Books · Software · Business
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Cracking the physical distribution problem

I'm scaling my comedy business one piece at a time, and today I'm focusing on "amping up" the physical distribution of my novels.

It's pretty bad right now.

I have PayPal buttons for each book, so buyers can order without creating an account like they'd do for eBook purchases. I'll get an email that one's been purchased, make a label, put it on an envelope (if I even have any that day! This business is a mess), and walk it to the post office. It's nearby, but the whole process is still a pain for a single sale.

Plus, if someone wants to buy, say, Ghostcrime and Snapback together, they have to go to PayPal twice. Ridiculous! And because the user never creates an account, they can't consent to be emailed later for any promo blasts.

There are ways that I can make the fulfillment process less time-consuming — dedicated label printer, etc — but it's still going to be some work for every sale. However, it can be effectively 5-10x less work if I'm selling 5-10 books at once! Libraries and bookstores are going to want multiple copies, so I need an easy way for them to order in bulk.

This is a big task, though, so first I want to overhaul my cart system to allow purchase of both physical and digital books at the same time & remove the one-off PayPal buttons. That way, I get the new user signup no matter what's purchased, and customers who want to support me can buy multiple books at once, including eBooks for themselves and the gift multipacks I introduced in the last scale.

I'll implement this now:

A new, improved cart

Paperbacks and eBooks, together? That'll cost you.

Ah, the shipping fees seem a little high, but the functionality is there now, and I also ordered in some packing materials, ie. good envelopes, tape, bubble wrap and an office-quality labeler, so books can go out fast and arrive looking vaguely professional. As a value-add, I've got some freebies — stickers, bookmarks, etc. — that I can slide into each shipment. Please treat yourself to the full experience by ordering some books.

With the bug in the shipping calculation now fixed, I'm going to tentatively rate this scale a 2x — it improves user experience and my userbase, but it's not so big. The bigger scale, and challenge, is the retailer portal.

It's a significant effort. Here's what I need:

  • a different version of the sign-up page which accepts ordering information right off the bat,

  • a different version of the eBook store that optimizes the buying experience for bulk purchasers, including a discount calculator and options for re-ordering in future,

  • probably a whole new design theme to emphasize the "books" aspect of my both-software-and-books publishing company,

  • actual knowledge of how libraries and bookstores small and large purchase new books, so I can accommodate them.

This last item is pivotal, so, wearing a novelty foam quail head, I entered the local library and asked if I could speak to...

Ah, that didn't happen, and in fact, I'm not even going to carry out the steps I just described. Seems like a lot of work, and it's focusing too much on the physical distribution, where the returns are higher on the digital side.

Instead, I'm going to tackle something that's much easier in the short-term and requires no extra work per sale — a loyalty program. NEXT →

Posted in: Scaling up

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Scaling in progress!

Come back soon to see how the next plan hatched.