I received an interesting question from one of you this week -- not a new question, but one I still get asked often, so thought I'd go on the record and answer it here:
Why don't we try to get in with a National Distributor, like Ingram or Baker & Taylor?
Because bookstores buy on credit and later "return" unsold books for a full refund, the system used by Ingram is impossible for most POD publishers. Mass market guys can do it. Small publishers can't. For Us to get "IN" with Ingram and Baker & Taylor (Same company owns both by the way) we would have to "accept returns" and give them a company credit card number. They could then order as many copies as they like from our printer (Stores can order as many copies as they want and never have to pay for them if they don't sell. while the whole concept of POD is that the book is not printed until after it is sold). With the present return system, large numbers of books could be ordered and printed on speculation of sale and charged to our company credit card at $5 or so a copy.
Later, IF any stores do order and don't sell, they rip the cover off the books and return just the covers for credit. The books, for which we had paid about $5 each BEFORE they were printed and sent to the store, are then sent to a landfill and we get nothing. This is why a great many POD publishers are no longer in business.
We have been in business 10 years. We would like to be in business 10 years from now. As much as we'd like to find a national distributor to take our books and send them to bookstores we can't do it with the present return system.
We offer the books to libraries and bookstores if ordered direct from us at 40% off list price. We accept returns IF the WHOLE books are returned to us in condition for resale. Responsible bookstore owners would order five copies and then when they get down to one or two maybe order five more.
But they are used to big deal incentives from big publishers. "Order 50 copies and you get an extra 5% off list." The store can later "return" the covers of the 45 unsold copies for full credit before time for inventory (to avoid the exorbitantly high inventory taxes), the distributor will remind them when the deadline for returns is coming up, and they don't even have to pay freight to "return" them, just mail in a batch of covers and throw the books away. Stores are used to this system and like it as it favors them greatly.
Some chain bookstores have a firm policy against POD published books others are more accepting. Independent stores are often more willing to buy direct a few copies at a time.