Thursday, 14 March 2013

Managing Sales and Stock Levels on a Budget

World Book Day falls each year in early March. Consequently, the majority of UK schools decide to invite authors, poets, artists etc to come into school and do whatever their "thing" is during this time (often the only time of the year they invite them in).  As most of the Itinerant Poet's self-published books are sold directly via his workshops, March is a key month and managing the stock levels can prove a major headache.  This is where the short digital print run comes into its own.

Some schools book try to book World Book Day workshops at the last minute and have to compromise by taking dates later in March -  WBD/week itself are invariably filled up to a year beforehand.  It is impossible to predict whether these schools will be infants, juniors, middle or high schools with different titles being appropriate in each case.  We have 11 titles currently in print, an incorrect selection available means sales missed.  Quite apart from this is the need to be able to fit the stock in the trusty Green Goddess to travel all over the country for a week at a time.

Thankfully we have a great relationship with our digital printing company, Orbital Digital Print Services, and they can turn around an order extremely quickly.  I placed an order for 25 copies each of three titles on Monday morning and they are scheduled for delivery on Friday of the same week.  We can't risk printing more when too many of the schools are extremely slow payers - beyond our 30 day credit terms with Orbital.  The increased fuel and other costs involved in this month drain the bank account without it being replenished - the curse of being self-employed in this line of business.

Hard Times

The current economic climate is reflected by a slump in book sales.  Parents and schools just do not have the money to spend on "extras".  No matter what the government says about ring-fencing the education budget, on the ground there are teaching staff being laid off or having their hours reduced.  Everything is being squeezed.  The Itinerant Poet has had to freeze daily rates for yet another year.  Rising fuel prices compound this and mean that we are earning less now than a few years ago.  Paper prices have risen and so books are more expensive to produce.  Still, as dear Mr Cameron says, "We're all in this together!"

There are now four poetry books awaiting illustrations and production.  I now at least have the luxury of time to complete them as we will not be shelling out on production until later in the year.  In the meantime, sitting very still seems a good way of not spending money.  We need to do a lot of sitting to guide our two students through their IGCSE English Language exams in late May.

All our children love reading.  We taught them to read well in advance of teaching them to write.  English is one of those subjects where you also need to talk a lot, think a lot and write a lot.  Dipping in and out of the Edexcel IGCSE English Language Anthology is actually rather fun. I enjoy following up background research on the authors, settings and history.  I hope that our children will still find literature enjoyable and that they will not have been put off by analysing and commenting in order to obtain this ticket-to-the-next-stage.  If they are, it makes you wonder....

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