If you don’t know about CBD.com, it’s basically the Amazon.com specific to explicitly Christian entertainment media and gifts—kinda like the biggest Christian bookstore you’ve ever been to but in an online and catalogue format. If you’re an indie or self-published author of ECPA or CBA style titles you would certainly want to be available through those markets, right? So how do you get into their catalogue?
I contacted them. Got very little. Contacted again with much more specific questions—got very little data, and then tracked down some info, called them and got to the bottom of it because their site had some misinformation (or at least some very misleading/poorly written info)—that’s some real hard-hitting investigative journalism there. (pats self on back).
While there is a statement on the CBD site which seems to say that you can get carried by their distribution system if you are self-published, their online FAQ states: “Unfortunately, we are not able to accept unsolicited product queries, proposals, or manuscripts. We simply cannot accommodate the numerous requests we receive and we do not review any materials sent to us; but we’d be happy to suggest other resources for assistance.” (I do believe that it was my multiple communications that made them put this statement up as it was added after all of my questions).
Here’s what I found: it’s not impossible to get in to the CBD catalogue, but it’s not easy, either. They are very reluctant to give any info on how you can get in. Under a page they promote about “self-publishing” and “want to see your book on CBD?” you get redirected to a pay-for manuscript hosting service. It seemed like a back door into their catalogue, since I couldn’t find any info on how to get in outside being published by a big CBA traditional house. It was a dead end, though. The link focuses on getting a publishing contract through one of the big traditional houses.
In trying to discern if it was even possible to get in as an indie I remembered that I had purchased an indie book via CBD several years ago—that indie house had offered me a contract (but is also a bit of an author-mill: they focused on making money from author services, not on the publisher’s cut of the book sales) and I wanted a sense of their quality. Armed with that knowledge I’d asked CBD for a list of publishers they purchase from… and they refused to give that saying the list was too big (I can understand that… there may also be some confidentiality concerns on their part, though it’s not like I’m I’m wikileaks of anything.
I scoured the internet and did find one publisher who mentioned that they could get authors in to the CBD catalogue: Bookbaby. (I’m familiar as my old rockband used their music service arm to produce our cds). Bookbaby did speculate during our phone call that the reason they handle a large volume of Christian indie authors is that they market their ability to harness the power of christianbook.com (CBD’s site).
Since they wouldn’t give me a list from their purchasing department at CBD, I manually searched for book publishers in their system. I looked for titles by Bookbaby, Tate, Xulon, Westbow (part of Harper Collins), Xlibris, Creation House, Crossbooks (part of B&H), Outskirts Press, Castle Gate Press, and even Createspace. I found a very limited number of titles from each of the above.
Something they told me at Bookbaby (the polite customer service rep on the phone went to his supervisor to get me some info) is that the exact nature of their relationship with CBD is confidential and as such he can’t divulge certain things. I was interested in specifically what the parameters for title selection might be, but that was something that they simply could not share with me. They also couldn’t speak to their procedures regarding authors (I wanted to know if they would automatically pitch a new Christian title to CBD or if the author had to specifically request as much.)
I contacted Createspace in order to see if there was some special process to get a book in. Createspace had no info for me and so I suspect there is another avenue (some inside relationship those authors had with someone in CBD’s Buying Dept.) I contacted some of the authors directly who are listed in the CBD catalogue and received no answer. As I looked more and more into it, I also began to wonder if there might be something else that factors into it such as book producer (perhaps those Createspace writers also opted into using Ingramspark for expanded distribution—but more on that in future blogs). After a few weeks of emails, phone calls, and research I’ve come to all dead ends.
To answer my title question (How do I get in CBD as an Indie) the answer really is, “You can’t.” The bottom line is that indies must be published by a company that has a relationship with CBD’s buyers—and you must specifically ask them to make a pitch to CBD, and their buying parameters are written on the backside of the Krusty Krab’s Krabby Patty Secret Formula, so we may never know. If you want to be carried in CBD you must specifically ask your indie publishers to pursue that as a distribution avenue. It sounds like the path is narrow and the parameters are murky, but at least we know that it is an option.