Tariffs- What Do they Mean to Authors & Publishers?

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There is a TON of action, and talk around tariffs right now, and an escalating nervousness as countries come to the table with more tariff actions. But what does it all mean to the self published author or small press?

We live in a  global economy, an unbelievable number of the products we use each day are manufactured overseas. That means businesses have alot to lose (and gain) when governments use tariffs in trade disputes.

For Starter’s, what is a Tariff?
When Country A produces a product, or ships a thing like coal, or steel to Country B- Typically, Country B will charges a fee for that item to be allowed to enter Country B. The idea is that the fee is to cover the costs associated with bringing the item into Country B. Now, as you can imagine, for a myriad of reasons, Country B can decide to throttle up those fees, or just create unrelated fees. Investopedia has a nice article on them here. Tariffs are nothing new and depending whom you ask, not necessarily a bad thing. That discussion is not what we are checking in on today.

What does that mean for me as a writer or small publisher?
Finding where the impact of tariff’s will hit you directly could take some time, and some examination. Tariffs are assessed on items or resources, so a country could put a tariff on a part, or event a raw material, that later could be incorporated into your product.

Tariff’s could hit you at the printer for your manuscript. If some part of the manufacturing process is imported from overseas (like say, ink, or paper, or in some cases even the finished books), you could see a higher price for your costs.

If you sell books overseas, tariffs could hit you in sending your books overseas if the destination country decides to tariff books.

If you travel to tour, you could see increased costs for flying or other modes of transportation.

The most likely place tariffs will hit you
is where you least want it. It’s your customer. As the global economy has emerged, many businesses rely on overseas business, or rely on other companies that rely on overseas business and anything that creates uncertainty is never good for business. An uncomfortable customer is not a buying customer.

Real or perceived, when the fear of what tariffs can do permeates the populace, spending becomes scarce as people wait to see what happens. Luxury items, like books, will take a hit.

Conversely, it’s possible that the tariff could keep economic activity closer to home, creating more jobs and economic opportunity- which could mean more opportunity for you as a business.

What can you do?
You can do a few things to make sure you know what your readers are thinking.

Talk to your customers.
A good idea regardless of the economic climate, talking to your readers is a great way to see what’s happening. Listen for clues that tell you they are waiting on buying more titles, or that they will wait for the whole series to come out and buy the whole thing.

Run a tight ship.
Your books are your business. Keep your controllables in control, Regardless of the economic climate, good costumer service, prompt delivery and creative marketing never go out of style. Monitor your costs, don’t let the cost of producing your books creep up past your ability to make money.

Have a plan.
Think about how to handle down times, and document it. Knowing you have a plan not only means you have a plan, but you also have piece of mind, and you can focus on the business. Reach out to your local Chamber of Commerce to find a member that can help you with business planning.

Don’t stop writing.
If you are a self published author- that’s your product, your lifeline. Don’t stop working on your craft due to stress. Keep creating.

Stay Informed
Tariffs are a challenging environment to large multinational organizations moving products globally. Tariffs can also be a headache to the small press or independent publishers. Stay informed, stay educated and stay aware of what’s happening around you, and be ready to adjust to the changing environment and keep your business moving.