Thursday, June 14, 2012

PublishAmerica's CEO doesn't think authors pay enough shipping charges

June 12, 2012

I received this question from author Charles Blazek: "Why does PublishAmerica require authors to choose a shipping option on items that don't involve shipping anything?" He's talking about promotion services. They require choosing a "shipping option".

It's a valid question. Especially since shipping isn't what it used to be, although you're probably surprised to hear that more than 90 pct of all international trade is still carried by real ships. How many? There are more than 102,000 merchant ships sailing the world's waters. They carry much of what you eat, of what you sit on and sleep in, and of what you wear. But shipping a book, or a promotion service? Where's the boat
More after this book review, Horses Who Eat Potatoes and Other Truer-than-Life Stories of "The Other Family Doctor" by Corry Key(

Corry Key's decision to become a veterinarian wasn't something she ever had to think about. After welcoming her very first horse into her heart at 15, she was hooked, and that solidified her decision to spend her life looking after animals and their health. Beginning her veterinary journey in Arkansas, Corry saw animals in situations where they should have been yanked away from owners. Many times she was forced to turn her back to things she couldn't control, including dealing with owners who were a whole lot less friendly than their animals.

The majority of Corry's patients were horses. She recalls with warm fondness the many patients she's had over the years and the impact they have had on her. Each experience pushed her forward in her career and endeared her to horses even more. They marked milestones in her life, especially that black stallion that no one thought could be tamed. After facing uncertainty and a struggle with infertility, Corry was able to push through and give birth to two children who also share her love for animals. This book is a testament to courage, determination and fulfillment.

Find Horses Who Eat Potatoes here:

Publishers rarely ship stuff. Occasionally we do, when we fulfill a faraway foreign order that needs to go on a boat, but that doesn't happen very often. Other foreign shipments travel by plane. And the bulk of our books are transported by truck, on the road. Unless Fedex or UPS use their planes to cover part of the distance. But we're pretty sure that they don't use ships.

So why is everybody still talking about shipping when we're really trucking or flying? And why transporting anything at all when the customer receives a service, and not a product?

Shipping as another word for delivering is now widely understood to include more than just moving a package from point A to B. The term also covers handling, packaging and the administrative processing of an order. Handling is another word for labor, real people who spend time on working on the order, which typically involves more than one individual. These folks are paid a salary, and that's an expense that is passed on to the customer.

The same is true for packaging. Boxes, styrofoam peanuts, bubble wrap, air pouches all cost money, and the customer pays. Administration: there's a clerk somewhere who enters and oversees a work flow. No matter how much you automate production, there's an actual human who is made responsible for signing off on the process. It involves a salary, and it's passed on to the customer.

When you add it all up, it's actually amazing that the customer pays as little for shipping as they do, given that it also includes the long-distance transportation and delivery. The real story here is this: by paying that shipping fee, consumers generally only contribute to the actual shipping, handling, packaging and processing expense. The rest of what fulfilling an order actually costs is passed on to the consumer through the price of the product.

Rule of thumb: the lower a product price, the higher the shipping fee. The opposite is also true: the lower the shipping fee, the higher the product price. There's no such thing as free shipping in the world. If it says "free shipping", something else has become more expensive.

All of the above equally applies when the consumer purchases a service. No delivery is made to the home of the consumer (in our situation: the author), but delivery is certainly made to wherever we execute the service. This can be a TV channel in New York or Los Angeles, a book fair in Europe, or dozens of bookstores in dozens of towns. Often this includes staggering transportation costs, or it involves days of making phone calls or printing full-color promotion material and getting it someplace. Always it involves people doing labor, and they are paid a salary.

We keep the unit price for a service low, always. Too low for it to also cover all of our fulfillment expenses. So we add "shipping" to the service price. Thanks to Charles Blazek's email yesterday we have now changed the description in our shopping cart. The fee is now called "Shipping/fulfillment". You can click on it and read what the fee covers. Except that it covers only part of what it says it does: our processing, administrative and delivery cost is simply higher than what we charge for "shipping", i.e. the cost to deliver the service where we promise to deliver it. We recover the balance through what you pay for the service itself.

I know, this explanation will not satisfy those who keep staring at that shipping fee thinking about postage only. If you can't make the mental leap from the price of a stamp to a look behind the scenes, we can't please you. All I can say to those folks is: only consider the total price. If what you're charged for any product or service, delivery and all, is what you're willing to pay, buy it. If it's not, then don't purchase it.

And stop staring at that shipping fee. The only amount that counts is the total amount.

So why don't we always charge the total amount only, with no separate shipping fee? Maybe we should. But I know that we won't. I'll explain why next time.

I invite you to talk back to me. I don't guarantee a response, but I do guarantee that we listen. You can reach me by email at In the subject line write Attn. Willem.

Have a wonderful day!

--Willem Meiners

1 comment:

  1. If Mr. Meiners had any sense at all, he would stop sending out these emails immediately. What he has published already can be used against PA in that class action lawsuit. He is giving them more ammunition. We all know that PA and Meiners are too arrogant to think that they might be held accountable for these lies. After all, they have scammed authors with one lie after the other and until now, nothing has been done about it. So I know he will continue and I will make the popcorn and enjoy the show. Have fun Willie!


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