As much as possible, you should do things yourself. Even if you get picked up by Diamond, do as much as you can personally. Never rely on others to do everything.
As with digital distribution covered in the previous column, self-distribution was not covered in “Research, Research, Research: What If Diamond Rejects You," an oversight that is corrected here.
Depending on your point-of-view, self-distribution is either your first choice for distribution, or your last choice for distribution. No matter which it is for you, self-distribution is a viable form of distribution if you are willing to put in even more hard work and sweat and take on more work for the labor of love your title should be.
The biggest and best ways to self-distribute are: Conventions, state fairs and trade shows; digital distribution; mail order; web comics and direct to retailers. Keep in mind none of these are easy, or even guaranteed to succeed.
Conventions, State Fairs, Swap Meets and Trade Shows: Conventions were covered in detail in "Research, Research, Research: Distrubution — Conventions."
This column covered what conventions are, how to approach them, broke down convention myths and what the most important goal is of going to any convention.
State fairs, swap meets and trade shows can be treated like conventions. Get a booth, showcase your title (s) and sell as many copies as you can. State fairs and swap meets are different beasts than trade shows.
Ideally you can set up at any state fair or swap meet and push your title. However, be careful with trade shows – these are often more exclusive and a harder sell. There reason for this is that trade shows often focus on a particular niche, such as technology, guns or cars.
Research trade shows and find ones that may have something in common with your title. Set up at those shows and sell, sell, sell. For example, if your title deals with cars or a central theme of the title revolves around cars, then set up at car shows. You never know, people might buy the title.
Mail Order/Subscription: Mail order and subscriptions are basically the same thing and are still a viable distribution route. Think about it, DC and Marvel still offer subscriptions to their titles.
Money flows straight to you without a retailer or distributor involved – which also means you get more per book – and it is easy to track who is selling your book and what areas it is selling too. The biggest advantage this route has is that reader may subscribe to an entire mini-series or a full years worth – or more – of an ongoing series. That is usually up front money.
There are a few disadvantages. Shipping cost is the biggest, and that needs to be charged to the reader, otherwise it will eat into your profit. This will get time consuming, as you will have to fill every order yourself.
Discounts are something that straddles the line of being an advantage and disadvantage. If you want someone to subscribe to your ongoing series you need to entice them. You can do that by giving them a discount for 6-month, 12-month, 18-month subscriptions. The disadvantage: you may make less money in the long run. The advantage: money up front.
The easiest thing to do here is set up an on-line store through your website, or you can use e-Bay or Amazon.
Direct to retailers: This is listed last because it is the hardest form of distribution to do. Most retailers do not want to order any title unless they come through Diamond. Ordering from one source makes it far easier on the retailer.
That said some retailers are open to ordering titles directly from the publisher. Just be prepared to give up a good percentage of the cover price to entice the retailer to deal directly with you.
Again, keep in mind that if you do get orders from retailers, you will probably be fulfilling each order yourself and mailing them out.
Of course who knows, in doing your own research, you might find some other viable way to self-distribute.
As mentioned twice above, you will probably be fulfilling each order yourself, since you are now the distributor as well. Because of this you will have increased costs, as you will have to cover mailing materials and postage cost. So don’t forget to add shipping and handling to any orders.
Just as with self-publishing, self-distribution is possible and can be done. It just takes a whole new level of commitment and a lot more work.
But, to do what you love, it will be worth it.
Distribution Wrap-up: the final column in the researching distribution series.