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Chocolate Tree Books

information for book retailers

Who are you?
Chocolate Tree Books is a micropublisher -- we don't own printing presses or warehouses or distribution, we subcontract all these functions to existing industry. There are already companies that do production, order processing and fulfillment, and do it very well ... we leave it to them. So although we're small, there's no risk in dealing with us, because you won't actually be dealing with us – just your existing suppliers. We publish, but we don't manufacture or supply.
Do you have a returns policy?
We don't do returns (there's no publisher's warehouse).  Our books are produced using print on demand technology by established companies already embedded in the supply chain.
How does that work, compared to normal publishing?
If a shop stocks a POD book, the customer sees no difference. If the shop is out of stock and a distributor has a few copies, then again the customer sees no difference. If the distributor isn't holding any stock either, the order cascades down one more level, to the computer systems of a POD manufacturing plant. The customer's book-order joins a queue, and is printed to order, on demand. The book gets tagged and sent to the distributor, and then passes back along the chain as usual. The whole process is highly automated, and the aim is to try to fulfill "zero-stock" orders without adding more than a few working days or so to the customer's wait time. If the plant has a rush of orders, it may take a little longer. If there is free stock in the supply chain, the usual (shorter) fulfillment times apply. Whether other companies choose to carry stock, and how much, is (of course) up to them.  
So, are supply times better or worse with POD?
A little of both. Print on demand means that a book effectively never goes out of stock: the printing plant counts as an additional "virtual warehouse" that distributors can fall back on if physical stock is exhausted, at the cost of an additional delay to order fulfillment. If distributors decide to speed things up by carrying stock themselves, then it's the best of both worlds– speedy supply with no unexpected "book droughts" between printings when there's a rush of orders for a particular book. However, the fact that the book is always available "on demand" means that shops and distributors have less of an incentive to carry significant amounts of stock, and the fact that they can't return any unsold stock also makes them more cautious about ordering in advance. Bookshops that do carry POD titles sometimes microstock – carry just enough stock to cover immediate short-term sales, and order replacements as needed on a day-by-day basis. 
The discussion above refers to paperback production: since POD hardback production requires more human involvement, lead-times for hardback books can be significantly longer than for paperbacks.
But what about long-distance delays?
Our current POD contractor gets around this by printing on both sides of the Atlantic, in the UK and in the USA. If you order a book in Manchester, England, the book will be printed in the UK, if you order it in Chicago, it'll be printed in the US. Either way, the book gets fed straight into the local distribution chain, avoiding additional international shipping costs and delays. 
If you order from another part of the world (such as Australia), and your local distributor doesn't carry stock, then yes, ordering stock only after it's sold is going to be a slow process. It seems likely that the larger POD companies will eventually extend the "local production" model to more areas, but for now, local printing basically applies to UK/Europe and the US.   

What else is in the works?
Martin Hutchinson's Book, "The Abyss of time: An architect's history of the golden ratio" is now out in paperback (1st July 2008). 

A hardback version of the "Relativity ..." book is scheduled for 15th July.    

Why didn't you release the hardback version first?
Hardback releases usually come about a year before the paperback, which forces readers to choose between buying an expensive hardback or waiting for the paperback to come out. We wanted to try to maximise availability of the book by releasing it as an aggressively-priced paperback, and we're now putting out a hardback version for the benefit of people who prefer that format. 
What's the situation with bookseller's margins?

The hardback version of the relativity book, and the paperback of "Abyss" both have fairly standard bookseller margins. 

The retailer margin for the "Relativity" paperback is quite tight, because we wanted it to come in at GBP10-00 / USD15-00. "Print on demand" costs are comparatively high per page, and this book was nearly four hundred pages ... if its any consolation, we squeezed our own margins even more than yours! 


copyright Chocolate Tree Books, 2008