Monday, March 21, 2016

A Matter of Logistics . . . by Kate James

If you're reading this post, it's a fairly safe bet that you love books, whether as a reader, an author or both. Yes, the publishing world has changed dramatically with the digitizing of books, but there are still a multitude of people (like me!) who prefer to read print books.

There might not be as many bookstores, or as many books in those stores that still exist as there used to be, but have you ever thought about how many print books are out there for sale at any given point in time? Consider, for a moment, the logistics of getting those books out there to all those points of sale and in time for their release dates! If that alone doesn't bring to mind a logistical nightmare, add to that the distribution of books direct to consumers.

Again, if you're reading this post, you probably know what the term direct to consumer or DTC means, because Heartwarming is a DTC series. The term is self-explanatory: upon release, the books are shipped directly to consumers who've purchased a subscription for the series. How many people subscribe to the series, you might ask. A lot . . . and thank you very much from each of us!

Which brings me back to the question of logistics. I happen to know a little more about that, since I had the opportunity last year to visit the Harlequin Distribution Center in Depew, New York.



I was honored to have been asked to visit for their annual employee recognition event. How far did I have to travel to get there from north of Toronto, you might ask?


The drive was 229.8 kilometers each way and worth every single kilometer to meet such phenomenal group of committed, hard-working and simply wonderful team members.

These two lovely ladies made all the arrangements for my trip. Not only were they a pleasure to deal with, they greeted me with copies of the just-released first book in my K-9 series!

I stopped along the way to pick up a couple dozen cookies for the team. Imagine my surprise when, in addition to a delicious lunch, the team had set up this sumptuous dessert table.


And if that wasn't enough, my visit occurring just before Halloween, there were more treats already on the tables. (Oh, and more copies of my book. Did I mention...silly me...I actually BROUGHT some books with me to give out! To a distribution center... Okay, before you laugh too hard, I thought it would be better for me to be prepared than not.)

Everyone was so welcoming and warm, the time passed much too quickly. 


 Imagine what a thrill it was for me to be able to sign my books for the people who work so hard to provide customer service to our readers!

If I wasn't over-the-moon happy already, this stunning bouquet of flowers would have done it.


And now back to the question of logistics. I was given a tour of the entire distribution center. There were so many conveyors in the warehouse, it made me think of a luggage-handling system in an airport. (Oh, wait, that's a key setting in When I Found You, the third book of my K-9 trilogy, and I didn't even know it then!)

Let's start with the DTC orders. When an order is received by mail, the machine you see below opens the envelopes, and sorts and separates the contents. All my fellow Canadians, please take note: We have a propensity (apparently unlike our US counterparts) to STAPLE our checks to the order form. For future reference, please don't do this. The staples can jam the machine. :-)

Not only does the distribution center distribute the books, they can print books, when needed in a hurry. For example, when Brenda Novak's A Winter Wedding sold out in no time all (and as a fan, I can say I'm not surprised!), the team was asked to print more. Here they are...fully assembled for distribution.

Imagine my delight to see Heartwarming's very own Cheryl Harper's books being printed, too. Here are the covers, ready for assembly. Have a look at whose covers are right next to Cheryl's. Yes, Nora Roberts'. And although you can't see it in this photograph, the covers just below Ms. Roberts' are Robyn Carr's. Talk about being in exceptional company! 


Speaking of Heartwarming authors, here's a book from another Heartwarming author, Pamela Tracy. Yes, Pamela writes for Love Inspired, as well, and these books were already packaged and on skids ready to be shipped. (Do you love this cover as much as I do?)

Here are some more books ready to be shipped. This place really is a book-lover's paradise!


Oh, and I found more of Cheryl's books, this time fully assembled and ready to be boxed and shipped direct to consumers. (Anyone who loves animals would love this book, by the way.)

This is one of the lovely ladies who packages the books for custom orders. I should mention that everyone I met and had a chance to speak to absolutely LOVES what they do and working for Harlequin.

Phew...good thing these books were already shrink wrapped. I might have been tempted to ask for one, otherwise! 

The banner shown below is suspended from the ceiling of the warehouse. I can say with full confidence that everyone at the Depew Distribution Center epitomizes this core value. If you've had occasion to call or e-mail Harlequin's customer service representatives, I expect you'd agree with me.


For authors, this distribution center also ships our copies of our books to us. Speaking of our books, I'm thrilled to share my next release dateJuly 1stwith Catherine Lanigan, Karen Rock and Amy Vastine. Our books are now available for pre-order in e-book format through most online retailers (paperbacks will be available soon). Please click on the titles below if you would like to learn more about a book or order your copy now.

Catherine's Sophie's Path;
the third book in my K-9 Trilogy, When I Found You.

If you don't want to wait until July to start reading, Catherine and Karen, along with Linda Hope Lee and Syndi Powell, have new releases out this month. To learn more about their books, click on the cover images on the right.

As a teaser, it's my pleasure to introduce you to the hero, heroine and four-legged hero of When I Found You . . .


Just one more thing before I say good-bye . . .

The first two books of my K-9 trilogy and The Truth About Hope have been included by The Romance Reviews as entrants for the 2016 Readers’ Choice Awards. The nomination process to advance books to the final round is currently under way and ends on March 31st. If you have already nominated my books, thank you very much. If you haven't but would like to, please click on the book titles below to go to the nomination pages.

A heartfelt thank you to all our readers for supporting our books and making it possible for us to do what we love.

Happy reading!

Kate



35 comments:

  1. Thanks for the tour, Kate! I'd love to go through a center sometime. I hope all your readers join us in voting at The Romance Reviews--your books are always winners!

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    1. Every person at the distribution center was so warm and welcoming, and I loved the tour of the facility. Thank you for the nudge about voting for my books.

      I'm grateful to everyone who has voted or will be voting!

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  2. Sounds like a very cool tour and what star treatment! Thanks for sharing the pictures, it's wonderful to get to see where the other half of the magic happens. Looking forward to celebrating book birthdays in July :)

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    1. I truly did feel honored to be able to spend time with the team. The team provides outstanding service to our readers!

      I'm so glad I get to share a book birthday with you, Karen and Catherine. July first will be here before we know it!

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  3. What an informative blog! Love it. And the pictures were great. Having never been there, I always thought of the distribution center as some urban fantasy, LOL, but now I know it's real. Thanks for sharing, Kate!
    Cynthia

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the post, Cynthia. As I noted, it was well worth the drive! It was fun to see Cheryl's books being printed for a special distribution.

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  4. Good morning, Kate. That was so interesting. It's great to see photos of the people who work so hard for us and for our readers. All those edible goodies look pretty good, too! Happy Monday.

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    1. I had a terrific time, Muriel. They had a beautiful buffet set up as well . . . but I guess you can tell I have a sweet tooth!

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  5. Kate, I loved how you shared your trip to the distribution center with us. Now I have to ask---how many kilometers in a mile??? Ha, those of us who travel in miles might wonder. Are the boxes of books transported from the center by truck or train? My subscriptions come via the U.S. postal service, but I wonder if the post office picks them up at the distribution center.

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    1. I'm glad you liked the post, Roz. I mile is roughly 1.6 km. I should have thought to convert it! A lot of the distribution is through the postal system...especially direct to readers. I should have mentioned that they also receive all the books that are printed elsewhere, since they only print small runs (eg. when a book sells out quickly) at their facility.

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  6. Thanks for taking us along on the tour, Kate. It's wonderful to see people who truly enjoy their job. And why wouldn't they...surrounded by books all day, I'd be in heaven!
    I'm looking forward to all of the July releases.

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    1. It's interesting you say that about being surrounded by books. Since they work with books all day, I couldn't help but wonder what their reaction to an author would be. Well, I couldn't have asked for more! They made me feel very welcome and special! :-)

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  7. A wonderful post, Kate. One of the many jobs I’ve had included working for a much smaller book distributor in New Jersey. I took orders over the phone during the week and worked the assembly line (for overtime) on weekends.

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    1. I love hearing about all your wonderful experiences, Marion! I bet you would have loved seeing this enormous distribution center!

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  8. What a neat tour! And how lovely to be treated to deserts and flowers :-) thanks for such a fun and informative post.

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    1. It was a lot of fun! I look forward to our shared book birthday, Karen!

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  9. What a fabulous tour--and a way to spend the day! So jealous...all those books and friendly faces. :) Thank you for sharing this with us, Kate! <3

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    1. I feel very, very lucky to have had the opportunity...a benefit of living so close to New York, I suppose! Oh, if only I could have had a ten-minute shopping spree!!

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  10. Kate, what fun! Thank you for sharing your experience with us. The photos are great, and it sounds like you were fortunate to meet a wonderful group of people. So grateful for them and their hard work. Congratulations on all your success!

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    1. I'm glad you liked the post, Carol. It was great fun. Yes, the team works very hard and their stats for response time and customer satisfaction are unbelievably positive!

      You might appreciate what happened at the border crossing. I was in the line of cars and I see a US Customs and Border Control officer coming towards our line with his dog! All the other drivers are watching them with a degree of apprehension. Of course, the first book of my K-9 trilogy had just released, and I was working on the third book. So, I'm hoping that they come close enough so I can strike up a conversation and ask if I could take a picture of them. They skirted my SUV from the passenger side and the dog showed interest in the back of my vehicle.

      I'm thinking, this is terrific, I'll be able to chat with the officer, pet the dog. I watch the officer peer in through the back tinted window. He must have seen the dog bed back there, because he smiled, and he and his dog moved on.

      No chatting, no picture, but I hope you think it's a fun story. Not too many people WANT to be searched by a USCBC officer! In the third book of my trilogy, there is some reference to what bad guys do to try to throw sniffer dogs off the scent. I wonder if anyone has ever thought of trying a well-used dog bed!

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    2. What a fun tour. It reminds me a little of those factory tours my kids used to watch in Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, except with cake and books. Thanks for inviting us along.

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    3. Thank you for joining the tour, Beth. Next to the people, the cake and the books were the best part! :-)

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  11. I'd love to do a tour--it sounded like so much fun. Thanks for sharing and I wish you the best sales ever!

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    1. Awww...thank you, Patricia! A very positive aspect of it is that all the customer service reps are now fans of Heartwarming overall! They do get calls from readers for recommendations!! (Maybe I should have bought more cookies.) :-D

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  12. How cool is this! What a fantastic job they do! Dying for Logan's story.
    Kathleen Bylsma

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    1. Kathleen, you are now officially the social-media queen!

      Thank you sooo very much for your support and enthusiasm. If you'd like to read the first chapter, please send me a private message on Facebook with your e-mail address. I would love to send it to you!

      Happy reading!

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    2. Oh, oh . . . I should be careful not to pick favorites. Let me reword to say one of the top social-media queens! :-)

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  13. Kate! I'm always late to the party. You did such an incredible job! I love all the photos. Many years ago I visited our distribution center in Texas. It was so amazing. I got no flowers or goodies so next time I'm going with you!! You have a lot more fun!!!!

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    1. Thank you for the kind words, Catherine. We could have a lot of fun doing a joint visit! :-)

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  14. What a terrific behind-the-scenes post, Kate! I really enjoyed it and wish you great success with your K-9 series.

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    1. I'm glad you liked it, Amie. Thank you for your good wishes!

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  15. This post was so great!! Thanks for sharing your experience of the Harlequin Distribution Center. I would be ecstatic surrounded by all of those books. I know you were thrilled to be greeted with copies of your k-9 trilogy. And yes, as someone who has called Harlequin on a few occasions, their customer service team is outstanding.

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    1. I'm glad you've had a positive experience with members of the customer service team, because they are very committed, hardworking and really care.

      It was fabulous seeing all those books. As I noted previously, I wish I could have had a ten-minute shopping spree!

      Thank you for stopping by, Laurie. Reading your comment is a nice way to end my day (since it's 9:52 PM here)!

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  16. Love the photos and post! This is so interesting!! What a great experience :).

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    1. Thank you, Rula. It really was a lot of fun. I am so excited about your upcoming release! :-)

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