Phase 2: Sorting
Phase 3: Inventory Preparation
This phase of shipping preparation runs concurrently with phase 2 and phase 4. This is because the lion's share of the work during this phase is done by Howard or other volunteers rather than me. It is during this phase that I make sure we have all the supplies and inventory necessary to fulfill all the orders.
This phase begins when a truck pulls into our driveway and drops of pallets of books. We make arrangements to have 3/5 of the books transported to the storage unit. Those books become our inventory for the next couple of years. The rest of the books have to be signed and sketched for shipping. We arrange a day to have a volunteer come help us. This time we shanghaied a neighbor. He would bring a box of books into the house, open it up, and put all the books into a neat stack on our kitchen counter. Howard grabs the stack and starts signing the covers. Every so often the neighbor would grab the stacks of signed books and deliver them to the kitchen table. I am sitting at the table with the sketch stamp and a tall pile of sketch papers. The papers have all be cut to be narrower than the book, but taller than the book. At the top of each sketch paper is the name of the character to be sketched in that book. I grab a stack of books and I put a stamp and a sketch paper just inside the back cover. The primary reason for the sketch papers is so that we can tell without opening the book what character has been sketched inside. This becomes critically important during the packing phase of shipping. The books get boxed back up and the exterior of each box is labeled with the character that is sketched on the books inside. I try to put only one type of sketch per box to prevent confusion during the packing phase. Because Howard and the neighbor moved faster than me, I sometimes had to box up signed but not-yet-stamped books and stack them to be stamped later. "Later" turned out to be 4 days later this time.
After signing over 1400 books, Howard's hand had to rest before moving in the next section of work. All those boxes of signed and stamped books were hauled down to Dragon's Keep. Then Howard opened up the boxes of books, drew a picture in each book, and boxed them back up. This time we had 1000 sketch editions. We allotted three weeks of time for Howard to do the sketching. He's trying to do about 100 per day. Many of the signed books did not need to be stamped or sketched. These just remain in boxes waiting for the shipping day.
While Howard is doing the sketching, I take some time to double check our physical inventory against the reports generated by our store. In theory our store will only sell what we have, but anyone who has run inventory will tell you that things get lost and misplaced. In this case I made several orders to various suppliers to make sure we have the necessary inventory. As the new inventory comes in, I stack it all in boxes. It will all need to be transported down to Dragon's Keep for the packing phase. I also make a count of the types of boxes and need and what quantities. The different shipping methods have different boxing requirements. The majority of our orders are a single book in a fold-up box. Larger orders go out in 2", 3", or 4" boxes that we order through Uline.com. The flat rate orders require special boxes that I have to acquire from the post office. I place orders now, so that the packing materials will be here before the big shipping day.
Next phase: Phase 4 Printing Postage.