Category: Publishing Stuff

PO Box Alternative for UK Writer’s Newsletters

PO Box Alternative for UK Writer’s Newsletters

I’d complained previously about how EU privacy laws and US anti-spam laws involve having to publicise your address on every email newsletter you send out, even if it’s your home address, or risk a fine of $42,530 per email under the US’s CAN-SPAM Act or a max fine of €20 million or 4% of your global turnover, whichever’s higher, under EU rules.  That giving out my home address per-email would be a breach of GDPR is a bit of irony, I guess.

While I can see the logic, kind of, it’s… not something any LGBT person feels safe doing.  Nothing like hanging a big sign over your door and yelling “hey, here I am” by handing out your home address willy-nilly, right?  I’m only a writer who barely sells a couple of books a year, not a massive company like Facebook who, incidentally, have already begun appealing their £500,000 fine over Cambridge Analytica, not something I think l’il old me could get away with.

The advice most often given on sites is “get a PO Box.”  Unfortunately, it’s advice usually given by American writers who have a massive range of variable prices for them, ranging from as little $34/year (£26) for little ones in small towns to ~$150-200 (£115-154) for larger areas.

In contrast, a Royal Mail PO Box in the UK if you travel out to pick up any mail yourself; you’re screwed if you don’t live near an accessible delivery office is £270 ($351) a year.  If you want them to forward your mail on to you, it’s £342 ($444) a year.

So… bearing in mind my stunning book sales, that is… well, bluntly, it’s one hell of a rip-off.

So I figured that was it, I’d just give up.  As the Canadian humourist Stephen Leacock said, “If at first you don’t succeed, quit, quit at once.”  (Pretty sure Homer Simpson is the more memorable version.)  It’s galling though, when everyone bangs on about how ‘every author needs a mailing list’ but it’s out of your reach because of pricing and privacy issues.

Well, I can’t remember what I was irritably Googling last night, but I remembered the whole thorny problem and eventually stumbled over UK Postbox, a non-Royal Mail PO box with a wide variety of plans including crucially, one that gives you a PO Box and only charges you for the mail you receive (£1.20): they open it and scan it for you (£1.20 per letter) and you can decide if you want it forwarding on to your home address.

As it’s priced per letter it could easily add up to be expensive if you were expecting a deluge of post, but as I suspect that at even ~£2.40/letter it’ll be under £12/month, the Pay As You Go tier is the best for me.  There are other prices available, as well as other services (you can pay to have a fancy London address, for example, should your audience be more on the snobbish side) and on the whole it beats having a Royal Mail PO Box.  Particularly as, with the price of petrol (or indeed frequently-extortionate public transport costs, depending on where you’re going and how) I don’t think I’d actually be saving money on fetching the post myself.

Unless I suddenly become massively popular and end up needing a proper PO Box, but if that ever happens then I’d hope the book sales might, just might, cover it.

Until that day so distant on the horizon it might as well not exist… at least this is another thing now out of the way.

The Sky Is Falling, Chicken Little

Something’s been bugging me for weeks now and I’m lacking anywhere else to have a little rant.  Here’ll do.

Lately certain indie authors have been throwing their hands up and running around going “Britain is leaving the EU! This means doom for UK book selling!”  And I’m just sitting here scratching my head and wondering where the fuck they’ve been for the last four years and why they failed to notice the damage the EU has actually done to indie publishers?

Did the entirety of 2015 pass them by, when the EU insisted that digital products — books included — had to suddenly abide by an esoteric and complicated new VAT structure that included raising the VAT rate on digital books from 3% to 20% (since many large companies are based in Luxembourg, which meant passing on the tax saving to the buyer)?  Or the way it screwed over indie book markets who now have to calculate VAT based not in their home country, but on the country of the consumer?

Presumably they didn’t have to sit down and go through the process of working out whether or not they needed to raise their prices to offset the fact VAT was no longer added on top of a book’s list price but was suddenly taken out from their earnings instead.

No wonder people flocked to Amazon, who did it all for them; if you had your own small storefront, but didn’t earn enough in the UK to be VAT registered, guess what?  It didn’t fucking matter.

2. If you are not UK VAT registered, and you are not using a digital platform, store or marketplace to supply digital services, then you will need to:
• Register for VAT in each Member State that you supply digital services, or
• Voluntarily register for VAT in the UK and then use the MOSS

Oh, and, just for added shits and giggles:

3. You will need to determine if your customers are 'taxable persons' who are in business and have provided you with their VAT Registration Number (VRN), or other information that they are in business, because if this is the case, you will be making business‐to‐business (B2B) supplies which will be dealt with under existing EU VAT rules, rather than B2C supplies.

HO THERE FINE CUSTOMER BUYING MY BOOK FROM MY WEBSITE, ARE YOU A SMALL BUSINESS?

​Bit personal.

Of course now people are falling over themselves to say, “but, but, but … the EU says people can reduce the VAT rate of ebooks to match printed ones! If we leave the EU we won’t be able to do it!”

Uh, says who?  And this is the same EU who, in 2014 when Malta and Italy did exactly that, decided it was illegal and threatened to prosecute them.

Oh no.  What will the UK book market ever do without the EU?

Maybe, possibly, become more fucking stable, that’s what.  (But let’s be honest, that’s unlikely because Bureaucracy.)