“Typically, what we will do is, those that are within arm’s reach, along with the book price we’ll also quote out some fulfillment for them. So that if you want to manufacture 100 books; not a problem. We’ll pop it on a shelf here. Tell us where you want it to go—you don’t have to worry about licking stamps—and we’ll take care of the shipping for you as well. And that’s worked pretty well.”
The Loyalty Factor
Despite their fealty toward one another, self-publishing authors are no more loyal to their printers than any other customer. “When the times are good, nobody cares,” Bercaw states. “When the times are tough like they are right now, they’re going to shop all over the place.” Price shopping customers, however, should not dictate pricing. Like the original Saturn policy, Bercaws says, “what’s on the sticker, is the price. There’s no haggling. We drive it down as far as we can to save them a nickel and make a nickel.”
He amends that statement by adding that the business types are more price conscious. “The hobbyists want somebody to take care of all the problems. So with the loyalty aspect, there’s still price sensitivity, but they really need somebody to formulate everything. They want the cover designs put together for them. They want the interior stylizing done for them. They want you to do the things they don’t really want to look around and figure out how to do. Now those, for the most part, are relatively smaller dollar amounts than the other guys. They are less likely to shop us than the business guys would be, but the business guys can be very difficult.”
One of the ways to combat the price shoppers is by making them aware of the benefits that only a local printer can offer. Becaw points out that it may take them awhile to “figure out what’s really being done by Lightning Source, or Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.”
A local printer can offer the convenience of delivering books in less than a week. That could be a crucial point if a last minute opportunity arises for a book signing. “If the other houses are not going to fulfill for you, there’s no way you’re going to get the product in less than four to five weeks. It’s impossible,” he points out. Therefore, the advantage of doing business with a local printer who has virtually everything the customer needs in-house becomes a huge selling point.
For those who want to get started in this type of work, Bercaw has some simple advice. “Pick up a book off the shelf and quote it. Find out where the strengths and weaknesses are in the shop. Where you have the weakness, find your partners. Then find out how you can differentiate between the powerhouses and your company.”
“For the guys that have titles, that are looking for something a little more robust, how is the shop set up for fulfillment? You don’t want to take six skids, but you can certainly handle six cartons. From there, just like I tell my authors, what does your business plan look like?”