By  Tom Doherty

If this is your first trip to a BEA conference or your first trip to BEA looking for a distributor here are a few tidbits that will hopefully make your search easier and more productive.

Something to keep in mind when visiting distributors at BEA is that much of the distributors’ staff at the booth will be sales and marketing people. That makes sense since BEA is the time to showcase upcoming summer, fall, and winter titles to retail, wholesale, library and other institutional buyers. I encourage you to talk to the sales and marketing people, but you want to specifically look for somebody at the booth familiar with client services. The following are 5 steps to finding a distributor at Book Expo America 2016 in Chicago.

  1. You may not be able to get all of the information you need or all of your questions answered during the show. If the distributor staff you need are too busy then take notes about the booth, search out printed material about their services and talk to sales and marketing staff or the distributor’s existing clients that might be at the booth. If you can talk to the right people be sure to have prepared questions and take notes during or directly after your discussion. You’ll have a hard time keeping track of what you did and didn’t learn about each booth visited after the show.
  2. Do your research before the show. Which distributors offer the best match of services to needs, do they distribute similar product, and of course will they be attending Book Expo America? Prepare your questions in advance.
  3. Do your initial reconnaissance the first day. Stop and talk if you can, but the first day and much of the second day distributor staff may be inundated with customers as well as client prospects. If the staff at the booth is very busy you might ask for a time to schedule a fifteen minute meeting later in the show. By late the second day and much of the last day booth staff will have much more time to answer your questions and follow up questions. You may also need to return to a booth for follow up questions later in the show so be prepared to back track.
  4. Have your elevator pitch ready before you get to the show. Bring along one handout that includes information about your book(s) and your contact information. Keep it simple.
  5. The best thing you can do is try and schedule as many meetings in advance of BEA as possible. Visit one or both of the links I list below to find a list of distributors to begin your research. Contact those attending the show and see if you can set up a meeting in advance. If you have fewer than five titles then fifteen minutes should be all you need. If your line is larger you might want to schedule more time. You can (and should) always follow up after the show to have any unanswered questions answered.

Good luck at the show and be sure to wear comfortable shoes. To learn more about your distribution options through Cardinal Publishers Group visit   You can visit us at BEA 2016 in Chicago at booth #1624.

Some good resources for finding distributors:

If you are serious about publishing for profit or even profitably publishing for a non-profit I suggest you consider joining an organization like the Independent Book Publishers Association [disclosure: I am a member and former board member.] This organization has a great monthly magazine and many other education and marketing benefits. There are other good organizations that help self-publishers and I encourage you to look into several, particularly local or regional ones when available, to see which best fits your needs.


Tom DohertyTom Doherty is the president and founder of Cardinal Publishers Group.

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