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Friday, January 09, 2015

Comic Cuts - 9 January 2015

Happy New Year from Mel and I

The first column of 2015 and we're already in the second week of the year. I had a delightful Christmas slacking off with my Mum visiting. We went for lots of long walks—and for the first time it was me instigating them! When I was a kid I hated being dragged out for a walk but nowadays it feels odd not to nip out for at least a half-hour wander. If I had kids, I would drag them out with me. I truly have turned into someone I would have despised thirty years ago!

I managed to keep the computer turned off for days at a time over both Christmas and New Year, so I can honestly say it felt like a holiday. It meant a few day's break in transmission here at Bear Alley, but I can honestly say I feel a little refreshed by it. My first task—and I really should have been more on the case over this—was to try and figure out what was happening with the changes in VAT rules for European sales.

In brief, on January 1st, the HM Revenue and Customs introduced changes in the law about where VAT is charged for digital goods in the EU—it was no longer charged at the rate of the country of the supplier but that of the customer who may live in one of 25 different countries charging 75 different tariffs. The second problem was that, whilst there is a limit of 81,000 for physical goods below which you don't need to be registered for VAT, there was no such lower limit for the new rules relating to digital sales. Whether you sold one e-book or a million, you would still need to be registered for VAT.

HMRC was still refining its systems up to December 29th, so it's little wonder that many people saw in the new year in an utterly confused state about what it meant for their businesses. I sell a few e-books through Amazon—mostly articles from the out-of-print Mean Streetmaps collection—and they generate a small income of between £10-20 a month. Not much, but it will add up to around £200 over the year. As a freelancer, that's a not insignificant sum and I'd certainly hate to lose it. But it's not enough to cover the cost of hiring an accountant to work out my VAT returns. And once I'm VAT registered, I'd have to work out my VAT for everything I purchase in relation to my profession. It would be more worry than it was worth.

The intentions of HMRC is to try to claw back some of the revenue avoided by companies such as Amazon, who locate themselves in Luxembourg and have struck a very good deal that allows them to pay a local VAT rate of 3%. The daft thing is that if you sell through only one platform—which I do, through Amazon—you don't need to register. So the new rules will very likely benefit Amazon if you previously sold e-books through more than one outlet or through your own website. HMRC's own estimate was that the changes would affect 34,000 small businesses.

And even after the rules were introduced, HMRC has had to introduce a "transitional period" for companies who are trying to comply with the increased workload.

All of my e-books—e-articles, really—are back up and available on Kindle. Selling through only one platform turned out to be the right thing for me to do. Truth be told, it was more a case of me being too lazy to reformat the articles for other platforms than a conscious decision to sell only through Amazon. The price has gone up by a variety of amounts in various countries across the EU. If I can get my act together I may do a flash sale later in the month so that anyone wanting to try some of the titles can do so cheaply.

I've just spent 500 words on a subject that will have no impact on most people and will bore most of you to the point of exiting. Sorry... it's not a good start to the first column of the year.

The next book is underway. I now have most of the artwork clean and I should be starting on the text next week. I'm hoping to have the book out promptly before starting on the next strip book. Not that I know what the next strip book will be yet.

On the good news front, Frontline UK has just about slipped into "profit", and I use the quotes deliberately. It hasn't paid me a wage for all the work I put in, but it has just about paid off the license fee. Arena still has a little way to go before it covers its costs but I'm confident it will. I like doing these books, but I'm never going to be lighting cigars off £50 notes if sales continue to simply crawl. So tell your friends about the range of books available and make sure you tell how wonderful they are. And how wonderful I am to deal with. Lay it on thick!

Sales over the year were up for the fourth year in a row. They're still not enough to make me a living and I'm going to have to have a serious think about what I'm doing in the next month or two. If anyone has any idea how a) I can treble my sales; or b) knows someone with twenty grand a year they need to write off, just drop me a line. There's an awful lot of publishing history I want to write about before I drop dead and I'm not sure I'll be able to do it if I have a full-time job.

Another dispatch from the good news front: I just weighed myself and I clocked in at 15 stone 9 lbs. This was my target for before Christmas and I've managed to not put on any weight over the festive season—well, not quite true as I weighed 2 lbs more a week ago. Maybe it was a glitch in the Matrix. But if I say that, what if this morning's weigh-in is the glitch?

I'd better wrap this up. No random scans this week, but hopefully a full programme of posts for the next few days as we wrap up the Speed & Power galleries with more amazing SF artwork based around stories by Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov. I will also have to get to work on the second part of the ACC cover gallery. And I've got to think of something to post for the weekend. This is what happens when you take some time off: the work starts to pile up! Grrrr!

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