Since we announced we’ve outsourced some of our fulfilment earlier this month, we’ve received many understandable questions and concerns about this decision and what it means for our partners, clients, and the indie publishing community we plan to continue to work with.
We care a lot about this community, take pride in the work we do and value the relationships we have built with independent creators, game designers, writers, illustrators, and publishers. However, we also are a business run by four people with full-time jobs all living in different cities (and distributed across continents)! We’ve been facing logistical and bandwidth challenges for some of the services we provide — primarily the physical labor of fulfilment.
It’s only been a year since Peregrine Coast Press formally came together, and in that year we experienced explosive growth, and with growth came growing pains. We struggled with funding, had delayed projects, dealt with a quickly-expanding retail space we didn’t originally have the infrastructure for, and of course, helped so many creators fulfill Kickstarter rewards and other orders.
Don’t get us wrong — we love the work we do and plan to continue — but sometimes growth like this means we have to make changes to both continue offering excellent services and prevent burnout. Offloading the physical labor of fulfilment seemed like the best choice to navigate our massive growth, so Hugh would have more time doing what he does best: managing logistics for fulfilment and distribution, keeping our online retail shop in check, and communicating with our partners and clients about the process.
So, in the spirit of abundant transparency — which is something that is important to all of us at the co-op — Hugh and Sydney sat down (over Google Meet) to address your questions and concerns.
You Asked - We Answered!
Why are you outsourcing fulfilment?
For the past 8-10 months, we’ve been discussing what scaling our business, especially fulfilment, looks like. We grew very rapidly. In 2022, we sent over 3000 packages. In just the first six months of 2023, we nearly doubled that! Fulfilment is such a huge part of what we do and is also the most time-intensive. The four of us work on the Press in our spare time and there is no centralised location, making it impossible for the in-person fulfilment work to be divided among us.
We have stock coming in every week. This includes managing stock and shipping for other stores, receiving and processing pallets for various Kickstarters, and also fulfilling orders from our own retail store. This work requires Hugh to be available to receive packages, process packages, interface with both our clients and shipping companies, as well as pack and ship every single order. When we’re receiving 2-3 150-kilogram (330-pound) consignments every week, this is no small job.
Hugh works every Saturday preparing and shipping orders, as well as managing logistics throughout the week. As we’ve increased business, the work became unsustainable for one person. So, our solution was either to cease offering fulfilment services or choose a third-party to take over some of the work.
We chose the latter because we still wanted to provide excellent service to the independent creators we know and love!
Who are you outsourcing to? Why did you choose them?
We’re working with a small, UK-based company that we have vetted through a comprehensive review process.
When selecting a vendor, we pulled together a list of requirements, looked at pricing, and then selected based on what we believe to be the best value. Since we have already established relationships and negotiated rates with shipping companies, it was important to us to find a vendor who would enabled us to honor these preexisting contracts. In addition, they are able to manage the ‘spiky’ Kickstarter fulfilment volumes we have and are supportive of our requirements, as well as highly experienced in mass mailing and assembly.
A Note on Outsourcing:
Outsourcing often has a negative connotation. We want to stress that not much outsourcing has happened. We are working with our vendor to use our existing shipping providers and processes.
What do you mean when you say you are outsourcing fulfilment?
When we say we are “outsourcing fulfilment,” we mean that we are paying a third party service to store our products (and we seriously needed more space) and perform the physical work of shipping, which includes receiving packages and pallets, packing, labelling, and sending things out.
There are two major changes to our fulfilment offerings.
In short, we need more space and we need people to do the physical work for us. Both of these things mean it’s costing us a little extra. Previously, our pricing did not reflect wages for labour and we rented a garage to hold stock, which has been filled to the brim.
Since this is an automated environment — which is something we were looking at doing anyway — we now require barcodes.
For folks with books and zines, we recommend getting ISBNs. ISBNs have benefits beyond their usefulness for fulfilment. With an ISBN, your zine/book/publication can be stocked in bigger distributors like shops and the ISBN also helps with SEO and search traffic. Additionally, when you register for an ISBN, your publication is registered in a database of books, which creates a record in library management systems. We (Peregrine Coast Press) now have copies of our publications in the British Library as a result!
For other products, the barcoding assists with stock management and identification, removing ambiguity and assisting with pick & pack.
If your product isn’t barcoded, we don’t want you to worry. For stock received for fulfillment, we are able to barcode your product for a small barcoding fee.
What is the benefit of using Peregrine Coast Press over shipping myself/going to a third party provider?
We already have the infrastructure for fulfilment set up and ready for independent creators to use. Rather than specializing in providing fulfilment services to massive Kickstarters that may have thousands of backers, we instead have tailored our work to be helpful and beneficial to first-time and independent creators publishing up to a few thousand copies once or twice a year. We are always happy to chat with creators about their projects to determine the best way we can assist - no matter the size!
When you use us, you don’t have to set up with a fulfilment provider every time you have a new project ready for release or worry about hitting specific targets in your crowdfunder to get affordable pricing. We’ve invested in developing relationships and contracts with these folks in advance, and we save you the headache of dealing with this and pass on those discounts to our clients.
With the time we're getting back by outsourcing some of the manual work, we're investing in making lives easier for creators. For instance, you no longer have to worry about how to charge shipping; we can charge backers directly for their shipping fees. So you don't have to worry about being on the hook for unexpected increases in shipping charges.
We're also working on charging EU backers the correct rate of VAT, like we do in our store, so they don't get hit with extra charges at the border.
Couldn’t I just go to the post office/UPS/FedEx and do it myself?
You absolutely could – we’re not saying that this isn’t a good option, nor do we think that you have to use us. If you need to send out 10 - 30 zines, then utilising the post office on your own might be a great option. However, for larger orders that could be a headache and then you have to handle all of the things we listed above.
Essentially, we’re offering a service. We’re here if you need us! You send us your stuff and tell us where it needs to go and we’ll make sure it gets there headache-free and deal with any issues along the way.
What is Peregrine Coast Press’s role in the fulfilment of my products?
We’re handling the paperwork and administration so you don’t have to. Fulfilment isn’t just the package, label, ship part of the process.
Because we do the heavy lifting to get everything set up, you don’t have to worry about customs, getting the stock booked in, issues with lost or damaged packages, and any other administrative work that may come up (and trust us — there’s a lot of it).
Our infrastructure means we can also do things like the ability to get shipping fees directly from backers (rather than use a service like BackerKit). By using our vendor, we can also offer assembly, which is something that we’ve wanted to be able to do but didn’t have the bandwidth for.
The only thing we aren’t doing is the physical labour!
When I send you my stock, where does it go?
This depends! Most stock, though, will go directly to our vendor!
What happens if something goes wrong?
We take all responsibility for your stock while it is in the care of our vendor. If they have any problems, they let us know, and we deal with it.
So, essentially, not much changes. You trust us, we trust our vendor, and if something happens, we’ll fix it. That’s our problem, not yours.
Does working with you still support the community?
Working with us benefits everyone we work with.
We negotiate pricing, volume, and processes that anyone who comes to us can use. So many fulfilment companies don’t want to deal with zines or small things like dice because there isn’t a lot of profit. Our system is set up so our clients can benefit from fulfilment services that are usually only offered to large orders and companies.
I have data privacy concerns. What data about myself and my backers/supporters is being shared with this third party service? Is our data still secure?
We only use your data to ship what you need us to ship – that’s it!
We ALWAYS Want Your Feedback
If you ever have feedback or recommendations, we want to hear it! It’s important to us that we are offering the best services at the best prices to better support independent creators.
Truthfully, so much of what we do, the processes we have developed, and the services we provide are influenced by the people we work with. You asked for better invoicing and we did it. You wanted to be able to directly charge backers for shipping and we made it happen! Seriously — so much of what we offer is because we love hearing what your concerns and needs are.
When making this decision we continued to come back to what’s important to us and what Peregrine Coast Press meant to us when we got started a little over a year ago. We want to support independent creators by offering essential services. We want to publish professional, well-designed, and insightful magazines and books. We want to be a hub for anyone, anywhere in the world, to shop all kinds of independent creations.
When we’re able to better support ourselves (as the people at the press), it’s much easier for us to do all the things above well. By eliminating managing our own warehouse — which, let’s be honest, was just a garage — we are more available to you and can continue into the future as a place by independent creators for independent creators.