When Author Becomes Shipping Department…

As I mentioned in a previous blog about advanced copies, one of the best ways for independent authors to realize the highest profit margin on books is to sell them yourself, either hand-to-hand or through your website.

If you do decide to make the plunge into web sales, which often requires an upgraded business package (and which I discuss a bit here), then you’ll have to become a shipping department all on your own.

Shipping was not something I was ready for, to be honest.

Below are the challenges and hard lessons I’ve had to face in shipping books myself:

  • Time. The time it takes between getting the order through your website and the package arriving at its destination is the total shipping time, and as an author I want to keep this to a minimum so my readers get my book as soon as possible. You don’t want readers to lose interest in your book before they even get it, right?
  • Handling time. Shipping not only takes time, getting orders to the post on time is crucial to satisfying your readers. Nobody wants to wait around forever to get a book, so I’ve made it a priority to get books out the next business day after they were ordered, at the latest.
  • Packaging. What packaging you send your book in matters. I found out that you have to balance protection (you don’t want you book tattered and torn upon arrival) and cost. Buying individual envelopes at the post office gets expensive, like $2-3 each, so I decided to buy in bulk. I got 100 8.5″ x 12″ kraft bubble wrap-lined mailers for $24.69, including tax. That’s only $0.25 per package. Cheap!
  • Shipping method/rate. Different shipping methods and rates will either increase or decrease the time it takes for your package to get there. The cheaper the postage rate, the longer it will typically take get to your customer. Below are some of my options through the US Postal Service (click to calculate your own rates):
    • Media. This is the cheapest rate through the , around $3.25, but it takes 5-7 days, not including Sundays.
    • Ground. $4-11 but takes 3-5 days.
    • Priority. $7.35 and gets there in 2-3 days. Padded envelopes are extra but using theirs means you save on packaging costs.
    • Try UPS, FedEX, or other carrier to see if you can get better rates.

All-in-all, I’ve been able to get my shipping costs down to about $4 per book and shipping time between 2-7 days.

Other Considerations

Those are the essentials, but there are other things to consider when shipping your own books.

The look of the labeling–will you do it by hand or print shipping labels? If your payments are coming through PayPal, they have a feature that will allow you to customize invoices and print shipping labels, so that can be handy.

What to include inside–since I handle and ship the packages myself, I always sign the copies I mail, and I’ll personalize it if it’s someone I know. It’s just a nice touch. Also, if I am mailing a review copy or other promotional package, I’ll include my informational one-sheet, as well.

What lessons did you learn in mailing your own book, authors?

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