Friday, December 11, 2009

Mysteries Revealed (or: Why I'm Not On Amazon Yet)

Remember: Monday is the BLOG PARTY!!! 

Some of you have asked why my novel isn't available on Amazon yet, and wondered if it would be in bookstores near you. These are great questions; questions which I had no answer to. And so I went to the one who had the answers: my publisher.

This blog post is partly to answer those of you who were asking, and partly just to inform anyone interested in the process. Seriously, isn't it a bit of a mystery? We writers know we should write, query, obtain agent, get book contract, go through edits, then WA-LA! The book is on the bookshelves of every major (and minor) bookstore on earth, right? Right???

Well, no.

And if you skip the obtaining an agent part and go with a small publisher, the answer is even less no. 

The reason for this is timing.

With a larger publisher things move slowly. There are lots of hands in the process, and once the writer is done with their part, there are still lots of hands working towards the looming release date. There are marketers and printers and TIME. Time to put out ARCs (Advance Reader Copies). Time to include the book in the publisher catalog. Time for the bookstores to see the catalogs and order the books and have them waiting in the back for the date to stock them on the shelves. Time for notices to be sent to online retailers. Time for the book to be put into e-book format. It's built into the process, so that when an author signs and gets a release date, that date may be a year in the future: plenty of time to get all the details worked out.

With a smaller press, things move much more quickly, because in general there isn't a huge staff of people working their end. There aren't huge marketing blitzes to be done. They don't wait to put out ARCs and then wait for the readers of those to read and write praises for the cover. They make the book available to the public as fast as the printer can print it. And so, though I only finished edits a month ago, the book is now being printed and my publisher can make it available to you.

The timing issue is when it comes down to getting the book through someone else. Despite what some people might think, my book's entire first run isn't sitting in stacks of boxes in my publisher's garage waiting for them to ship it out to every bookstore in the world. It's sitting in a warehouse of a major book distributor, whose sole purpose is to supply people with books.

My publisher uses Ingram Book Company, the largest book distributer in the world. They will stock my book, enter it into their database, and then make it available for 90% of bookstores worldwide. So while my publisher might have some boxes of books to send out to individuals, it's actually Ingram that's responsible for getting it everywhere else. And that takes time. It takes time to put the information in it's database. It takes time for bookstores to find the book and order it - because a bookstore doesn't get every book that's published.... they only get what they ask for.

Once it's in the database, though, it should show up on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and it should be available, if not in your local bookstore, at least in the computer so that your local bookstore can order it. I've been told that should be about three weeks from the time it's printed.

Which won't stop me from checking Amazon everyday. :) 


  1. Hi Heidi, thanks for the behind-the-scenes tour, and explaining how some of the mysterious distribution part works.

    I know a local author, Marie Lamba, who published with Random House but wasn't one of their top list books, so she had to do a lot of her own marketing. Her site has loads of tips about it (this post in particular is great:

    P.S. I have a gift for you over at my blog.

  2. So looking forward to your blog party on Monday.

  3. Hi! I hopped over from Laurel's blog. I guess I'll have to come back on Monday, too! :)

  4. Laurel - Thanks for the gift!! I'll put it on my blog this week. :)

    Thanks also for the post on marketing tips... that's an even better tip! :) I think there are a lot of authors at big houses that aren't top priority and so are about in the same place as me. There's a lot to learn from each other!