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Non-Distributed Product Inquiries Increasing

My evidence here is anecdotal and subjective, but it seems that recently the number of inquiries we have had for product only available through the author’s website are increasing.

In the last 24 hours we’ve had people looking for

  • The Art of Marriage curriculum (Family Life) DVD
  • Helping Those in Grief, Crisis and Trauma (Norman Wright) DVD
  • My House Shall Be A House of Prayer (Jim Cymbala) DVD

Each of these products appears only to be sold through the creators, bypassing Christian retail and Christian online sellers. Setting up a website and selling direct has become too easy for self-publishers. We can’t access these products and we can’t blame e-books or downloads for the ones I encountered over the past day. Even Crown Video, which specializes in DVD media, doesn’t have them.

The problem isn’t just lack of availability.

The problem is the total discouragement it brings to see potential sale after sale disappearing into the ether.

How did customers hear about this product? Why aren’t existing products that we can access sufficient?  In the first case above, I recommended the Alpha Marriage course. In the third case, I noted the Jim Cymbala curriculum product available from Zondervan.

But people want what they want, what they’ve seen, what they’ve been told to investigate.

And it leaves us looking totally irrelevant.

  1. January 25, 2013 at 5:54 am

    The problem is, from the Indie author’s viewpoint, that it is just so difficult to get your books and other products into the Christian bookshop distribution system. Contrast that with the ease of setting up your own website (most self-publishing services offer web site setup as a cheap or even free option on their standard packages). And once you are set up with a working website, if it does start bringing in the money (a big ‘if,’ admittedly) then where is the incentive to share your hard-won profits with someone else unless they can offer you significantly increased sales?

    For my part, I believe in the role Christian bookshops can play in the Kingdom of God: serving not merely as book outlets: but as a focal point for enquirers and contact point with the local Christian community. So I deliberately took an approach that would at least make my book available through major bookshop distributors. But will I recoup the additional costs? Not for quite some time, even if the book sells well.

    I am still pursuing the idea of a ‘sale or giveaway’ promotion: but simply building an email list of suitable UK Christian bookshops to approach is costing me days of effort. And then, how many bookshops will even bother to respond?

    That is why I feel there is a real and urgent need for a distributor who can specialise in servicing the Christian Indie author’s market. Are there any takers?

    • January 25, 2013 at 10:19 am

      Several years ago I offered my services to one of our Canadian distributors to basically act as a ‘scout’ looking for independent product creators with product worthy of national distribution. I was told that the problem was they didn’t want to go to the trouble of creating a new vendor in their database that didn’t involve a significant line (or range as you say in the UK) of products.

      A couple of years later, I went back to the same distributor and proposed a model whereby they would bring in ancillary products on a one-time basis and then allow themselves to sell out. Because this one involved importing products from the U.S., it was dismissed because they didn’t feel the independents in question would offer good enough discounts to eclipse importation costs on smaller quantities of items.

      In both cases, they wanted to deal only with higher profile publishers and gift lines.

      That doesn’t directly answer your question, but I want you to know there are those of us in retail who have investigated this on behalf of people like yourself.

      Here in Canada, we have something called The Word Guild, which helps promote and market independent authors, but individuals bookstores need to place orders directly with each publisher or author; and many don’t citing the same economies of scale issues with placing small orders and having to do the necessary accounting and bookkeeping.

      My advice to authors is to use your self-published book as a calling card for getting your next book issued by a larger publishing house.

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