Recently I had to take another look at my book fulfillment system because it just wasn't working for Medusa's Muse anymore. In a publishing company, fulfillment is when book orders are processed and shipped. It doesn't have anything to do with sexual fulfillment, or the sense of fulfillment you enjoy when you get what you want. Nope, book fulfillment is much duller, but seeing as selling books is the reason you started a publishing company, filling book orders can feel pretty good.
Unfortunately, rising shipping costs are killing my enjoyment for book fulfillment. Right now it costs over $5.00 to send a book to someone in the US, unless I go book rate, but that can take a month to get where it needs to go. To compete with Amazon.com and other on-line retailers, I haven't been charging the full amount of shipping; instead I'm covering about $2.00 an order. Once I did the math, I realized between shipping costs and the cost of printing, I'm actually losing money fulfilling book orders. I can't sustain a small business losing money on sales. No one can.
Instead of selling all our books directly from my website and blog, I will only sell signed copies of our current book and charge the full amount for shipping. Laura's book can be bought at Powells.com, and Amazon.com of course (unless you'd like a signed copy, then you'll need to send the press an email so Laura can sign the book). I will also sell our books at workshops, readings, and other events.
It seems odd that I'm losing money selling books directly from my website, even when I take into account the huge cut in profit retailers take when they sell the book (I earn about $1.00 a book through Amazon.com sales). But most of the books we sell are sold via Amazon.com, and there's no way I can compete with their discounted price and inexpensive shipping rates.
This is why it is so important to keep an eye on your bottom line and pay attention to rising costs that affect your business. Not only am I paying for shipping, but I'm also buying mailers, boxes, packing material to protect the books during transport, paper and ink for my printer to print out the invoices, and spending a lot of time fulfilling each order, plus going to the post office. Every time I order another case of books, I have to pay shipping on those books. And, I am taxed on my unsold inventory that is just sitting in my living room.
A business is a changing, expanding, contracting, exasperating, deflating, evolving entity and it takes a lot of perseverance and know-how to keep it alive. This is just one example of the many business choices I make every month to keep Medusa's Muse Press thriving.
Now I need to go get me some of the other kind of fulfillment, like a Mocha!