I Got Distribution!


Getting started in any business is tough, and self-publishing is no exception. One of the biggest hurtles that faces the aspiring self-publisher is that of distribution.

Most booksellers prefer to work with distributors rather than with individual publishers. Distributors tend to process and ship orders more quickly, and it consolidates the number of checks that have to be written every month (just one to the distributor, versus dozens to dozens of different publishers). There’s no way around it: you want to see your book in bookstores, getting a distributor to work with you is critical. 

Distributors, on the other hand, tend to shy away from small publishers, and especially self-publishers. They don’t want to bother with a self-publishing author who only has one book and who may never publish again. A distributor wants to develop a profitable long-term relationship with publishers that have a whole line of books. My informal research suggested that most distributors wouldn’t even consider a publisher unless they had a backlist of at least ten titles or so.

This creates a nice little catch-22. You’ll never be able to publish ten books without distribution, but you can’t get distribution unless you’ve published ten books. So what’s a first time publisher to do?

I decided to forego trying to make a deal with a distributor directly, and instead contacted an established comic book publisher to see if I could sub-distribute my comic through them. The downside to this approach is that the publisher takes a commission in addition to the distributor’s hefty cut. But on the upside, an established publisher already has distribution networks in place, and knows the ins and outs of the business better than I ever could. 

I’d only heard good things about the comic book publisher Top Shelf Productions and its tireless owners Chris Staros and Brett Warnock, so I approached them about it. I’m delighted to report that they have agreed to serve in the capacity of my distributor.

 The page devoted to Tonoharu: Part One on the Top Shelf website includes a seven page preview of the comic, so check that out here.