dominance and DRM”

Publishing University 2012: Meeting Copyright and Licensing Challenges in the Digital Era

Stay tuned for additional IBPA FAQs in this space. And in the meantime, don’t forget that Terry, Lisa, and Patti in the IBPA office are standing by for your calls.

Follow Florrie and IBPA on Twitter at twitter.com/ibpa, and on IBPA’s blog at ibpablog.wordpress.com. Join Independent Book Publishers Association–IBPA group on Linked In (linkedin.com).



Connect With Us

1020 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Suite 204 Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
P: 310-546-1818 F: 310-546-3939 E: info@IBPA-online.org
© Independent Book Publishers Association