Is Your Book Designed with Professional Distribution in Mind?

Large book retailers like Barnes & Noble have criteria that books must meet before they can become part of the store’s offering. Fortunately, these criteria often follow an industry-wide standard.

If you are serious about getting your book into online and offline book retailer collections, you will want to design your book to meet the following common distribution criteria.

Checklist Item #1: You should own your own ISBN.

If you purchased your ISBN from anyone other than Bowker or through an approved Bowker discount reseller like CreateSpace or an APSS membership, you do not own your ISBN and will not be able to control how you distribute your book. (Note that CreateSpace offers a free ISBN, but you can only sell the book that wears that ISBN through CreateSpace. Read this earlier post for more information on why I don’t recommend using their free ISBN.)

Checklist Item #2: Your book cover and interior should look like it was published by a traditional publishing company like Random House or Thomas Nelson. 

Book retailers do not want to carry books that don’t look professional because that reflects poorly on the retailer. For example, if you saw several chairs in a furniture store that looked like they would fall apart as soon as you sat in them, you would probably be skeptical of anything they sell and choose not to buy from them. This is the kind of logic that book retailers hope to avoid. Read this earlier post for more information on how to avoid common interior book design mistakes.

Checklist Item #3: The book price should be based on the price of similar books that would appear on the bookstore shelf next to your book, or in the same online category. 

You may think that your 100-page book is worth $25, but if other books in your category that have the same page count are priced at $9.99, the book retailer is almost guaranteed not to sell your book. If they cannot sell your book, they will not buy your book.

If you want your book in bookstores, then make sure your books will be competitive with the other books on the shelf. If you are not selling to bookstores, make sure your books are competitively priced for the market place of your choice.

Read this earlier post for more information about how to price your book.

Checklist Item #4: Your book should have a price specific EAN-Bar code

Your retailers do not want to do any extra work just to sell your book. They do not like creating a custom entry into their POS system to assign a price to your bar code, so they prefer that you put a bar code on your book that includes the price. The next time you pick up a book that you purchased from a bookstore, look at the bar code on the back cover to see an example of what this code looks like.

Your book cover designer may or may not include this code as part of the design. You will want to ask if this is included. If it is not included, just ask how much they will charge to include it.

When you buy your ISBN from Bowker, they will offer you a bar code with your purchase. You can always go back to get one, or you can use one of the many free online bar code generators to get what you need. (I’ve had success with using this one.)

Checklist Item #5: The copyright page should be up to industry standards.

The copyright page should include all the information that retailers need to know about your book. You can get a free list of information that should be included from book designer Joel Friedlander’s blog, but I recommend investing $10 in his e-book to see sample copyright page information that you can use in your book.

Checklist Item #6: The book should be professionally edited by developmental editors, copyeditors and proofreaders who review it after the book layout is complete.

Most book industry professionals will tell you that there is no such thing as a perfect book. Some of the later books in J.K. Rowling’s famous “Harry Potter” series have several errors that represent what happens when publishers-whether self-publishers or traditional publishers-allow authors to rush a book through the editing process. But unlike J.K. Rowling, most authors do not have an established sales record that would encourage retail book buyers to overlook errors.

Read this earlier post for more information about what to expect from the editing process and how to find the editors you need.

Checklist Item #7: You should have a written marketing plan that outlines how and when you will promote the book.

When you decide to watch a movie at your local movie theater, you do not go because the movie theater advertised the move. You go because the movie producers advertised the movie.

In the book publishing industry, book retailers expect you to promote your book and drive traffic into their stores and/or onto their websites to buy the book. Your marketing plan should outline everything you plan to do to promote the book in the months leading up to the publication and in the 12-months after the publication.

None of the nationwide book distribution options I recommended in an earlier post require this marketing plan, but if you want to make money through your vast distribution network you will need a solid marketing plan that can produce those sales. Click here to get an overview of your marketing plan options.

If you choose to work with a book distributor who specializes in selling to your target audience, they will need a written marketing plan. I recommend that you partner with book marketing expert Brian Jud to have his team promote your book to the five distributors who are most likely to carry your book. Click here to learn more about this $650 service.

Which item on this checklist do you think authors have the most trouble with? 

Image by: Mayihorta (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products or services that I have mentioned.

Danielle Fetherson

Danielle helps aspiring authors become published authors. She believes that everyone has at least one book on the inside of them that can make a positive impact on someone else's life. If you have been thinking about writing a book, learn how to start your book today with the free resources at