Controlling Inventory In Uncertain Times

Book FulfillmentGood inventory management practices are crucial for publisher survival in today’s market.  New and small publishers struggle with this concept as they navigate through a changing industry.  Analyzing sales data appropriately, connecting with your customers, carefully organizing print runs and maintaining good relationships with vendors are practices we see from successful publishers.

The Illusion of Low Unit Cost

Printing large quantities of books to get a lower unit cost is no longer a sound business decision for publishers.  Printing larger runs translates to a lower price per book however when factoring in the cost of unsold units, the per unit amount increases exponentially.  Printing large initial quantities can be a mistake and publishers must rely on sales data and their gut feeling to determine if it is worth the risk.  If larger runs are motivated by keeping unit cost low, it is more economical to print a smaller quantity at higher unit cost and sell them all than to print too much and have inventory sitting.

Inventory Management Software

Larger publishers may have proprietary or custom software packages that help them manage inventory.  Smaller publishers usually don’t have access to tools of this caliber however there are good software packages on the market that allow you to take the “crystal ball” approach out of predicting demand.  If you are looking into software (and you should be), invest in a quality package.  It may be more cost up front but it will pay for itself in the long run.  Acumen for example allows publishers to generate reports and gather detailed sales data.

Keep a Good Relationship With Your Printer

No matter whom you have printing your books, maintaining a good partnership is key for good inventory management.  Even with all the specialized software and years of experience that some publishers have, it can be difficult to predict exactly what the market will do.  Having a printer that you can rely on to get you what you need when you need it is essential.  Look for establishments that can offer quality POD or digital work.  These methods can save you from small spikes in demand that you don’t want to miss out on.  A printer that can pull off expedited or guaranteed schedules is also very valuable.

Outsourcing Fulfillment & Inventory Management

Using fulfillment services is always another option to managing inventory and fulfilling orders yourself.  A fulfillment house or printer that offers fulfillment services can save you time and money and possibly offer expertise on inventory management that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.  You could even save money on shipping costs if your printer offers fulfillment services.  Reconciling inventory at least once a month whether you do your own work or have others do it is essential to staying ahead of the curve.

As the market for books evolves, publishers and printers alike are being forced to make choices.  Inventory management has become crucial for publishers to stay nimble and profitable.  Printers can play a large role in helping publishers achieve these goals.
What could a printer do to help you more effectively manage your inventory?  What other challenges do you face as a publisher in 2012?

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