It was noted earlier that without the support of an efficient and responsive distribution operation a publisher cannot expect to export effectively.

The chosen distributor will:

  • warehouse stock
  • invoice orders
  • pick and pack the consignments
  • deliver the consignments to the specified destination, usually a shipper or ‘freight forwarder’ who will consolidate the consignments with others for the same destination/customer
  • raise ‘charge-only’ invoices in respect of direct deliveries from printers to shippers
  • implement international requirements for the charging of VAT
  • collect payments due from customers
  • deal with queries regarding deliveries
  • raise credit notes in respect of incorrect deliveries, faulty items, and returns authorised by the publisher

Customers and shippers will have their own specific order processing and shipping instructions, and if these are not adhered to by the publisher, by the publisher’s distributor, or by the customer’s shipper, the consequences can be serious, and very expensive to unravel. Should an airfreight order be wrongly sent by seafreight, for example, the start of an educational term/semester, or a crucial selling season such as Christmas may be missed. If the customer’s instructions were clear and accurate, all the costs of remedy must be met by those responsible for the error, and customer relations can be damaged. Those consequences are likely to be more damaging in the period following the prolonged Covid pandemic of 2020 onwards, which has severely disrupted the world’s freight transport networks and resulted in price increases to as much as quadruple their pre-pandemic levels.

The same applies to a direct delivery from a printer to a customer’s shipper.

Many orders are now electronically delivered and therefore the inputting is provided by the customer. This eliminates the stage of manual input by the distributor’s customer service department, and with it any errors which may be introduced at that stage. Should orders be taken manually from a customer, this is the key information needed (and which is also required from the customer who transits an order electronically):

  • Customer’s order reference
  • Titles, with editions and bindings correctly specified by ISBN
  • Shipping instructions including freight forwarder, freight method and delivery address
  • Any non-standard prices and/or discounts, with the publisher’s authorisation
  • Instructions for the later supply, or cancellation, of any ‘dues’ or ‘back orders’, that is, titles not yet published or unavailable at the time of processing