Self-publishing a book is an enormous undertaking, and often little details can become big problems if they are not considered. Just what it means to publish a large number of books is something that must be fully understood before your books are delivered.
Depending on how you have your books printed, you need to figure out what kind of inventory you need to have on hand. If you think your book is going to sell really well, you may want to print a large number like 500 or 1,000 or more. If you’re unsure, you may want to print a smaller number. Offset printing (using a regular printer) will be to your advantage if you are printing a large number because the price will be lower per book and the more you print, the lower that price goes. Printing a smaller number, however, may be more convenient, or if your budget is small, perhaps using print-on-demand and digital technology to print the book will be more cost-effective because even if your unit cost is higher, you can order a smaller number, which may be all you can afford.
However you decide to have your books printed, and however many you print, you need to figure out how they will be delivered and where you will put them. Make sure you always ask the printer about delivery options. You need to figure out what is most convenient and most cost-effective for you, and one may not always coincide with the other, so you may have to choose convenience over price or vice-versa.
Here’s a case in point. One author I know has always had his books delivered to his door. If he ordered a small second printing of 100 copies, UPS or FedEX would deliver the books to his home. He has also ordered large first printings before and had them delivered to his door, but the printer he had worked with had always been out-of-state. He never inquired into the details of the delivery costs but simply paid whatever the printer said it would cost for delivery.
Then this author decided to print his next book locally. He chose a printer about twenty miles away. He thought using a local printer would be more cost-effective by lowering his delivery costs. He had seen other books this company had printed, and he saw the quality was equal or superseded the quality of other printers he had used out-of-state, and he thought he was helping to support the local economy.
What the author didn’t know was that this printer sent its large orders—anything over 100 books—out-of-state to one of the printers the author had already been using. Had he only ordered 100 books, they would have been printed 20 miles from his house, and he could have driven to the printer and picked up the books in his car. But this time, he ordered 1,000 copies, and the print overrun resulted in an additional 60 copies.
The author asked to have the books delivered since obviously he couldn’t fit 1,000 books in his car and did not want to make ten trips. However, what he meant by “delivered” and what the printer thought “delivered” meant were not the same thing—largely because the author didn’t realize the books were not being printed by the local printer.
What happened? The local printer called to say the books were ready for pick-up. The author said he thought they were being delivered. The printer then had to explain that the author had been charged $500 for delivery of the books from the out-of-state printer to the local print shop. Fortunately, once the confusion was understood by both parties, the author agreed to come pick up a car full of books and the printer agreed that, whenever he went in the direction of the author’s house to make deliveries, he would drop a few boxes of books off for him. The author also learned that the out-of-state printer charged extra to deliver to residences, and had he requested delivery to his door, he would have paid $200-300 more for delivery of the books. Even so, he probably would have paid extra for the convenience of not having to spend his time and gas to pick them up.
However, the author had also not realized that the printer included storage of the books in its services and would even ship the books to stores for the author if he wished, which was an extra bonus in some cases for him. Had the author thought to ask about the delivery and storage services, he would have saved himself some energy and time in the end. But he did end up very happy with the printer for both the excellent look of his book and the excellent service and willingness to work with him to get the books where he wanted them to be. The relationship built would result in repeat business.
Having the books printed locally did not work out exactly as the author expected, although the books still looked superb. The local printer and the author both had to spend time and mileage getting the books to the author’s house. The author also had not completely considered what 1,000 books of 400 pages each would mean. He had ordered 500 copies previously of smaller-sized books, but his new order resulted in 88 full boxes and one half box; the full boxes weighed 31 pounds each. That’s 2,743 pounds of books, well over a ton!!! The author only had put aside space in his home for half that many books, not having fully realized how much space they would take up.
Space is a huge consideration when housing your book inventory. Not only do you need room for all those books, but they also need to be readily accessible. You also need to keep them in a heated space—they can warp in a cold car or garage, and equally warp in a hot environment. The local printer was willing to keep some of the books for the author, but the author also wanted a sufficient number in his home since he would need to deliver to the local bookstores and did not want to have to run to the printer every time he needed another box of books. Thankfully, the author and printer were willing to work together.
And what about after the books arrive at an author’s house? They still need to be delivered to bookstores and gift shops or mailed to a distributor or individual customers who order them. Authors have to remember that unless they can afford to hire someone else to do it, they will themselves have to play delivery boy to bookstores and gift shops. An author may have to run to deliver three books to a boutique gift shop, or thirty books to a bookstore. In this particular author’s case, his 31 pound book boxes hold 12 books each, so an order of 30 books is 77.5 pounds. That’s a lot to carry. Unless you want to make two or three trips from a parking lot into a store, you might want to buy yourself a dolly to help lighten he load.
Book delivery—just one more detail along the road to self-publishing and authorship—and one that is a big part of the process an author cannot allow to be forgotten—or you may get surprising results.
Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.