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How I Arranged to Do Business Across the Border

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My company, Firebomber Publications, works with firefighter associations to provide funds for the families of injured and fallen firefighters through book and merchandise sales. As an extension of this policy, we began a program that allows the associations to buy books from us at a substantial discount and resell them at full price through the Internet, conventions, and other channels. By pocketing the difference between the list price and the wholesale cost, the associations can raise funds as needed. This project is continuing to expand within the United States.

But what about selling books through Canadian firefighter associations? Would the same rules apply if the books were manufactured in the United States, then shipped to Canada for resale? Would the Canadian government levy tariffs, taxes, and duties? To do a feasibility study, I needed answers to these questions and others. They came from an unexpected source.

Finding My Way to FedEx

Firestorm, a novel about a high-tech firefighting outfit from the United States that gets caught in a Central American uprising, is our latest offering. We produced a limited run in late 2003 to spur interest in the book by providing reading copies to reviewers and firefighter associations.

Once the reviews were in, it was time to find a printer for the full first printing. Using the Print Industry service offered at www.printindustry.com, we got bids from printers all over the world and selected a U.S. company (Central Plains Book Manufacturing). However, about a month later, a Canadian printer that had lost track of the Print Industry bid for this project submitted a bid. The printer was contrite about missing out, and offered to help on any future projects and to answer any questions about printing and doing business in Canada. Timing is everything!

The Canadian printer was just the beginning, but an important step in the right direction. Eventually, the road led to Ana Mota at FedEx Trade Networks in Ontario, Canada. Here’s her contact information:

Ana Mota, CCS

Client Management Coordinator

FedEx Trade Networks

7075 Ordan Drive

Mississauga, ON L5T 1K6

800/388-9479, x 237; fax: 905/671-0895


Ana explained that the first step in dealing with FedEx Trade Networks is setting up either a one-time account (for publishers that intend to make only one shipment) or a full-time account (for publishers that plan recurring shipments). These accounts should be set up well in advance of the date books are to ship, so that FedEx Trade Networks can act as a go-between with Canadian Customs.

The publisher must provide a NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) Certificate of Origin for shipments to Canada, along with either a commercial invoice or a Canadian Customs Invoice (CCI). The commercial invoice must include the following: value of goods with the currency type specified (U.S. or Canadian dollars), description of goods, and country of origin, along with the date.

With forms in hand, we needed to determine the value of the goods being shipped to Canada and to figure out how the Canadian Goods and Services Tax (GST) would be applied, along with how much the brokerage fee would be. In early May, when we did our feasibility study–using 1,000 paperback books costing $1.42 per copy to manufacture ($1,420 U.S. total) as an example–the GST came to $135.76 (Canadian), and the brokerage fee was $67.14 (Canadian). The rate is based on the value of the shipment, not the weight; the more it’s worth, the higher the tariff. Of course, exchange rates change from time to time, so publishers dealing with FedEx Trade need to check shortly before shipping to determine what the rate is at that time.

What Can Make It Worthwhile

Books shipped wholesale to Canadian retailers are exempt from the GST fee, just as they would be exempt from sales tax if you shipped them wholesale to another state in the United States. And brokerage fees can be waived altogether if books are manufactured in Canada–something to consider if Canadian sales fit into your marketing and distribution plans. It might even be worthwhile to explore the possibility of using a Canadian printer for books to be sold in Canada and a U.S. printer for books to be sold in the United States.

Selling in Canada is not as difficult or expensive as I had feared it might be. It turns out that there are helpful people who can make the process fairly painless. Considering the prospects of having almost 32 million additional customers for publishers’ goods, the minor effort required to crack open the Canadian door of opportunity seems well worth making.

Michael Archer is the owner of Firebomber Publications, a small press “dedicated to providing exciting firefighting fiction to the general public.” Firebomber Publications donates 50 percent of all profits from the sale of books and merchandise to organizations that support the families of injured and fallen firefighters. To learn more, visit www.firebomberpublications.com.

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