After a couple of days that have been spent mostly in the car in sweltering weather (for the UK, so about 23 degrees!) I'm now at home for the day. I've got most of my pre-orders shipped, except for those that are being collected at the UK Games Expo this weekend, and today is a stocking order day. Six of my eighteen distributors have placed orders already. Two are collecting at the Expo, three are going out today and one is amending their order so that it better fits in shipping boxes. This was something I didn't realise I could do. When they send me a purchase order telling me what they want to buy, I get back to them and tell them how to amend their order so that it fills shipping boxes. Since it's an American customer paying in USD, and I pay shipping this is quite important to me.
I'm going to chase my other distributors now the games have arrived to see if they want to order, hopefully I can get a few in time to ship early next week.
The stocking order process is fairly complex. First I send them some information to solicit with their customers and then hopefully they send me a purchase order, expressing an intent to buy a certain number of games. There's often a lot of chasing between those two steps though! In return, I draw up an invoice for the sale which I send back to them. I also need to keep a copy of the invoice for my records, and record the invoice in my VAT Account.
I then need to arrange a courier collection for a day that I'll be in. I use Interparcel Ltd. as a courier aggregator. Couriers are expensive. However, if you do a high volume of business with them (usually tens of parcels every month) then they will start to discount the rate you are charged for the shipments. I tend to go through periods when I send 10-15 parcels over a few days and then very little for the next several months until my next game comes out.
Courier aggregators like Interparcel work by dealing with lots of couriers and lots of customers. With lots of customers, they get a great rate from the couriers and can pass that discount on to their customers minus a small percentage for themselves. With lots of couriers they offer several options for each parcel and you can choose to send each parcel with whoever is cheapest (generally DHL for UK and Europe and UPS for everywhere else). The receipt needs printing out and adding to my records and my VAT account.
When I go to York to get games I also tend to get a few shipping boxes at the same time. These bigger boxes (51cm x 41cm x 42cm) can hold 8 boxes of It's Alive! (22 Kg!) or 4 boxes of Carpe Astra/Sumeria (15Kg). I get the boxes flat-packed from Zetland Boxes, so on shipping day I need to build the boxes, fill them, attach the labels and the wait for the courier - who is often early, so the preceding steps are generally done early in the morning to ensure I'm ready when they arrive.
Shipments going outside the UK also require me to provide proof that they are leaving the UK (for VAT purposes) so that I can zero-rate the purchases, which generally means keeping a copy of the courier's airway bill with the invoice. Shipments going outside the EU also need four copies of a customs invoice, detailing the contents and their value which all need to be signed and given to the courier when he arrives.
It's a complex process with lots of little steps, I have to be quite methodical to ensure I don't forget anything.
In other news, It's Alive! has finally sold just over half the print run, two days before it's nine-months old. That seems pretty good to me, but admittedly I don't really have any idea!