We just hit a snag at Medusa, namely, how do we sell books from the website? The original plan was that Lightning Source would be "drop-shipping" the books when orders were submitted to our website. Only problem is, Lightning Source will only drop-ship after you've listed 25 titles with them. 25 titles? Let's see, 3 titles per year divided into 25 means in...8 1/2 years we can sell books directly from them.
In the mean time, if I want to directly sell books from Medusa, I need to do it myself. Okay... um... how do I do that?
Order fulfillment is a complicated, labor intensive process and most publishing companies hire outside help. Seeing as I have no more money in my operating budget, I can't afford help. That means I get to pack a book someone has ordered and send it to the address they gave. Should be simple, right? For some reason this is a very complicated process.
First, you need to decide how people are going to give you money and request a book. After some investigating, I've decided to use Pay Pal. I know there is some controversy about Pay Pal, but for the time being, it is the best choice because of its reliability and ease of use. I have signed up for a merchant account with Pay Pal and now Rick is checking out the steps to set up a link on the website and the parameters we want to use for a "shopping cart."
Next, I am hunting for a space to store ten boxes of books in my 1000 square foot house. As it is now, my office is my lap-top and my desk is crammed into a corner of my bedroom, covered with paperwork and other notes. Somewhere, I need a spot for book storage and processing orders. Kitchen?
Then, I need to find good mailers. Dan Poynter recommends Jiffy-Lite bags. I wonder how many I will need? And how much will it cost to ship a book, anyway? A 6x9 paperback will cost... what? How do I figure out shipping costs? Do I do a standard amount? Send them all media mail? Should I buy a big role of stamps and a meter? How many trips to the post office will I make every week?
Finally, I need a good way to keep track of orders. Who ordered which book and where did they want it sent? Did the book get there? If not, why? Not only is this important for good customer service, but it's vital for tax purposes. I wonder if there's a good program.
I have a feeling I'll be learning the best way to provide fulfillment simply by doing it. Standard trial and error. As long as I don't muck up orders too badly I can figure out the most efficient way to do it. And besides, I can always encourage people to just order from Amazon if it turns out I'm bad at this. Sometimes, the easy way is the right way.