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This is a rough guide to VAT and printing – it is complicated!
Zero rated material: in the UK the government has sought to protect reading materials from bearing VAT . This means that books, magazines and newspapers are all zero rated. By extension, booklets, newsletters and leaflets amongst common items of printed material are also zero rated.
Standard rated items: all items of stationery (letterheads, business cards, compliment slips, invoices etc), forms, any leaflet which has space designed for more than 25% manuscript addition (e.g. a form to fill in and return), postcards, posters – all these bear VAT at the standard rate, currently 20%.
a. Artwork, design and typesetting: if this is provided as a stand alone service then VAT is charged. If it is part of a job that would otherwise be zero rated, for example the design and typesetting of a book then if the same company is doing both jobs then the whole job would be zero rated.
b. Finishing: a finishing operation carries VAT if it is chargeable on the completed item, for example scoring and folding greetings cards. If the item being worked upon becomes part of a zero rated item, for example scoring or laminating a book cover, then the operation is zero rated. However, there are exceptions: one of our major customers produced language teaching materials which would normally have been zero rated, but because they were laminated to make them more durable they became standard rated.
Registered charities can claim exemption on some items that would be standard rated in some circumstances. These relate to specific fund-raising activities and do not include normal items of stationery like letterheads. There is a 38pp document on the HM Revenue & Customs website outlining the law on VAT and charities.
The principle of VAT is that it is a tax on Added Value. As a manufacturer we buy a raw material (paper for example) for x£ + 20% VAT. We then add value to that raw material by printing on it and sell it to our customer for x + y£ + 20% VAT where y is the cost of production plus our profit. At the end of each quarter we take the difference between what we have paid out in VAT for raw materials and overheads, and what we have charged our customers and give the balance to HM Revenue & Customs.
NB – the above is my understanding of the regulations relating to VAT and should not be construed as a definitive statement.
We do not finance, market or sell books. Poetry and fiction are likely to be the hardest books to sell, while local history and areas of specialised non-fiction may have ready-made markets. The good news is that even in this digital era the sale of books is increasing-up 7% in 2016.
You can find companies on the internet who will both print and claim to market your book (for an additional fee). Be very wary of such claims. If you have an ISBN number, your book automatically goes into the database of books published and can be ordered from you by the major book distributors like Bertrams, Coutts and Amazon. That is a service you do not need to pay for anyway. If a company claims to do more than that ask yourself how, if it was a title you might be interested in, could its existence be brought to your attention by a marketing company with the few hundred pounds they will ask you for. If you still think that might be a good idea then Google the company and ‘Problems’ or ‘Complaints’ and see what the experience of other authors has been.
Below are some suggestions based on the experience of people we have produced books for over the years.
1. Family and friends
A lot of the books we produce are family histories in small quantities, either the memoirs of a particular person or the result of family history research. There is not really a need to market these as there is a clearly defined group of people who will be interested, and who will hopefully pass your book down through the generations. It might be worth considering case binding if you want your research to be available to future generations because this is likely to survive better than a paperback. Who knows whether it will survive on-line for decades?
2. Local author publicity
Your local newspaper (if you still have one) probably doesn’t have many reporters any more so if you are able to write an interesting and relevant press release about your book, preferably with a photograph, it is likely to get printed. Don’t forget to include details of how to get hold of the book. If you have a local independent bookshop (even less likely than a local newspaper) they might be prepared to have a small window display for you as long as you supply the information. They will require a substantial proportion of the cover price though (how much will vary from shop to shop).
Apart from independent shops this basically means Waterstones these days. Any information here about Waterstones is probably going to be out of date because their policies may change, so you will need to check with your local branch manager who will probably have to check with their head office. However, in the past our local Waterstones has hosted launch parties in the evening for authors whose books we have printed – terms and conditions may vary, but they required the sale at the event of a minimum number of copies before they would agree to stock the book. The discount they expect is around 60%. They are most likely to accept local history, and least likely to take poetry, fiction and specialised books with a limited appeal.
4. Local organisations
Whether or not this is appropriate depends very much upon the sort of book you have written. If, for example, it is local history then there is likely to be a ready-made market and you may already be part of the local history group. But there are usually many other local organisations which have a guest speaker at their meeting, so if you can put together an interesting talk and feel confident that you can hold the attention of an audience then you may be able to get onto the list of speakers for, for example, the W.I.
It is quite cheap and easy these days to create your own website to publicise your book. What is less easy is to stand a chance of a search on Google finding you. You are then getting into the area of Search Engine Optimisation.
Hopefully this section has not actually put you off asking us to produce your book. There have been books that we have produced that have been massively successful: one on hypnobirthing has sold more than 10,000 copies. Conversely, a beautifully written novel that should have found a major publisher sold fewer than 100 despite the best efforts of the author. Good luck!
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22 Hyde Street, Winchester,
Hampshire SO23 7DR