Best Practices in Fulfillment and Distribution
Len Kain, vice president of marketing, Dogfriendly.com, knows firsthand how much of a gamble fulfillment can be in the book business. While he’s figured out a system for just the right level of inventory, he concedes it can be a roll of the dice. As a small publisher, he’s learned to play the game of fulfillment and returns to his best advantage—to reduce losses and increase gains.
For him, as for larger publishers and also distributors, developing efficient warehouse fulfillment and return procedures can involve a healthy run of trial and error. So what is working and what isn’t? Book Business interviewed two publishers and two distributors about their best practices, including:
• Len Kain, vice president of marketing, Dogfriendly.com, Pollock Pines, Calif. (small publisher);
• James Clark, senior vice president of distribution, Penguin Group (USA), New York (large publisher and distributor);
• Bill Long, vice president of sales and marketing, The Maple-Vail Book Manufacturing Group, Binghamton, N.Y.; and
• Jack Herr, president, BookStream (wholesale distributor), Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Len Kain, vice president of marketing, Dogfriendly.com
Dogfriendly.com started as a Web site in 1998. In 2002, it started selling books through the site and progressed to selling books through trade in 2003. Its mission is to publish information on dog-friendly places to stay and dine for people who travel with dogs.
What kind of system do you use for warehouse fulfillment and returns?
Len Kain: … we sell through two wholesalers, our Web site and other online stores. This gives us more control—something we wouldn’t have if we chose to go with a master distributor, which requires exclusivity. Also, we knew we couldn’t afford to use a master distributor since it meant printing huge quantities at huge discounts.
Because we are a small publisher that produces new editions of our titles every couple of years, we wanted to be able to print smaller volumes. It is not like we are publishing novels that will sit in the same form for 20 years. Also, we have five million annual visits to our Web site. To help make order processing faster, we ship out of two warehouses: one in California and another in Kansas.