1. Publisher sales with distributor customer service

‘Best-practice’ exporting publishers invest time and resource in this relationship and develop a shared understanding of processes and priorities. Regular liaison meetings including visits to the distribution centre lie at the heart of the relationship.

2. Export customers with distributor customer service

This relationship is a vital element in a successful exporting operation. Customers need a responsive point of contact for placing orders, communicating special instructions, and seeking the resolution of queries and problems. Again, taking key customers to see the distribution centre at work and establish their own contacts is of great value, while customer service attendance at book fair meetings consolidates the benefit.

3. Publisher sales with distributor credit management

The importance of this interaction cannot be overstated: the combination of the publisher’s relationship with the customer, and their market knowledge, with the credit department’s formal systems and approach, is most effective in collecting money and keeping accounts open for trading. Publishers must maintain their credibility by not seeking to keep accounts open that are dangerously overdue; and credit departments must show a level of flexibility where appropriate (e.g. in relation to difficult trading conditions beyond the control of the customer). The most effective collaborations of this kind are based on a balance achieved in this respect.

4. Export customers with distributor credit management

As is the case with customer service noted above, effective collection of payments can be greatly enhanced if credit management staff develop a direct and personal relationship with customers, who are then dealing with a known person and not merely a sequence of routine communications. Customer visits to the distribution centre, and book fair meetings between customers and credit management staff, can play a central and productive part.

A note on VAT

An important role of a distributor noted in the checklist above is to ensure that VAT is charged on an export invoice at the correct rate. In the case of the EU, the rules became more complex as a result of the combination of Brexit with the consolidation of EU rules regarding the charging of VAT at the rate applied in the country of the customer (the ‘principle of destination’). It is not the place of this guide to go into the detail of these rules, but to make the point that a distributor must be in a position to implement what is required. Further UK government information can be found here.

Concluding note

The importance of a good distributor to developing a successful export operation is vital. A good relationship is essential and should be viewed and managed as a partnership.

When one of the leading trade publishers won the British Book Award for Export, its International Director paid a visit to the distribution centre, taking the trophy with him. He offered it to the head of the facility to display on their reception for several months, in token of the incalculable contribution made by the team there, saying: “It’s your award as much as ours”.