An effective export operation is underpinned by an equally effective order processing, distribution and credit management service. Winners of the British Book Awards for Export have often acknowledged that their success would not have been achieved without this support.

UK publishers have the great advantage of being located at the most extensive book supply hub in the world. What would be prohibitively expensive one-off shipments become viable through access to freight consolidation services with truly global reach. (Long-established international practice is that a supplier will arrange and pay for freight to the customer’s local shipper, at which point the responsibility for shipping arrangements and cost shifts to the customer; an exception to this is an agreed ‘consignment’ arrangement, where the supplier pays for the transport of goods to an overseas distributor who takes receipt of those goods but pays for them only when they are sold on.)

Where (a) local manufacture in the territory for larger quantities of a title or range of titles, or (b) a viable print-on-demand (POD) model for single-copy or small orders, is not the chosen solution, then the options are as per Models 1 and 2 below:

Model 1: Consolidated shipments
These are shipments, assembled in the originating country by a ‘freight-forwarding’ company, or ‘forwarder’, of consignments from multiple suppliers. These consignments can contain large unit quantities of a few lines, or (often) small quantities of a range of titles. Consolidation exists for established supply routes where the aggregate volumes the freight-forwarder can purchase from the shipping companies bring down prices and render them cost-effective for the customer who has appointed the freight-forwarder to act on its behalf. The rates charged for these consolidations include the freight-forwarder’s charge to the customer.

Distributors in overseas markets who have a mature import business have designated freight-forwarders in those countries which are their main sources of supply.

Model 2: Drop-shipment
This refers to direct supply from a printer, whether located in the home territory or overseas, to a customer’s freight-forwarder in that territory. It saves time and cost through by-passing shipment to the publisher’s warehouse and is usually subject to a minimum quantity per title, which means it is suitable for entire or part- print-runs, but not for very small quantities.

A note on Covid-19
Both models 1 and 2 have been impacted by the 2020-2021 pandemic, with disruption to all international trade. This has in turn disrupted established shipping routes and timetables, resulting in delays and unreliability. The sector will need to be closely monitored through what we hope will be a transitional return to previous levels of service.

Model 3: Local manufacture
In cases where a significant quantity of a title or titles is required in a particular market, and especially where format and/or content differ from the main edition, local manufacture has played an increasingly prominent part in recent years across all publishing sectors. Although economies of scale are reduced by the creation of a separate printing, short-run digital printing (SRDP) has reduced the thresholds for minimum viable quantities, while the removal of international freight costs and the benefits of swift, just-in-time supply are carrying greater weight. Timely supply to comply with local territorial copyright requirements plays a significant part in the Australian market, while global market awareness of prominent titles means that publishers must move more and more towards simultaneous international release. Carbon footprint considerations regarding freight are also influential.

Model 4. Print-on-demand (POD)
Access to networks of POD facilities producing single or very low-run units in a range of countries such as that being developed by Ingram has grown this mode of market access also. POD unit costs are naturally higher than longer-run printing, but flexibility, reduced stock-holding, speed-to-market and the removal of freight costs have combined to increase the use of this model. POD is suitable for both consumer and academic titles, mainly those with straightforward textual content.

Credit management
No sales operation can be successful without an effective function for the collecting of monies owed, and experience shows that those functions are most effective when sales and credit management departments work closely together, combining their different relationships with the customer to ensure that payments are made on time, keeping customers’ accounts open as much as possible so that the flow of business remains uninterrupted. A sale has no value until it is paid for, and a professional credit management department is essential to effective distribution.