For authors who are self publishing, distributing your book can be complicated. The world of book distribution is confusing, and knowing where to start can be a challenge.

In December, I sat down with Amy Collins of New Shelves Books to discuss book distribution for our Author to Influencer Accelerator Expert Interview series. If you haven’t already heard, Author to Influencer is our DIY subscription group for all things book promotion, from preparation to promotion. 

In our “cliff notes,” here are Amy Collins’ 5 steps to getting started with distribution for your book. 

  1. Own your ISBN

The most important (and often overlooked) first step to distributing your book is owning your own ISBN. If you’ve hired a third party publisher, then you don’t own your ISBN and you don’t need to worry about distribution since it belongs to them.

But, if you are self-distributing and you bought an ISBN from KDP or got it for free from Amazon KDP, start over. What ends up happening is that you’ve just given away all your distribution rights if you don’t own the ISBN, even though they put your name on it. 

Taking a free ISBN instead of getting your own from the proper industry outlet is a huge mistake. If you’re in the United States, then you need to purchase your ISBN from Bowker. If you’re a Canadian citizen, you can get your ISBN from the Canadian government. Every country has their own rules. But, make sure you do your research.

  1. Register your Book

Once you own your ISBN, you need to properly register your book through myidentifiers.com. That is the U.S. portal that gets you through to Bowker. If you’re a Canadian, you do it through your government. 

  1. Make your Book Available  

To reach as many people as possible with your book, you need to make it available as a physical book, an ebook, and hopefully an audiobook. 

To get started, make your Amazon books, including the Kindle version and your paperback or hardcover, available through the KDP system. Likewise, give bookstores and libraries access to your book through Ingram Spark for paper copies and Draft2Digital for ebooks. For audiobooks, go to Findaway Voices

If you get your book on those four websites, then you will be available to 95% of the retail market. 

  1. Reach out to Retailers

Once your book is up everywhere, then and only then do you start reaching out to retailers. It’s impossible to ask the brick and mortar bookstores to start stocking your book without having them listed on those websites first.

  1. Promote your Book

Brick and mortar stores, and even online stores, will not give you and your book the love and attention it deserves until you promote your book. Set aside some time and money to promote and advertise your book. Not so that people buy it, but so that you can prove to those venues that your book will actively drive people to their store. 

If you create a program and a plan where you let everyone in a specific area know that your book is available at specific bookstores, then the stores will be much more willing to work with you and you will sell far more books. 

For more information on book distribution and other topics related to making your book launch a success, visit www.authortoinfluencer.com.