Caribbean water sparkles beyond the shores of Laughing Bird Caye National Park, Belize. This faro was declared a protected area in 1981 and is the southernmost island in the central lagoon of the Belize Barrier Reef. (Image © Jain Lemos, Belize; 2014.)

When it’s time for shipping books, the plethora of forms you’ll need to handle is going to make your head hurt. I’ll attempt to take some of the sting out of the process in this part of The Ultimate Guide to Producing Documentary Books. Getting your mind wrapped around shipping jargon isn’t a walk in the park, either. Quick, are you the consignee or the consignor?

No doubt when you read the shipping quote at the end of the printer’s estimate you were reminded that books—especially large format documentary ones—are HEAVY. In most cases, the printer has the very best rates and relationships with shippers. Work with your rep, though, to make sure they have given you competitive pricing. Everyone along the chain of custody makes extra money on shipping and handling. Know what you are paying for and why.

If you are working with a major publisher, they will have wonderful departments handling all of these pesky details. You still need to be in the loop so make sure you receive copies of all shipping paperwork. Follow the shipment independently and on a daily basis. You don’t want to hear about delays a minute later than necessary. Try Track-Trace, a site that tracks your shipment by container number.

For large ocean shipments, you can bet there will be a freight forwarder company involved. You can, and should if possible, designate your own trusted freight forwarder. Make sure they are going to stay involved with the shipment door-to-door. When your books hit their port of entry (these are government designated) they’ll be considered foreign goods meaning they have to be evaluated. Books typically breeze through but they can be held randomly for any reason under the sun, usually having to do with more accessorial charges! I could write a book on the agony and defeat of customs clearance.

Here is the bright spot: As soon as the bindery has finished their job and before the books are boxed and palletized, they’ll have instructions to ship you a batch of advance copies via air freight. The number of books will depend on the project but make sure you have enough for the authors, press reviews, key sales reps and two extra copies that you’ll safely tuck away.

I’m amazed that Launching is next! Did you read that the U.S. has just created the largest protected area in the world, three times larger than California? Wow!