If you publish ebooks, then obviously you don’t need to think about shipping. The same goes for authors who publish their books with Amazons’ KDP. (Kindle Direct Publishing, which is now merged with CreateSpace) An additional bonus for KDP-purchased books is that many readers are Prime members which means they don’t have to pay extra for shipping when they choose to buy your book.
But some authors do keep boxes of books at home so they will need to think about shipping. Why would you want to mess around with that? There are a couple of good reasons to consider.
With some publishing options, authors are in charge of their own distribution. An author might advertise and sell books on their own website because they’ll make more money per book if they don’t have to share proceeds with a distributor and third-party seller.
Other authors have a devoted fan base and shipping books from their home or office lets them add a personalized autograph and a bookmark or other tchotchkes.
If you are serving as your own fulfillment service, be aware of and compare your mailing options. The common services are the United States Post Office and UPS or FedEx.
UPS and FedEx are best used for shipping boxes of books, for instance, to a school before a visit or to a hotel before your seminar. Even so, it will be worth your while to get quotes from both of these and the USPS before making your choice. Depending on the distance and weight of your shipment, you may be surprised at which service comes up best in a comparison.
Single books are best shipped from the USPS, but you have choices there as well.
First Class Package Service, Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express are all zone-based distance systems, which means the farther you are sending your book, the more you will pay. Weight, of course, is also a consideration and your book may weigh more than you think. Figure out the weight and the longest distance before assessing shipping charges to your buyers or you may be spending more than you make on every purchase.
Media Mail service will cost you much less – any book under 16 ounces was $2.66 in January 2019, regardless of how far across the country it needs to travel. But there are a couple of big drawbacks to consider: 1) Media Mail ships fourth class, so it may take up to ten days to arrive and 2) You can ONLY send the book – no bookmarks or personal notes.
Serving as your own fulfillment center can be a pain in the neck if you sell a lot of books or if you live far away from the Post Office. You’ll need shipping envelopes and postage and maybe a scale, not to mention you have to process the online orders in a timely fashion. Some folks hire help to handle this part of the business, which is an extra expense.
As strange as it may seem, you can see why it’s smart to decide on how you want to distribute your books BEFORE you publish. If you don’t want to fulfill orders, maybe you shouldn’t choose the publishing option that makes you do that, even if the royalties seem like a better deal. Being an author is being a small business owner, so lay out your business plan from the very beginning.