Adventures in Self-Publishing: The Shipping News

An occasional and mostly self-serving record of self-publishing my debut novel, A Hole in the Ground, with possible tips (or warnings) for others thinking of doing the same.


It was a bit of a struggle to get my books here in the first place. Ordered from Blurb in the United States, my shipment was expected to take about a week. A week went by and nothing. Another week and still nothing. Finally, I contacted the company. After a bit of customer-service head-scratching, they discovered that my shipment had… disappeared, probably because I had listed my town not as “Stanstead” but “Stanstad.” Someone at UPS is a stickler.

Blurb agreed to reprint at their cost, but because of the delay, I missed the deadline for a writing contest that, though a long shot, was part of my marketing strategy. On the plus side, the company agreed to waive the shipping costs, so I saved about $650. This is good, because I had failed to take into account the fees and taxes involved in bringing the shipment across the border.

This brings up two points in the self-publishing adventure. One, you should have some basic accounting skills to track your expenses and revenues. (Excel has some simple templates for basic accounting.) Two, be prepared for things to go awry.

Prior to placing my big order, I had a couple of sample copies shipped for one final proofread and to determine mailing costs per book. With my book in a padded envelope, I went to the post office and determined that it was just thin enough to get the letter rate. This amount was then factored into the pledges people made to my Kickstarter campaign to cover the cost of shipping the book to them. Simple accounting.

However, somewhere between my sample printing and the final printing, the paper changed slightly, resulting in a book that was mere millimetres thicker, just thick enough that when I brought my 50 sealed and labelled bubble envelopes to the post office, they no longer slid through the slot that determined whether they qualified for letter rate. Parcel rate was approximately triple the amount I had accounted for. Simple accounting, bad bottom line.

After scraping my morale off the floor, I tried this:

Fifty times I did that in the post office lobby. Self-publishing is good cardio.

Whatever. It worked, and people received their promised books and my budget remained intact.

Between this and learning how to do e-transfer, there’s been a bit of a curve. I won’t even get into describing the look on the face of retailers when you walk into their store to ask if they would like to carry your self-published book.

Next time, I’ll talk about the need to constantly (on the verge of obnoxiously) publicize yourself. Like this!

Order your copy of A Hole in the Ground and read a sample at Blurb. Here’s what people (okay, person) are saying: “You put together a story that made me look forward to being done with everyday life so that I could dive into the book – that is a huge present.”



About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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19 Responses to Adventures in Self-Publishing: The Shipping News

  1. pinklightsabre says:

    I got my copy early last week, thanks! And guess what, I tried to email you on both accounts I had but the stinking message was too thick I guess, so it got returned. (I should have paid more attention when you sent that note saying your email was changing, but I didn’t. That’s something people did in the 90s, but for good reason I guess.) I wanted to tell you I listened to Decline & Autumn last night preparing dinner, all the way through, and ‘got it’ more than ever, now older and wiser. Nice post. Like that look on the bookshop owner’s face, I can see it. Bill

  2. Paul says:

    Intriguing Ross. You didn’t mention if the shipper is paying for the lost books or you or the transport company. (Or maybe that is what you meant went you said they are reprinting for free – you probably had no choice but for large shipments, don’t pay until you receive it, inspect it, and find it in good order.I worked in transportation for decades and I am here to tell you that quite often when one shipment goes astray the error is repeated and the second also disappears into a hole in the ground [see what I did there?])

    Watching your post office stomp, I wondered if you realized the industry leading practice in which you are engaged? You need to buy or rent a compression machine to flatten your product like this mattress flattener that allows 400 mattresses to be shipped in a 40 foot container versus the usual 50 or so. Imagine if you could get our book down to letter size? Ha! Just sayin’.

    P.S. Abby is an excellent singer (youtube groups and presents videos with the same publisher)

    • rossmurray1 says:

      That machine is amazing.
      Yes, the company reprinted at their cost and shipped for free. Generally happy with their customer service. Wonder where that first shipment is today?
      Abby is a lovely singer. She was 13 when she sang that. It was a big deal for her at the time.

      • Paul says:

        I’m sure your first shipment is in a terminal, likely the one that dispatched the pick up. 95% of misdelivered freight has a misspelled word or wrong postal code on the shipping bill of lading. What happens is that there is a corner or dead space on the dock and any shipments that can’t be delivered are dumped there. About once every 6 months the terminal manager walks the dock, sees the pile of undeliverables and jumps up and down on the warehouse men to get it off his dock. The warehouse men rightfully ignore it because they do not get credit for returned freight and they know that if anyone is missing it they will call, the freight can be retrieved from the pile and shipped to whomsoever called – no effort and very little time involved compared to trying to hunt down the owner. No terminal manager wants undeliverable freight because it hurts his numbers and takes up space. So a game goes on where a warehouse man will figure out which terminal won’t notice it and they ship it there when pressed to move it. It is kind of fun.

        Did you notice that Home Depot sells mostly Behr Paint? – it is their private label. I was a terminal manager when Behr called us one day. We transported all their paint to the local Home Depots. The Behr guy was very aggressive and said his paint had been stolen. No one steals paint because it is too heavy and cheap by the pound, and hard to fence, especially a private label like Behr. I tried to calm him down by telling him i would look for it. He demanded to know how i would look for it. I explained it was likely at the pick up terminal. He didn’t believe me and he again demanded to know just exactly how I would look for it. Remember years ago Behr had those commercials where the whole screen was the color of the paint – like a pink House of Commons, blue beavers, etc? Well I told him that we were going to look for blue beavers and when we found them we would have found the paint. There was a long pause and then he started to laugh. The paint was at the shipping terminal – Behr had neglected to remove the label that had brought the paint to their factory , so the paint they sent out came right back again.

        • rossmurray1 says:

          Adventures in shipping indeed.
          The thing with my shipment is I had it sent to my workplace. So my name, then “Stanstead College” right there spelled right, just the missing letter in the town name. Street address fine, postal code fine. Plus, my earlier shipment had the same error, with no problem (thought I think that was US. Post delivery).

          • Paul says:

            Hmmm. Well if I hear of anyone who has been accosted by a man in a trench coat who msteriously asks : “Hey Mister, do ya wanna buy a hole in the ground? Best prices in town.” I’ll let you know. ha!

        • Another post-worthy comment. Dang, Paul, where do you get these from? And Ross is right about that machine. Who even knew that thing existed! Someone sat down at a desk and designed that machine. The world would stop spinning if it weren’t for hydraulics.

  3. ksbeth says:

    i love step two the best: “be prepared for things to go awry.” applies to all of life.

  4. Stan’s dad must have been completely flummoxed when he saw that UPS guy rolling up his front walk with all those boxes.

  5. “Customer service” being used here in the loosest of terms, I presume. Right proper of them to absorb the extra costs. That’s a Canadian company, right?

    I like that dance step. Is that the Rosemary Stomp?

    • rossmurray1 says:

      No. Shipped out of Fresno, I believe. Stranded in Fresno too. “To be stuck inside of Fresno with the Stanstead blues again.”
      Customer service was decent, all things considered.
      Dance, white boy, dance!

  6. Karen says:

    I got my copy–I’m not sure when. It was in a pile of mail on my desk that greeted me when I made a brief stop in my office. I haven’t worked my way through all of that mail yet, but I’m looking forward to reading the book soon.

    I have a bizarre and totally true (I swear on my children’s lives) story about self publishing: A couple of years ago, I was discussing the pros/cons of self publishing with another blogger (he was pro, I was con). We absolutely talked the issue to death over email for a period of a couple of months, but right in the middle of this on-going conversation, out the blue one day, a woman knocks on my front door. She’s standing there dressed in a sort of business suit and, incongruously, she’s been pulling one of those wheeled plastic coolers down my street. She explained she’s selling her self-published book door-to-door, and she pulled a copy out of the cooler and asked if I was interested.

    To this day, I’m kicking myself for not buying the book because I just want the proof that I did not dream this, it was absolutely so surreal. (I did not dream it. It really happened.)

    Anyway, whatever you’re doing to sell your book, it can’t be as crazy as what this woman was doing.

  7. Pingback: Adventures in Publishing: Promotion, or No One Cares About Your Damn Book! | Drinking Tips for Teens

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