Why I don’t sell factory direct

Recently I have been thinking a lot about the relationship that I am trying to build with small presses and today at work an analogy occured to me to explain why I have made certain business decisions.

See, at my day job I frequently have to locate replacement parts for different kind of building systems–lighting, plumbing, HVAC. If I’m lucky I can find a manufacturer’s label on the part someplace, and then I contact the manufacturer.

Sometimes the manufacturer has a parts department or a sales department, but more often than not they will tell me that they don’t sell factory direct, but if I give them my zip code they’ll give me the contact information for a distributor in my area.

At first glance this sounds dumb. You’ve got a customer on the phone with money to spend and you’re not going to take it? Give the sale away to someone else?

But it does make business sense in the long term, because the manufacturer wants to have a good relationship with their distributors and stealing customers by undercutting their prices is kind of a dick move to pull on your business partners.

I think of myself as the manufacturer in this scenario and the small presses as my distributors. And for a number of reasons I’m committed to not selling directly to customers–by which I mean putting my work up on Amazon or other ebook retailers under my own name.

(My novels are a different story since they aren’t available through a small press. I would absolutely be open to taking them down and letting someone else publish them, but until I get an offer they’ll stay up.)

For my stories, though, I want them to be available only through indie presses. That’s the deal–if you want a Misha Burnett story you have to do business with one of the outlets that I sell my work through.

“Available through these fine retailers!” like the late night TV commercials say. That means my reprints, as they become available, will be released by one of those presses, or not at all. If you want “A Hill Of Stars” you can just go buy Cirsova #1 because I’m not putting the story up on Amazon under my own name, although the rights have reverted to me and I could.

I’m turning away customers with money to spend? Yes, I am.

The main reason that I am doing that is I believe strongly that if indie fiction is going to thrive it’s going to do so because of indie publishers. Right now the ebook and POD market is very fragile. There are a few outlets that overwhelmingly control customer access and they can choke it off any time they like. The only thing that will shift the balance of power is presses with enough customer muscle to be able to negotiate with the big retailers or to create their own distribution outlets.

With very few exceptions solo authors will not be able to generate that kind of economic power. Independent publishers could, given time–but only if they are supported by their authors. When authors put their stories up directly once the rights revert they are, in essence, selling factory direct and undercutting their distributors.

Now, I will admit that I sell through a lot of distributors. This year I will be adding Storyhack and Switchblade magazines to my list of outlets. So it’s not as if I am giving any one publisher a monopoly on my work.  I am less committed to any one press (although there are some that I have a very good working relationship with) than I am to the idea that authors should not be in direct competition with publishers for sales.

That’s sabotaging the whole indie movement, in my opinion.

About MishaBurnett

I am the author of "Catskinner's Book", a science fiction novel available on Amazon Kindle. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008MPNBNS
This entry was posted in Artists That I Admire, On Promotion, On Publishing, On Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Why I don’t sell factory direct

  1. Dave Higgins says:

    It’s an interesting argument; I can certainly see the analogy with unionising for increased power.

    The question is how much “doing it for indies as a whole” to do compared to paying the bills: selling stories then releasing them again in a collection of reprints (an indie strategy Cirsova were promoting recently) is certainly a better way to get income in an environment that doesn’t produce income easily.

    If one can sell an collection of reprints to an indie publisher, one can combine both; however, most of the indie presses I know don’t have much space in their schedule to pick up several collections as well as the things they’ve commissioned.

    On a related tangent: drat you to heck for inspiring the idea of putting out a call for an anthology of spec fic reprints before I’ve got the two anthologies I’m currently publishing tidily ticking along.

    • MishaBurnett says:

      I think that pitching reprint collections to indie presses can work, as long as you can work around their schedule and are willing to do a lot of the work yourself. In theory the stories have already been edited for publication.

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