Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The New York Book Fair is coming...

I know because I spent all week looking over paperwork associated with it. This is only from our foreign clients; US clients aren't exporting or importing so they don't have to do anything but get picked up and brought here.

Anyway, the foreign dealers send in packing lists of their shipment along with an invoice summarizing the value of each class -- books, artwork, photography, etc. -- and whether they are over or under 100 years of age. As part of our service -- which includes picking them up, handling export from their country and import to the US, and delivery direct to their booth at the fair -- I check their paperwork to make certain it's in order. You'd never believe how often it isn't.

All that's required on the packing list is simple -- title, author, date of publication, and value for each item...though Canada also requires country of origin, when we're doing the Toronto Book Fair. It's been like this for years, but while most of the dealers get it, some just flat never do. And they will argue with you about it, like you've changed the rules without telling them, and nevermind that it's their own damn country's requirements.

This gets even more difficult when an item requires an export license. The EU has a system for this, but each country has its own way of doing it.

In Germany, you have to follow certain procedures and go to a particular magistrate who then passes your request for a license off to an expert who eventually gets around to deciding whether or not the item is too important to be allowed to leave Germany, or if it's okay to release. That can take weeks.

France is worse, as I understand it; I think first you need an authorization from someone to be allowed to apply for the license and then it gets applied for, but I'm honestly not sure; we have an agent there to handle that nonsense. Thank God.

Italy issues blanket licenses for pages of books, and then the dealers just mark off the ones they're sending and mark through the ones they aren't. Which doesn't really make sense to me.

The UK is the easiest to deal with. You fill in the form, provide the correct information, submit it to one particular government agency, and normally within a week you've got an answer. They also follow the general guidelines as regards classification of books. For example, anything printed prior to 1501 is considered incunabula and MUST have a license. No matter what. But if a book's over 100 years of age and not valued at more than 41,000GBP, it's fine.

But with some countries, it all depends on the cultural significance of the item. So even if it's within the normal EU guidelines for not needing a license, it may still need one or even be refused authorization for export. So, if your book is packed away and we have it in our warehouse, ready for shipment, and one book out of the hundred isn't allowed to leave the country, the whole shipment is stuck.

And don't get me started on how Customs a) insists on having the original licenses and b) wound up losing some of them, this week, and c) then refused to release the shipment because "they don't do that off photocopies of the licenses." But if the dealer's books ain't in their booth when they arrive to set up, it's all your fault. Fortunately, after a lot of screaming and ranting and raving, the lost licenses were found and the shipment released.

We've had some lovely headaches, this week.

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