In addition to shipping individual books to customers, there may be times when you need to ship one or more cartons of books to wholesalers, bookstores, Amazon.com and others.
Here are some tips for shipping books so they arrive undamaged and ready for sale.
Whenever possible, try to ship in full case lots. If your books came from the printer packed in boxes of 40, encourage book distributors, wholesalers, fulfillment services and Amazon.com to order in multiples of 40. Amazon uses an algorithm to set order quantities, but you may request a stock up order. Your stock up order request should be for one to three months’ of expected sales, and you may want to round to case lots.
Even when shipping in case lots, it is usually wise not to simply slap on a label and call for a pickup. You probably did a random check of several cases of books when they arrived, to verify the quality. You may want to check a few random boxes on their way out, too. Make sure to reseal the box with strong tape. It is also a good idea to reinforce the seals on all boxes, especially if the books were shipped on pallets. Boxes piled on pallets may not be sealed as carefully as boxes need to be when shipped individually.
When shipping books in quantities other than case lots, use care in packing. Boxes may be handled roughly, and movement within the box can create creases, tears and “dings” that will cause books to be returned as damaged.
Use a box of the right size. If the box is too small, the corners of the book may be crushed. If it is too large, the books can shift during handling resulting in all kinds of damage.
Add packing material to cushion and support the books during shipping. A piece of cardboard between stacks of books can keep them in place. Add cardboard or air-filled cushions to fill empty space and keep books from moving about. Do not use packing peanuts or other loose fillers, as they may not keep the books in place and the pieces can attach themselves to the books or get stuck between pages.
Wrapping books can protect them during shipping. Use bubble wrap or heavy paper to wrap single books or small stacks of books.
Do not overpack boxes. The strain may cause the box to burst during handling.
Seal all openings securely with shipping tape. Don’t overdo the tape—you don’t want the recipient to have to use dynamite to open the box—but run tape along all openings.
Label each box clearly. Many carriers allow you to create shipping labels online. Make sure the printed label can be easily read, and that any barcodes are clearly visible. Some carriers provide clear plastic envelopes in which you may enclose the shipping label. The envelopes are self-adhesive and stick to the box. Or you may print labels on self-adhesive label stock or plain paper.
Include any information, such as a PO number or other identifier, required by the recipient. A packing slip may be put in the box before sealing, or attached to the outside of the box.
Compare prices from carriers on your most common shipments to get the best rate. The best rate for shipping books will depend on where you are, typical shipping destinations, the size and weight of your boxes, etc. Most carriers allow you to go online and quickly get estimated rates and shipping times.
Look for discounts. For example, many associations give members access to discounted shipping programs. Through my membership in a publishing trade group, I got a FedEx account that has the best overall shipping rates for my business.
Paying careful attention to how you ship can reduce your expenses and headaches.