1. Would you describe for our readers your work as a book distributor?
Simply speaking, a book distributor will handle sales and marketing on behalf authors and publishers. My job is to find places to sell and talk about the books I distribute, both online and offline. This will include finding and booking advertising space to fit with the writer's or publisher's marketing plan, trying to secure some publicity on blogs, websites, magazines, or newspapers, and getting the book into both online and offline shops.
2. What motivated you to shift from writing and publishing into distributing, and what has your learning curve been like?
It was my own experiences as a independent publisher that really initiated everything. When I published my non-fiction book, I quickly found out that I had absolutely no way to sell it in shops beyond my local independent bookshops. The major retailers expect most of their titles to come either from wholesalers or distributors. Since I was an independent with an unproven sales record, I was of little interest to them.
So I took the steps needed to become a distributor myself. A distributor is not that much different than a publisher. I just take over after the book has been published and concentrate on selling and marketing, leaving the publisher with more time and energy to publish their next book.
3. What are some current opportunities you see for authors and publishers in the paperback book market?
Print on demand has been a great opportunity for everyone in the industry for a few years now. It has allowed publishers to keep books in print for longer, and self-publishers to get their work out there.
Many people will still buy the paperback version of a book after reading the ebook, if it is available. As such, it is still a good idea to have your book with a print on demand printer to supply it if it is ordered.
4. Why should independent authors (including self-published authors) not focus exclusively on publishing their work in e-book format?
Even with ebooks gaining in popularity as quick as they are, it will take a while before the printed book disappears. And as such, no one should underestimate the paperback market. Ebooks are predicted to rise to a 25% share of the market in the UK and stabilize at that point. In the US, this point is supposed to be 50%. This still leaves a 50-75% share for the printed book. It is simply not a good business decision to ignore half of your potential readers.
5. What are some techniques you find helpful in publicizing the books you distribute, and what do you recommend that authors do in promoting their work?
The very first thing any author should do is learn more about their readers. No book will be read by everyone, never mind how broad its appeal. If you can define even just a few characteristics of your typical readers, you will stand a far better chance at succeeding: first, because you can then target your writing to your market; and second, because marketing will be a lot easier--whether this is done by your publisher or yourself.
One of the best ways to publicize your book is still to have good networks to rely on, both personally and with others in the industry. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social networks are good for this, but not quite enough. My advice is to create a database with names, contact details, social network handle names, and interests for each person or business in your networks. You never know who will be able to help when.
But my favorite tool is the virtual book tour. It's often a hard one to organize--because you need to handle so many things at once, such as contacting blog owners, creating or sourcing content, promoting the tour on top of promoting the actual book... But it's often rewarding both in terms of sales and increase in the author's reputation.