January 28, 2013

The Myth Of Book Distribution - Bruce Atchison

Back in 2006, I believed the myth that a book publisher would be able to peddle my books for me better through their online store than I could do it alone. After doing hours of research, I chose Blitzprint as my book publisher. Being located in Calgary, I felt that the shipping costs for my paperbacks would be lower than from some distant publisher. I also was attracted by their online store.

Though I did sell about 20 copies of When a Man Loves a Rabbit through the bookstore, I sold more than 200 books through rabbit-related e-mail lists and the alt.pets.rabbits newsgroup.

Encouraged by this success, I published Deliverance from Jericho, a memoir of my six-year-exile to a school for the blind in Vancouver, British Columbia. I don't remember any copies of that book selling through the online store.

When I received the sad news in 2008 that Blitzprint would soon close their online store and book distribution department, I felt upset and betrayed. Even so, I paid the shipping cost to receive the books that remained in their warehouse rather than have them recycled.

I recently visited Blitzprint's site to find out if they had re instituted their online shop. The following explanation amply explains why they discontinued their distribution operations. The web site said in part, "There was a time when Blitzprint did distribute books. But an analysis of our sales data revealed that 99 percent of listed titles sold less than one copy per month. The fact is that distribution does not sell books. The myth is that it does—a myth on which a great many vanity publishers are founded: Give them your money, they stock your book, and it becomes a best seller. Like we said, it’s a myth."

While an online bookstore presence is helpful, writers need to work hard and long to promote their work. It would be nice if we had the automatic sales we hoped for but it doesn't come easy. In fact, The Authors Show promotional instructions taught me that out of a thousand people receiving my book advertisement, only five would buy a copy. This sad-but-true statistic means that we have to blitz social media as well as remind every contact we have about our book. That's just the way it is.

To read the rest of the article regarding distribution and fulfillment, visit the Blitzprint page.

As for my books, Amazon and Barnes & Noble stock my newly published How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity memoir while Virtual Bookworm stocks the paperback version. My previous memoirs are available at the Bruce Atchison's books link.

Bruce Atchison is a freelance writer and author living in Radway, Alberta with his house rabbit, Deborah.


  1. Bruce, thanks for sharing lessons you've learned about marketing. I remember being surprised to hear that writing a book is the "easy" part. We need to brainstorm and see if there are ways we as InScribe members can work together on marketing.

  2. Hi Bruce:
    Your experience reminds me that there is very little, if any, value in going to a publisher at all. They are all facing financial undermining that self publishing and ebooks are doing.
    Unless they find a new approach, many will go to the same demise bookstores have experienced with online selling.
    Of course, the large publishers with their coterie of best-selling authors will continue to flourish--at least for a time yet--but are no help to those of us who are unrecognized by the general public.
    Of course, that won't stop us writing, we mostly do it for the enjoyment of it. But if our goal is income, then much of our time will go to promotion instead of writing.
    Just seems such a waste of good writing time!

  3. Bruce, I'm so glad you shared your experience with us... and to help uncover the 'myth'.

    I was happy to hear that you've found some buyers for "When A Man Loves Rabbit" through your 'bunny' connections. I enjoyed reading that book, btw!

  4. Thanks for sharing your experiences. This cold hard truth can either make us feel very discouraged... (nobody is going to read my book anyway...) or give us hope that we are on the cutting edge of something new in terms of book distribution. I second Ruth's comment - it would be great if we as Inscribe writers could think of ways to beat the odds. (Or at least make them a tiny bit sweeter...)


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