As a new member of the Channel View team, I knew that a trip to visit our distributor, Marston Book Services, would be on the cards at some point. Last week we left Kim and Sarah to hold the fort and Elinor, Laura, Tommi and I set off bright and early for the hour and a half drive to Oxfordshire.
Marston is in charge of shipping books to all our customers, both in the UK and around the world (apart from the US and Canada which are taken care of by UTP, our distributor for North America). From my very first day working at Channel View I’ve sent emails to Marston on a daily basis, whether it’s forwarding inspection copy requests to be processed, querying orders or asking for quotes for booksellers from all over the world. As a result, I had a picture of what Marston must be like, including Nicky who I’d been addressing all my emails to, and I was really looking forward to seeing how accurate it was!
When we arrived at Marston we were greeted by Nicky and cups of tea and coffee (an excellent start to any trip) and after a quick catch-up, we headed through to the warehouse for a tour with Tracy. I had some idea of what a warehouse would look like (possibly based on trips to Ikea…) but I don’t think I had quite anticipated the size of the warehouse at Marston. We were also struck by how quiet it was – I think we were expecting lots of shouting, people whizzing around on fork lifts and throwing boxes to one another, but it all seemed very calm. As we passed the first few shelves of books it was a surprise for me to see that our books weren’t all stored together, but could be found all over the warehouse- this provided a few exciting moments when we spotted one of our titles in amongst the rest!
Tracy started out by showing us the handheld scanners they all use (a bit like the kind you get in supermarkets) which help them to keep track of the whereabouts and status of all the books and orders in the warehouse. We saw the packing area for individual customer orders and were then taken downstairs to see the orders being packed (much to Tommi’s disappointment we weren’t allowed to slide down the chute for books and had to take the stairs). The tour finished in the area where returned books are processed and we were reassured that Channel View wasn’t providing them with too much work! Watching the fork lift go all the way up to the (very high) ceiling to get the books down from the top-most shelves was a good way to wrap things up, and then there was just time for a photo opportunity with one of our books before lunch.
After lunch we were able to meet people from the finance department and those in charge of client and trade orders. It was great to be able to put faces to names and finally meet the people who get a stream of emails from us every day! This trip was a wonderful opportunity for me, as someone new to the world of publishing, to see how our distributor works and to find out first-hand the process involved in getting orders ready for shipment worldwide. Now, when I pass on inspection copy requests or query an order, I can imagine the team at Marston, from the client orders department right through to the packers in the warehouse, making sure our customers from all over the world receive their books.