Fun Facts About Mailings

One area of expertise that I didn’t realize I needed to bone up on as a writer was the mail system. I already had an appreciation for the United States Postal Service. As a kid, it was exciting to watch the red flag (we had a classic mailbox) go up and down as mail was delivered and received. I loved finding deliveries in the box of postcards, letters—really anything that people sent us.

USPS envelope with information on where to purchase stamps, including website link: Also four USA Forever Stamps with pictures of different dog breeds on them.

As an author, I dived into the topic of mailings when I needed to send out my novels. Books are often mailed in order to obtain reviews, enter contests, or donate to great causes. For a while, I was racking up the mailing expenses because I didn’t understand that I could send books via media mail.

That was a game changer. It’s a much cheaper way of sending out those hefty novels. Sure, it might take a little longer to get to its destination, but it totally saved my tight budget. I have fond memories of carrying my stack of books to the post office and watching as each package gets weighed and labeled to go off to different destinations in the U.S.

Another leap in knowledge happened when I realized that the “media” in media mail included audiobooks. What?! All this time I thought it purely referred to books, but in reality, the discounted rate also applies to sound recordings, videos, play scripts, and more.    

When the pandemic hit, I was in a bit of a quandary How would I give out my books if I didn’t want to risk going to the post office? The answer is PayPal. That’s right. There’s a way to print a mailing label that is priced at the media mail rate. With the simple click of a link and filling out of the required information fields, you can send medial mail through PayPal.

The only caveat is that media mail is just for domestic shipping, not international mailings. I don’t often run into this problem (maybe because I don’t have enough overseas readers?). Recently, though, someone did reach out to me from the UK and wanted my autograph. I was more than happy to send them a bookplate—but how? (Bookplates have been an excellent way for writers to “sign” books even when not being able to visit a bookstore in person.)

Should I go into the post office for a single special international stamp? Then I remembered another trick: I could use U.S. stamps to send international mail!

In fact, I have a supply of Forever Stamps lying around. Honestly, I never use stamps anymore except to pay bills, and now with online paying… Anyway, all I needed to do was look up the current value of a Forever Stamp (currently 58 cents). Then I needed to take the price of the international letter and divide it by the value of a single stamp. Simple arithmetic. Success! (I hope. I’m assuming that the reader will receive my bookplate.)

Special thanks to all mail carriers and those who work hard at USPS to keep it running and helping everyone who needs to send stuff, including authors like me!

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  1. Mona AlvaradoFrazier says

    These are pretty cool ( and valuable) tips. I had no idea about media mail and using PayPal. Thanks for sharing the info!

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