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  • Writer's picturejenbest

Negotiating New Tech for PDF files!

Beaker Button has been selling PDF copies of all my books and patterns for as long as I’ve been writing them. It’s always been a tricky thing to do. We started with Etsy, but they kept changing their terms and in the end we decided it wasn’t working for Beaker Button to keep the Etsy shop just for PDF files. By that point we’d had our own successful website for several years, but adding an instant download element meant a big hike in our monthly fee and we just weren’t earning enough from PDF sales to make it worth while.

We then started selling via an emailed link once a PDF had been purchased. It sort of worked as a system, and meant we didn’t need to deal with the horrendous problems of VAT, instituted in 2015.

I won’t go into details but if you want to know more about the digital VAT changes there’s a great article here.

The problem was that we couldn’t always get the file link to the customer within 24 hours, or they couldn’t access the link for some reason. Luckily most people were lovely as we did our best to sort out their order. Unfortunately the file sizes for most of the PDF’s are too large to email.

Life became a little easier once we'd worked out we could put the link in the confirmation email that the website sends out automatically. Again, it mostly works as a system, as long as the link shows up in the email as a link! We have no control over how the email format appears in someone’s inbox, and we’ve had issues with links not working, or not being seen at all.

So we’re trying something completely new! In September our insurance company announced that it was trebling the price of our insurance, and we had to run every workshop we wanted to teach past them. You would have thought we were teaching advanced bomb making, rather than Dorset buttons! We could also no longer sell to America or Canada. We dumped them obviously, especially as they had no explanation for why there was such a big change. Frustratingly, the only insurance quotes we could get wouldn’t cover selling to the US or Canada. This meant we had to turn off orders from those countries on our website, which included PDF files. There is no way to differentiate between physical and digital apparently. The gremlins that run the system just see items as 'product'. We are working on getting insurance to sell physical items to the US and Canada but in the meantime we think we’ve found a solution to the PDF issue.

That solution is a Payhip store. Payhip is a platform for selling digital items as instant downloads. They sell all over the world, deal with all the tax so we don’t have to, and charge per file sold, not a monthly fee. We’ve started loading our PDF books into our store, and once they’re all on, we’ll add our patterns. We’ve created a separate category for hard copy and PDF copy books under Books and Patterns on the website. We have a link on the Home Page for the store so you can browse either way.  It’s a whole new world for us, so please bear with as we negotiate the tech, and the best way to get access for our customers.

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