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So, because the internet is about problem-solving and making new knowledge, and because being a writer in SA means, for some people, needing to innovate and do things in new ways, I’m starting a series of monthly brainstorming questions.

New problems, like trying to turn a profit as a self-published author in Joburg, tend to be hard problems. People are smart though, and insightful, and more of both of those together than we are apart. So here’s a question to ponder and answer if you can!

I’ve posted it in a couple of places and to a couple of people. If you’d like to see a summary of the kinds of answers I get, please let me know in the comments below, and I’ll happily add you to my brainstorming mailing list!

Here goes the August question:

So I regard myself, as a self-published author, as a small/micro enterprise dealing in small physical goods for, relatively cheap. What this raises is the problem of getting products to people outside my immediate friendship circle. In other countries, this is where the national postal service comes in. SA-side, not so much.

I’m not sure about the best way to get books to people who want to read them who I don’t know or don’t see regularly. Payments can be handled online (and will probably be another brain-picker for another month), and e-books can be e-mailed, but paper-books and merchandise pose a problem.

These three kinds of solutions are as far as I’ve gotten on my own:

– Courier services (Fast and reliable, but expensive in a way that means the courier can sometimes cost as much or more than the item being delivered)

–Online shop portals, like Shopify, that have payment and shipping schemes integrated but still allow sellers to display and price their products themselves (I just don’t know much about this, or its cost, ease-of-use, or privacy implications)

– Drops of order batches at a central location. For example, I –as author- would choose a day of the month to spend some hours in a coffee shop that’s easy to access for most of the city, and advertise this, so people could come pick up an order, get it signed and get a chat and some author interaction (odd, untested and it means people have a longer wait to get their order, and it mostly only works for Joburg)

So, what I’m asking from you is this:

What do you think, from your own life-experience and common sense- about the three options for shipping that I’m considering?

Would you be prepared (as a potential customer) to use any/all of them?

Do you have any other tried-and-tested or brilliant-and-out-of-the-box solutions to the problem of small business shipping in SA?

Answers in comments, or if you prefer a private forum – send me a message on my author page on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AbiGodsell/

Let’s make new ways forward!

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4 thoughts on “Writing Questions: August – Shipping

  1. Courier services -> You’re right, these end up being far too costly! It does give peace of mind… but is generally too rich for most folks blood I find.

    –Online shop portals, like Shopify -> I’ve heard good things about these services… But none of the sources are first hand and all of them are for intermediary products… (nothing produced locally) perhaps track down someone who uses them first hand and seek testimony?

    – Drops of order batches at a central location -> I like this idea a lot… but it has to be consistent spots… obviously the hub zones like outer limits and such should be considered as well! This also makes it hard to spread it throughout the country though… as keeping drop spots stocked involves getting books to them.

    Lastly, as option 4 for folks all over the country who don’t want to spend silly courier fees.
    I’ve had great success using Postnet to Postnet services to deliver prizes for Geek of all Trades. It’s a lot cheaper then courier and 9 times out of 10 most towns do have a poster that people can go pick up from. You just get the readers to tell which is their closest Postnet (this involves manually posting each of them on your part though…. not sure how feasible that is…)
    Delivery is fairly quick too as a plus.

    Hope my 2 cents helped =)

  2. i like the idea of picking up books and a cup of coffee. Would people be willing to do this for you another centres, for a small fee? you could use the Postnet option to get a batch of books to someone. Could also double as a way to get people to a venue. Want people to come to your gallery/garden/performance? volunteer to be the pofadder=or-wherever hub.
    In Joburg, consider Bridge books, 85 Commissioner St, who have a good Newtown/City Centre book network
    is the Jozi Bookfest still on at Wits/ Is it too late to find out about selling books there?

    • That’s a really phenomenal idea about networking with other people in other cities. I think giving readers options as to how they would like their books gotten to them is probably going to be the best way to go! I’m sitting out of Jozi Bookfest this year, just to focus on other things (like passing my degree!) but next year I will definitely try and get space there. Thank you so much for your excellent advice!

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