content=”First, if anybody wants to see the new domestic rates for services used by”>First, if anybody wants to see the new domestic rates for services used
by Terry Nathan
Preparing For and Protesting
Against Higher Postal Rates
several PMA members and board members have pointed out, new postal rate
increases create a pocketbook issue that affects publishers of all sorts. What
follows presents information and opinions on the new rates, how they may affect
you, and some things you might do to cope with the financial burdens they
now and July 15, those of you who publish magazines with circulations below the
mass-market level—and those of you who care about that sort of
magazine—can join with others working to get the new postal rates
restructured (see ?Resources,? page TK<span
class=95StoneSerifIt>), as PMA has done.
The Postage Picture for Book
For a majority of U.S. book
publishers, the biggest immediate concern is the rise in cost of shipping
packages of books. In that regard, there is nothing surprising about the new
rates, which come closer to the structures used by UPS and FedEx. The rates for
small parcels have gone up much more than for larger parcels. Even so, if
you?re shipping more than a few pounds of books within the lower 48, FedEx
Ground with the PMA discount is generally more practical than postal mail.
The worst change in the cost of
shipping books is the elimination of book-rate surface M-bags. The
International Book Rate for smaller parcels was dropped with a previous rate
hike, so there are no longer any breaks for international mailing of books,
except for mass mailings such as those by the large book clubs. In my case, as
a publisher located near the Canadian border, I used to sell many books
directly to Canadians. Now that?s no longer practical, unless somebody wants a
book enough to pay for Global Priority, or unless the book is in sufficient
demand to merit trade distribution there.
By far the most controversial
changes are in the bulk rates for magazines, which would go up more for small
publishers than for large ones. Those changes are being delayed until July and
may possibly be revised to spread the costs more evenly.
There has been some talk of
petitioning Congress to halt the entire rate increase. That won?t happen. About
25 years ago, Congress mandated—after much lobbying by FedEx and
UPS—that the Postal Service must be financially self-sufficient.
Do we want to reverse that
decision and reinstitute taxpayer subsidies? I think a good case can be made
for that as part of our efforts to promote literacy. Ben Franklin, as an early
American publisher and our first postmaster general, instituted the first
breaks for mailing of books, with strong support from most of the other
founders. Today, most other developed countries still subsidize their postal
services. But a return to that policy here is not likely in our current
Therefore, there?s no chance of
stopping the overall rate hike, although it seems possible to redistribute the
proposed changes in mailing of periodicals to make them fairer. Reduced rates
for shipping of books domestically are still in place, with Media Mail, Library
Rate, and Bound Printed Matter; and small individual books will still fit into
a fixed-rate Priority Mail envelope. Having watched all international book
rates quietly disappear in the last couple of rate cases, we need to be vigilant
about any attacks on the domestic book rates next time around.
Steve Carlson, a PMA board
member, is publisher for Upper Access, now in its 21st year of publishing
nonfiction books to improve the quality of life. He also publishes business
software for the book industry. To reach him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Politics of Postage: How
Rate Hikes Hurt Small-Circulation Magazines
On my desk I keep a note that says
?Fessahaye Joshua Yohannes of Eritrea, I remember you.? I do not know Yohannes,
never met him, and learned of his existence only after he died. He was a
featured prisoner of conscience in Amnesty International?s Freedom Writers
campaign, and I have been a Freedom Writer for 25 years. A journalist who
taught clowning skills to children, Yohannes was arrested and murdered in an
Eritrean prison for writing his opinion, an opinion apparently disapproved of
by his government. I remember him because if I lived in Eritrea, I might have
met the same fate. But I live in America, where we have the freedom to speak
out. Or do we?
There are some important facts
about the relationship between the upcoming postage rate hike for periodicals
and our freedom of speech that you should know. The postage rate increase for
periodicals set to go into effect on July 15, 2007, was not initiated at the
USPS. In a letter to the Postal Board of Governors drafted by <span
president Teresa Stack and signed by her and her counterparts at more than a
dozen independent journals (including <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Mother Jones, <span
and The American
Spectator), the chain of events leading to the postage increase
are described as follows:
2006 the U.S. Postal Service proposed a rate increase for periodicals of 11.7%,
an increase that would have affected all periodicals more or less equally.
Instead, in February the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) recommended a
version of the rate proposal put forward by Time Warner, which had previously
been rejected by the PRC and strongly opposed by the USPS. This proposal would
have a disproportionately adverse effect on small national publications while
easing the burden on the largest magazines. The decision was followed by an
industry comment period of only eight working days, an impossibly short time
for small publications to digest changes so complex that to this day there is
no definitive computer model to fully assess them. Nonetheless, the new rates
are scheduled to take effect July 15.
This rate increase will be
devastating for small-circulation periodicals. About 5,700 of them will
experience rate increases of 20 percent, another 1,260 publications will
experience increases above 25 percent, and hundreds will experience increases
above 30 percent. How can a small business absorb a 30 percent increase in
perhaps the most expensive line item in their budget? Well, they can?t. It is
expected that many small magazines will go under (source: McGraw-Hill
analysis). Under the new rate schedule, the largest magazines will get much
smaller increases and in some instances will even benefit from a decrease in
This not only threatens our
freedom of speech; it goes beyond politics because our lives will be strongly
affected in ways we can?t imagine when our gardening, quilting, boating,
photography, and pet care magazines go out of print. Furthermore, the cost of
postage will render it impossible for new small magazines of any flavor to get
off the ground in the future.
There is still time to weigh in on
this issue and make your voice heard (although the window of opportunity is
closing fast). For more information (and links to further resources, research,
and activities), visit the Freepress website at <span
At this writing, the following
link offers you the opportunity to take action about this situation: <span
But by the time you read these words, they may be obsolete. Hopefully, the
Freepress Web site mentioned above will continue to post information on the
latest turn of events in the politics of postage.
Amy Wachspress is a PMA
member, co-owner of Woza Books, and the author of <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>The Call to Shakabaz, a children?s
fantasy adventure featuring all black characters that demonstrates the
fundamental principles of nonviolence. She is also a grant writer who has
raised over $70 million for initiatives that benefit children, youth, and
families in over 20 states. For more information visit www.wozabooks.com.
A Big Difference for Direct
I just got an email back from my
mailer. She compared current and new postage costs for a mailing of 9,000
pieces to be sent in May. Postage at the new rates came out 44.16 percent
higher. Yikes. I am in the process of exploring a different kind of mailing
piece (letter size) that would be less costly to mail.
The advent of another postal
increase, especially with standard (bulk) mail, has caused me great concern.
About 80 percent of my marketing budget goes for direct mail. Half of that
budget is allocated to postage. A 44 percent increase in postage costs will
significantly raise my overall marketing budget without bringing in more sales.
We can?t compensate for the
increase by raising product prices or charging more for shipping. This has put
me in a real dilemma. Direct mail has contributed greatly to my company?s
success over many years. Yes, steady increases in postal rates have slowly
eaten away at profits, but a change of the magnitude recently announced means I
must dramatically alter my marketing strategies.
Carlene Sippola, a member
of the PMA board, is the owner and CEO of Whole Person Associates, which
publishes training resources on stress management and wellness promotion.