• S. Wardell

Brexit Dividends Are Here

This is a short post about something that I am doing with my publishing company in the wake of Covid and Brexit. As I write a blog on practical arts economics, I knew I was always going to have to address Brexit one day but my main thoughts about it recently have been centred around looking at export paperwork. After Covid, which has decimated many arts industry workers' finances I was also puzzling out ways to have a more holistic approach in getting hold of money where it’s needed.

The personal context for this article is that I’m British born and bred but like so many of us I’m from a very mixed background. I have a drop of English/Scottish in there somewhere but the rest is Indian, Russian Latvian Jewish, Irish and even a little Finnish. From the above you might realise I'm also brown. What’s left of my family have lived all over the world (and country) for a few generations, so I have been used to being around languages I don’t understand for most of my life. I noticed that the UK had better food after the 1980s but the Europe my mother harks back to with an abundance of sour meaty things is Eastern Europe and not a painting holiday in Tuscany. I’ve spent time all over the place but I also remember being in France when JM Le Pen was having a moment of intense popularity in the town I was staying in, so I’ve never felt that Europe was less racist than even Brexit Britain. This current situation hasn’t ruined any plans to retire to a cottage in the Dorgogne, which is probably something about the non-white Brit community that many vocal media remainers would have trouble getting their heads around.

In terms of Brexit, I voted to remain for the two main reasons that I thought it would be bad for the economy (jobs etc) to leave the EU and that I could see the main backers were a mixture of grifters and rich racists with whom I would try never to vote. I know some nice people from a very broad section of the community who voted to leave, and I think it’s because they couldn’t see the above. It’s a shame but we don’t hate each other like they do on Twitter, and the Polish ones are definitely showing some signs of regret.

Since the vote my biggest concern has been knowing the cabal in charge aren’t the government you would want to deliver such a thing. My cousins, who are all Swiss, kept telling me it would be okay as Switzerland isn’t in the EU but is signed up to everything that keeps life good. Though now even they have to admit that our current administration won’t put the country’s living standards as any type of priority in how they arrange things. The Swiss haven’t voted for the shower we have, so they really have no idea about how bad this could be.

The situation means that for the near future we’re probably going to have to look after ourselves, and that means considering people who are going to really struggle with fewer hours at work, with harsher working conditions, more expensive food etc.

At the same time I’ve had to look at readying Pudding Press for new trade agreements. This is extremely tedious because business still doesn’t actually know what’s happening. We know it will involve more expense, more paperwork and probably fewer customers but not the exact form those things will take. In practice I think many of us are taking no deal as a starting point and then hoping to edge back from that.

Some small businesses already seem to have suspended EU orders for a while with all the gloom, but I wanted to sell books to people in the EU irrespective of this. I didn’t want it to be a situation like Japan, where it’s way too complicated for Pudding Press to even sell ebooks in. Considering hardly anyone in the EU ever buys a book from us, keeping trading isn’t such a bold ambition. Let’s face it, the price of my morning coffee and whether it gets stuck in Dover will likely be more of an issue for me this coming January than whether Europeans are continuing to not buy a book from Pudding Press.

However, recently I have been wanting to put some TLC in to the company that it has never really had since I started it and I even have an occasional member of staff now. There are a couple of new books coming out in 2021, and I’m working with other authors, so this would usually be the year to go for it....

One thing we can do without worrying about freight and the like is sell ebooks. The internet has been such a boon for me for most of my working life. I spent 4 years remote working in London as a copywriter and editor for a Seatle based company when I needed to pay to do a part time degree, and work as a digital illustrator (also for a US company) has saved me from Covid gloom as contracts disappeared in the UK.

Ebooks are good for Pudding Press because I recently put two types on our online shop. We have epub files that are for people who use apple tech, and PDFS for everyone else including Kindle users. You can still buy them on Amazon Kindle and the iBookstore but I wanted people to be able to have a choice. In the Pudding Press shop can keep the prices down because don’t have to give a cut to any middle-men, so the author gets the largest cut and then we have a smaller share that ideally goes towards all the expenses of running a company. Ebooks also don’t attract VAT at the moment, so this will be a real bonus if any Europeans out there want to buy one from an EU address (in the EU you can’t pay VAT twice and that’s causing another export headache).

This is what gave me the idea to use this to also address a Brexit problem. Food poverty is something that nobody should have to go through, so from now until the end of 2021 we’re going to use the ebook sales to try and share something too. 10% of all ebook sales from the website will go to a local foodbank and if anyone from an EU address takes pity on us and orders and ebook that amount will increase to 20%.

In practice this is not going to be a huge amount of money because our sales aren’t huge, although I am hoping that the new member or staff will help with that as she has a marketing background. Still in reality it means every 2 UK and worldwide ebook sales of the current title, Murder in Marrakech, and every 1 EU sale is worth something like a packet of pasta, tin of soup or small bar of chocolate. With the new 2021 title set to be a couple of pounds more to buy that will double this contribution.

If you’ve read this far, our ebooks start at £2.49, so please do consider buying one. The donation will come out of the company share, meaning that the author’s cut is not diminished. This is important to me personally because I pay for all my living expenses with my writing/art and part time teaching income, so it matters to me when anyone buys something from me. Pudding Press also generates income for other people. For example, the editor on Murder in Marrakech actually has a contract where she gets lifetime royalties, like the writer, for her work on the title.

If you don’t fancy my 6 short stories, rest assured that we have a couple of other books coming out in 2021, including a graphic novel. So please keep us in mind for ebook sales.

Also, please share this if you can – I’ll do an update at some point on what happened but I would really like to raise more than just two packets of pastas worth, although I suppose even that will be needed in the coming few months.

Otherwise let’s hope that we get through the next few months as well as we can and that whatever people voted for, want for the future or feel culturally aligned to that as small arts businesses we can find creative ways to survive.

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