For the moment I will not be submitting any new print-on-demand files to DriveThruRPG. Yes, this has to do with the ongoing COVID-19 situation. No one is at fault, no one’s to blame, it’s just an unavoidable situation. The process has been disrupted to the point where it’s frustratingly unworkable for me.
Before a print product can be approved for sale, a publisher needs to order a proof. This is a test copy that needs to be reviewed to ensure everything looks right. It makes perfect sense. It takes about a day after uploading the files before the printer approves them, and the publisher is able to place the order. After that it can take a few days before it’s printed and shipped. Then there’s the wait for delivery.
One of the last things I uploaded took a month before the printer approved it. Several other things took over a week. I understand that they might be deemed a non-essential business, or working with a short staff. It could be that it’s normal, and publishers are ordering ahead for the convention season that probably isn’t going to happen now. Either way, that lag is killer, and it’s only the first hurdle.
There hasn’t been a great delay between ordering and shipping. Maybe a day longer than usual. It’s still a few days. Now we’re looking at a minimum of two weeks before it’s even in the mail. For that one book, the extreme outlier, it was five weeks.
Because I’m in Europe, the books are printed at Lightning Source’s UK location. Under normal circumstances it took about two weeks for the books to arrive here in Central Finland. Since Brexit it seems to take about a week longer, although everyone denies there’s been any changes in mail service. We’re still looking at a month or two between the time I order the proof and the time it gets into my hands to look over and approve.
Some countries in Europe are holding foreign packages in quarantine for 10 to 14 days because of the virus. This seems to apply to packages just passing though. It’s a rare thing for something to travel directly from London to Helsinki. It almost always hits the continent somewhere. Even if it did, the Helsinki region has been completely sealed off for the past several weeks due to, well, you know.
All in all it could be 3 months between when I upload a file, and when I get a proof in my hands to review. If there is something wrong, the whole process starts over again. To save us both the frustration, I’m just suspending any new print-on-demand releases. All new books will continue to be made available in PDF, and many in epub and Kindle formats as well.