Book Distribution

The Book Shipping Showdown: UPS and FedEx vs. The United States Postal Service

We know shipping (and its associated costs) can sometimes be a big pain. However, in the publishing industry, there is just no way around it. Books must get to the wholesalers and retailers in order for them to be sold to the customer, and someone has to incur the shipping costs.

There are a few options, though, when it comes to moving your books from here to there. Some are just OK; others are better. Trust me, we speak from experience (lots and lots of it!).

So, the big debate: which carrier to use? While Greenleaf Book Group typically recommends shipping with a courier such as UPS or FedEx, I will lay out the particulars of each option and let you decide which is the best option for you.

For the purposes of comparison, I’m going to lump UPS and FedEx together as couriers since they both operate in the same general way. Their primary challenger is the United States Postal Service (USPS).

Getting a Jump on Book Sales with Preorders

Many authors begin the hard work of generating sales for their book long before the actual release date. There are many different options for collecting these preorders, as well as many ways to make the most of them, helping you meet your goals and priorities for the project.

One method of collecting preorders is to set up a preorder button on the book's website. During the preorder process, customers will be prompted to fill in their basic information and make a payment through the website for the book (or books) they order. Matching Amazon pricing or offering signed copies can be an added hook to get people interested.

It is also common to create a dedicated landing page for preorders, which you can utilize in your marketing initiatives, that drives consumers to a central location to make their purchase. This is a popular option when you are incentivizing customers by giving them access to extra content at no charge with an order. The landing page can host this content, and once the order is placed, the customer can be given a code to access the free content.

But collecting preorders can also be as simple as keeping a spreadsheet with all the information that you manually collect from customers as they place orders directly through you leading up to the pub date.

A different route is to simply send people directly to a retailer, such as Amazon, to place their order during a specified period of time, usually immediately following the release of the book. In this case, it's important for your publisher to know how many orders you expect to be placed at least three weeks in advance so they can ensure that adequate stock is in place in the supply chain to meet the rush of demand.

Regardless of how you collect the orders, the idea is to have a complete record of all customers and their orders at the end of the preorder campaign.

Once all of the preorders are collected, you have to decide what your priority is for these sales. Have you generated all of these preorders so you can generate maximum revenue from your book right away? Or is your goal to have all of these sales count towards your retail track record? (Shameless plug: With Greenleaf, you have the flexibility to meet either goal, and we can help execute the orders or connect you with experts in the field that specialize in placing those presales in a strategic and planned way for maximum impact.)

If the primary goal is to maximize revenue with preorders, you’ll want to sell the books directly. Revenue generated through direct sales is not shared with a distributor or retailer, allowing for larger margins. Remember to bill the appropriate shipping charges directly to your customers if you want them to cover the cost.

If the goal is to drive retail sales as high as they can go, run preorder sales through a retail channel that reports to BookScan (the book industry’s go-to tool for measuring retail sell-through). This will make these sales a part of the book’s auditable track record. For bulk preorders, we work with a company called 800 CEO Read and they make this process very simple. Corporate customers (or your own company) can buy the books from 800 CEO Read, which reports sales to BookScan.

If you plan on generating thousands of preorders and want to use them to make a run at a bestseller list, we recommend working with an expert who specializes in handling this type of campaign. A campaign like this requires careful coordination and planning and the ability to process thousands of individual orders in a short time span.

Direct Sales: When to Do it Yourself and When to Bring In a Retailer

There are many reasons why authors choose to self-publish or go with a hybrid model that lets them retain their rights, but one of the most frequently cited reasons is ownership of inventory. Having ownership of their own books allows authors to sell directly to the public at high margins, which is great for entrepreneurial authors interested in back-of-room sales. (In a traditional publishing arrangement, if the author is permitted to sell direct, the contract generally includes a set 40–50% discount for copies the author purchases from the publisher.)

Bestseller Breakdown: What it Takes to Become a Bestseller and Why it Does(n't) Matter

Writers dream of becoming bestselling authors so they can plaster that phrase next to their name on business cards, resumes, books, blog posts, and photos. And they can’t be blamed—that phrase counts for a lot, especially for authors hoping to attract customers with a “national bestseller” banner on their cover. But what exactly does it mean to be a bestselling author? And how much does it really matter?

Printing Your Book: Should You Go With Print-On-Demand?

When you’re deciding how to print your book, you have two main options: print-on-demand or printing on an offset press. What do those two options entail exactly? Print-on-demand, or POD, allows you to digitally print a single book at a time, often using a large laser printer. Offset, or “traditional,” printing involves a huge press that transfers the image from an inked plate to a rubber blanket and then to the paper, and usually necessitates a print run of at least 1,000 units to make economic sense. So which is right for your book? It depends on several factors you’ll want to weigh before making a decision.

You might consider POD if…