If you’re new to both writing and publishing, or if you’re an author becoming a publisher for one or more of your titles, definitions of terms used in book manufacturing, distribution, and sales can come in handy.
Here are 10 you’re likely to encounter.
Author services companies. Book editing, design, pre-press production, and outsourced book manufacturing are among the services author services companies may offer at a price. Some also arrange for certain kinds of distribution and for content and design of websites, press releases and brochures and other marketing communications. Such firms cater to people new to publishing. IngramSpark and CreateSpace are among the POD vendors offering author services on a fee basis. Many of the retailers with Espresso Book Machines bundle author services with POD for a fee.
Book manufacturer. Often used as a synonym for printer, a book manufacturer traditionally specialized in high-capacity offset sheet-fed printing, but most book manufacturers today also offer digital printing. Usually, they have in-house bindery services for such specialties as perfect and lay-flat binding, embossing, debossing and die-cutting. Some handle case binding (hard covers) and library binding in-house; others outsource such binding. Book manufacturers are not publishers, although some are affiliated with publishers or offer design and distribution services.
Digital printing. The laser printing technology of digital presses is a sophisticated version of the technology used in office copiers and printers. Digital printing is more economical for many short runs than offset printing.
Distributors. Companies that work with publishers to get books stocked by wholesalers, retailers and specialty catalogs. Distributors typically require an exclusive for at least one market; for example, an American publisher might use a distributor for sales in Canada but handle distribution by itself for sales in the U.S. Distributors may sell only to wholesale and retail booksellers, or they may also sell direct, to consumers and such end users as schools. Most have sales staff or commissioned sales reps.
Offset printing. The most common kind of commercial printing since the 1950s, this photographic technique transfers images from metal plates to paper. It can produce high-quality printing at high volume, but is not cost-effective for small runs.
POD companies. IngramSpark, LightningSource, and CreateSpace are among the best-known companies that provide POD services with digital printing.
Printer. A vendor that prints material on paper using sheet-fed or web presses. A print shop may use offset or digital presses and one or several colors of ink. Although many printers today offer book printing as well as other typical business printing, most experienced publishers use book manufacturers. Printers are not publishers.
Print on demand. Although the term is often used as a synonym for digital printing, it can entail just what it says – printing one copy or a small number of copies to fulfill demand in the form of an order.
Retailers, online. Amazon.com is, of course, the best-known online book retailer. Books produced through its CreateSpace subsidiary are readily available on Amazon.com. Online retailers including Amazon obtain books, printed digitally and by offset, through wholesalers and distributors and directly from publishers. Amazon’s CreateSpace unit does not wholesale books to other online retailers or storefront retailers.
Retailers, storefront. The category includes bookstore chains, big-box stores, specialty retailers and independent bookstores, which order much of their inventory through wholesalers and distributors and sometimes place special orders with publishers, either on consignment or on the industry’s traditional terms.
Wholesalers. Unlike distributors, wholesalers have few sales personnel. Their specialty is fulfilling orders from retailers. They buy direct from selected publishers that handle distribution on their own, and from distributors that represent publishers. Typically wholesalers seldom or never sell direct to consumers.