Recently the media in Canada (and maybe elsewhere) has played up the fact a debut fiction author won a major literary prize (worth $50,000 cdn.). Overnight the orders for the book began pouring in to the publisher who is a very small literary press that does it's own publishing (printing) on two off-set presses. The information is the books are printed using this equipment by hand- meaning very slow. Result is the distribution capability of this Press is limiting the ability of retailers to satisfy the surge in demand while the author loses out on not just the royalty revenue but on the favorable public reaction to her great achievement. It is a negative situation working against the author's interests...and is wrong.
So what does this all mean for new authors of any genre of book?
Whether you have an experienced Agent or not recognize the importance of learning about the distribution ability of any book publisher who wants to make an offer to publish your book. That due diligence should satisfy you (and your Agent, if you have one) the book publisher has national sales coverage, physical warehousing with support to fill orders, and most importantly has a commerical book printer to do off-set using modern, high-speed equipment- so orders can be filled quickly.
It is exciting to have a book publisher want to acquire rights to publish your book. But...you also want to see your book be available to the public whether you win a high profile prize or get favorable media reviews or a major retailer wants to support your book because the buyer reads and loves it!. Whatever the reason the importance of distribution (including sales coverage) is as important as anything else the publisher has to offer you.