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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Edwards Brothers Malloy Talks Trash

sustainableIt is not often that we talk trash but we just couldn’t let this one go.  On July 5 of this year, we emptied our trash compactor that sits at the rear of the Jackson Road facility in Ann Arbor.  Up until then the compactor had been accumulating trash for an astounding 238 days!  Charlie Montgomery, our machine maintenance supervisor at the Jackson Road facility, has been closely tracking our recycling efforts at this particular location since September of 2009 and has been a leader for recycling initiatives in general at our company.  The graph below shows the dramatic change since recycling initiatives began.

sustainable

 

The average daily trash added to the compactor at this facility was about 80.5 pounds or about 0.3426 pounds per person per day for the almost 8 month period.  To give you a little perspective, when we began the Zero Landfill project at Jackson Road 2 years ago, the average amount of trash per day was about 400 pounds.  In our first attempt back in 2009 when recycling bins were placed in strategic locations around the facility, we were able to reduce that number to 161 pounds.

To date we have reduced the amount of trash that leaves this facility by about 80%.  Employees are not required to participate but many do and they are the ones to thank for the success of this recycling plan.  Even vendors, sales persons and other visitors to the facility are encouraged to recycle the materials that they bring in from the outside.  The placement of recycling bins throughout the facility is designed to make it easy for people to participate.  Plans are already in the works to spread these recycling initiatives to more Edwards Brothers Malloy facilities.

Reducing the impact we have on our environment is a large part of the culture here at Edwards Brothers Malloy.  We hope to recreate our success at the Jackson Road facility at other locations in the years to come.

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Hold The Presses!

Self-PublishingOur core business is large publishers however in recent years we have printed many self-published books.  These customers typically print much smaller volumes of books and are less familiar with the book printing process.  Another common thread we see is that individual authors are less likely to return for a reprint.  This seldom has to do with the service they received and is typically related to the phenomenon that is self-publishing.

A recent article in Forbes by Suw Charman-Anderson, a contributing author, points out the anomaly of “easy come, easy go” publishing (our words not hers).  In her article she touches on the fact that many of the barriers to publishing have disappeared.  Not only is it easier for individual authors to publish their work, it is easier for them to do it before they are ready; something traditional publishing houses served as a filter for.

Suw also points out how social media has made it easier for authors to promote their work.  Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus make it incredibly easy to reach a broad spectrum of people with relatively little cost.  Building a digital presence through blogging or setting up a simple website has also made it more attractive for authors to self-publish their work.  An unintended side effect occurs when authors succumb to the temptation of promoting their work before it is finished.

So what can you do to ensure you won’t make your first and most glaring mistakes in public?

Utilize an editing service for your writing mechanics and content.  Look at this as more of an investment than a cost for getting your book to market.  If you don’t invest, what do you stand to lose if your work is not well received?  A fresh perspective on your work from a professional can make all the difference.

Wait until your book is finished before promoting it.  It is very tempting to start touting your wares on social media and the internet in general.  Hold off until you actually have something tangible and polished to promote.  It is best to wait until all stages in the process have finished (i.e. writing, editing and printing) before promotion begins.

Network with other authors who have been successful at self-publishing:  If you can’t talk to them personally, at least you may be able to follow them in social media and read their blogs to see how you can recreate their success.

Most importantly of all, be patient.  Some of the best things in life take time to make.

Do you think some authors have published their work too soon?  Are there any tasks you wish you would have done before bringing a book to market?

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5 Ways Fulfillment Can Help.

malloy fulfillmentFor small publishers and the individual authors out there that are working hard to market a title or two (or 20); basic business functions can add unwanted stress.  If you are an individual author, say you get your book printed and at the very least it is a moderate success.  Suddenly hundreds of orders for your book start pouring in and you can barely keep up with the demand, let alone efficiently fulfill orders.  Larger outfits that handle multiple titles may not need the extra administrative work that comes along with fulfilling multiple orders.  This is where order fulfillment services can help.

# 1: You won’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Businesses that perform fulfillment services already know what they are doing.  With a little information, they can quickly and accurately send your books to your customers with little intervention on your part.  This makes your customers happy and you less stressed out.  It also makes for good business because when you can serve customers in a seamless fashion, they will refer others and come back themselves to buy more books.

# 2: You can still park your car in your garage.

We have seen it dozens of times when individual authors print a few hundred books or more and plan to store them in a storage unit or in their own garage.  When a semi-truck loaded with books shows up at their doorstep, they quickly realize they made a mistake.  Fulfillment companies often provide storage for books so that you don’t have to find a personal place of your own to put them.  Benefits include professional warehousing services, insurance against loss and you can still park your car in your garage.

# 3: Inventory can be managed appropriately.

When you utilize a fulfillment company, they will often keep track of inventory and send out notification when they need more product from you.  When fulfilling orders on your own this accounting must be managed by you.  This may be fine unless you have another job, a family, or a life in general.  Businesses that provide fulfillment typically have sophisticated software and dedicated employees to manage inventory.  These features are way better than keeping track of inventory on sticky notes or filing invoices in the backseat of your car.

# 4:  The Mysteries of Shipping can remain as such.

Shipping can be one of the most confusing aspects of selling your books.  In fact, it is confusing no matter what you are shipping.  Choosing the right carriers, figuring out rates based on the type of packaging you use, where it is going and how heavy it is can drive you crazy.  High shipping charges can start to eat into your margins pretty fast if you are not careful.  Companies that provide fulfillment services command far better rates because they are shipping products in large volumes.

# 5: Your sanity will remain intact.

Writing and/or marketing titles is difficult and time consuming enough without the added hassles of administrative tasks related to order fulfillment.  If you can find a company to perform the tasks of fielding and filling orders for you, it will save you a lot of time and headaches.  Less stress means better creative thinking.  Better creative thinking means you can write and/or market more books!

 

Edwards Brothers Malloy features book fulfillment services that feature all of the benefits named above.  You can take advantage of these services whether you have your books printed with us or not.  You can find out more about these services here.  What other kinds of things would make your job as a content creator or publisher easier to manage?

 

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