While summer may not be officially over, it sure feels like it once the school buses start buzzing around like worker bees. For many of us in the northeast, this week is the start of back to school, which heralds the coming of fall (or autumn, if you prefer).
It’s also time to get back to work. I pretty much took the summer off, spent some time with family and friends, but mostly worked on other projects. This week I am picking back up on production of Book 2, which has been taking quite a while, I know, but the good news is we are almost there. I could have launched the Kickstarter by now, but lessons learned from the Book 1 campaign have convinced me I’d rather wait, and be completely done with the book before I launch a campaign.
With that said, let’s talk about the title and subject of this post. This may only interest a few of you, so you can stop reading if you want. Or skip to the bottom.
The United States Postal Service is slowly killing me.
Let me explain why.
When I launched the campaign for Book 1, I went from excitement to nervousness to sadness to depression to hopeful to ohmyfuckinggoditgotfunded! Those were exciting times. The days after the success of the campaign saw my inbox flooded with business opportunities. So many companies wanted to print the book or manage the process for me, or create the ebook, or just somehow be involved in a way that they could invoice me for services performed. Publishers that I had talked to the year before (who were all interested in publishing the book, but not providing any advance funds, or really even much in the way of royalties) all started coming back with new offers. It was nice to see all of that, but I was determined to push forward on my own. I DID end up working with one of the people who reached out to me, and he was invaluable in getting me in touch with the right companies. Thanks, Mark! After some delays, the book was finished and printed and sent off to the project backers. Overall it was a success. But there were a few bumps along the way.
The one thing I never thought about, was what a spin of the wheel it is to ship a package. You shop for something online, you pay for it, and you know it will get shipped to you. It seems simple, and on some level it is, but there are still a lot of moving parts. Things can still go wrong. I found this out first-hand!
My fulfillment company is located in East Lansing, Michigan. I am on the east end of Long Island in New York. Google tells me that is about 750 miles or so. For a long time, I would get book orders, send the shipping info to the fulfillment house, and they would ship out the books right from the warehouse. As things slowed down, I decided to have them send me a couple cases of books, and I would ship the orders out myself. This would allow me to personalize the books if people wanted, and maybe throw in some extras. This worked out great, especially in November, leading up to Christmas and the December shopping season. So far so good.
The initial print run of Book 1 was about 5,000 copies. The breakdown was 3500 signed copies, and the rest were unsigned run-off copies. These were just extra books printed while the printing press was slowing down. Of those 3500 signed copies, we had initial orders for just under 3000 copies, so a few hundred to sell from the website for people who may have missed the initial Kickstarter campaign. The run-off unsigned copies were allotted to Amazon sales. As of last year, there were no more unsigned copies of Book 1, Amazon took them all. As of right now, there are fewer than 70 copies of Book 1 left.
So last November, in anticipation of the holiday shopping season, I had the fulfillment house ship me 4 cases of books, 10 books to a case, for 40 books total. I got tracking numbers for all four cases. A few days later, three of the four cases arrive. A few days after that, case four is still MIA. A month later, nothing. The box got to Chicago and disappeared. This has happened SO MANY TIMES. So many packages just disappeared during the course of this book project, easily 100-150 books. I was quite frustrated about it, and I remember talking about this with the fulfillment house, and they were actually surprised the number was so low. They told me statistically something like 25-30% of all packages they ship out via USPS go missing. That is a staggering number. The number of replacement orders I had to ship out made me the bourbon drinker I am today.
So just a few weeks ago, I get an email from the USPS: Good news! We have your package and it is en route. Fantastic. The case arrives, six+ months late, and it is beat to hell. The box looks like it fell off repeated trucks, was left outside for days, and finally dragged up the street to my house. The books inside are 85-90% fine, definitely ding and dent material though. Bent corners, some scuffing, etc. The unfortunate thing is most of the box contains very low-numbered books. Ouch. This pains me to see books #52 and #53 not in pristine condition.
So with all of that said, I have updated the Shop with new items. I have temporarily taken down the regular-priced books until I get a solid count from the fulfillment company. In it’s place I have a new batch of unsigned books marked down, as well as a number of Ding & Dent Sale books. ALL Ding & Dent books are signed & numbered editions, and are marked down 33-40%, including the very low-numbered copies. Get ’em while you can!
That’s all for now!