Boost Your Book Launch by Perfecting Distribution and Metadata

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Today’s post is by David Wogahn, the author of Countdown to Book Launch and the president of AuthorImprints, a self-publishing services company. This article is based on his presentation at IBPA’s Publishing University, Launch Plans—Build Out Your Blueprint for Success.

The major self-publishing platforms have made the publishing process easy—perhaps too easy. We’ve been conditioned by our use of consumer technology to expect instant results. Errors are not difficult to fix. A change of heart or opinion? Re-upload the file or edit your book’s listing!

But in practice, some things in publishing can’t be changed, and other changes don’t happen anywhere near as fast as you might think. The truth about publishing is that you basically get one shot with many essential aspects of the process. Do-overs can be expensive if not impossible, or they may not be successful.

During the past ten years, AuthorImprints has helped more than 200 self-publishing authors publish their books. We’ve experienced virtually every conceivable pre-release production challenge, discovered pitfalls to avoid, and found several opportunities you can use to streamline the publishing process. Here are the most important lessons self-publishing authors can integrate into their first or next book-release plan.

Determine your distribution strategy first

The first question I ask a self-publishing author is if they have special print requirements as these may preclude the use of print on demand (POD). Those requirements can include the need or preference for special paper, color printing, or non-standard dimensions.

Beyond the cost of printing, the big hurdle for books that are not POD is selling the book on Amazon and listing it in the Ingram catalog. For this you’ll need to find a distributor or fulfillment company that can do this for you.

On the other hand, the two big POD providers—Amazon KDP and IngramSpark—offer printing with distribution as a single offering. Compared to printing books in bulk and having to find a distributor, the process is simple to set up, assuming your book meets POD requirements.

This is what makes POD so popular with self-publishers. It’s a terrific solution, but it also carries those expectations of instant results and the assumption that updates are easy. They can be, but make sure you avoid these three gotchas when using IngramSpark. They can bring chaos to an otherwise well-planned book launch:

1. Do not enable distribution until the files are final. IngramSpark clearly states that they may begin printing books “as soon as the title is enabled for distribution.” If you’ve uploaded a draft or advance reader copy, and distribution is enabled, that’s the version your buyer may receive. It has happened to novices and experienced authors alike.

2. While your book is available for pre-order, don’t make changes to the files close to the release date. This relates to the preceding lesson. If your book has been enabled for distribution, IngramSpark states it will be removed from distribution while the changes are processing. I’ve found that books sometimes remain for sale. You never know.

For example, a client’s hardcover was available for pre-order two weeks before the release date when he asked us to update the dust jacket. It was indeed removed from distribution, and as of this writing, three weeks after release date, it still isn’t available for purchase from Other stores have it, including, but not

3. Do allow for listing delays. We’ve found that books distributed by IngramSpark will appear on Barnes & Noble relatively quickly, in about a week or so. But we’ve seen it take weeks for a book to appear on Amazon in full—cover, price, and order button. It can also take weeks for the formats to be connected or joined on a single page. Other times, these processes may take only days.

Does that mean Amazon KDP is a better choice? No, they aren’t even an option if you want to offer pre-order. KDP also does not allow you to control wholesale settings, which you need to control so bookstores can order your book.

I suggest you upload final files at least six weeks before release date and don’t make changes to the files.

Get the price right from the start

Leaving margins aside, your paperback’s retail price can generally be competitive with traditionally published trade paperbacks. It’s almost impossible, however, to be competitive with hardcover pricing. Printing in bulk helps, but larger publishers also have distribution efficiencies that enable them to price hardcovers more attractively than self-publishers can.

The biggest difference between self- and traditionally published book pricing can be seen with ebooks. One reason for traditional publishers’ high ebook prices is to protect the pricing of their print editions, which in turn benefits bookstores. But traditional publishers also enjoy distribution advantages unavailable to self-publishers via KDP or from a self-service ebook aggregator. Traditionally published books often aren’t subject to the download fees charged by KDP, and the royalties are different. These terms can be negotiated by traditional publishers.

For more on pricing self-published books, read Kim Catanzarite’s post about the wisdom of giveaways and low pricing here on Jane’s blog. Her experience is my own, and I give most of our new author-clients the same advice: price aggressively low from the outset. If you start high and later reduce the price, you may never recapture momentum. You want to maximize reading, not margins. Having lots of readers translates to getting customer reviews. And books with lots of reviews have pricing leverage.

Also: get your metadata right from the start for better discoverability

Never submit the metadata for your print book until you are 100 percent certain it is final. Certain metadata elements become locked when a print book is set for release. This includes not only the title, subtitle, imprint, and ISBN, but also the book’s dimensions and paper type, and none of it can be changed after the book is released. If changes are needed, you must republish the book.

Here are the three marketing-related tasks you should complete during the book production process to help improve discoverability.

1. List your completely ready, no further changes needed on anything print book for pre-order on IngramSpark at least four weeks (preferably six) before the release date. As noted above, it can take days or weeks for the book to appear on Amazon, ready for purchase. This listing is important for three other reasons:

  • Assuming you bought ISBNs recently, they probably begin with 979. Then Amazon assigns their internal identifier, called an ASIN. This 10-digit alphanumeric identifier is embedded in the Amazon link to your book. You need the link for marketing.
  • When a book is available for pre-order, you can add it to your Amazon author page, or set up an author page (via Amazon Author Central) if you are a new author. While you’re at it, set up a free author profile on BookBub.
  • You can add or update editorial reviews as they come in. There are fields for this in IngramSpark and Amazon Author Central.

2. Assign the ISBN by completing all the required information and clicking the Submit button. A few years ago we did this for one of our client’s books, and the publisher received orders from a library distributor and an indie retailer, Books & Books (Florida). The book was not available from any retailer for pre-order, and Bowker had the only public record. (That’s the thing about the book business; you never know how someone will discover your book.)

3. Order library cataloging from a service that also submits it to the WorldCat database (the world’s largest library catalog.”) Will it help you sell more books? Hard to say. What I do know is that bookselling is all about discovery, and the more databases (and stores!) you can get your book into, the easier it is for readers, librarians, wholesalers, and retailers to find it.

In summary, distribution planning, pricing, and metadata-release timing can have as much to do with your book’s success as writing and cover design. Done poorly, readers may never have a chance to discover your book.

Typos can be fixed, covers replaced, blurbs adjusted, and keywords updated. But to quote Euripides, “A bad beginning makes a bad ending.”

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