Will Children’s Book Self-Publishers Survive CPSIA?

by Joel Friedlander on June 28, 2011 · 13 comments

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Do you know about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008? No? Do you think you ought to?

It’s absolutely critical that you know about this law if you—or your clients—produce books or other products for children.

I found out about the implications of this law only today. Jacqueline Simonds, who I interviewed here last year about indie book distribution, sent an email to a group of people concerned with indie publishing explaining her experiences learning about this law. She’s posting about it on her blog.

When I realized the impact this law can have on self-publishers, I knew I had to get you this information right away, and Jacqueline was kind enough to take time out of her day to do an interview with me.

Here’s some background on this law:

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 is a United States law signed on August 14, 2008 by President George W. Bush . . . The law . . . increases the budget of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), imposes new testing and documentation requirements, and sets new acceptable levels of several substances. It imposes new requirements on manufacturers of apparel, shoes, personal care products, accessories and jewelry, home furnishings, bedding, toys, electronics and video games, books, school supplies, educational materials and science kits. The Act also increases fines and specifies jail time for some violations . . . Because of the wide-sweeping nature of the law, many small resellers will be forced to discontinue the sale of children’s products.—Wikipedia

Just to reinforce the possible effects on indie children’s book publishing that this law could have, here’s a response to Jacqueline’s email from Dan Poynter, author of The Self-Publishing Manual and many other books on writing and publishing:

“The future of four-color children’s books is the iPad (and whatever comes next.) This is because of the cost of four-color printing, ship and truck transportation, carrying inventory, processing orders and Postal expenses. CPSIA will only accelerate the migration.”—Dan Poynter, ParaPub.com

You need to know about this. Here’s the interview with Jacqueline.

TheBookDesigner: What is CPSIA?

Jacqueline: The Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) was developed to make sure testing was done on products intended for children under the age of 12. Specifically, it is aimed at toys and bedding that a child might put in their mouth. Books somehow got swept into it, possibly because of board books for toddlers.

How did you get involved with this subject?

I first heard about the CPSIA via the Self-Publishers Discussion Group. One of the members, who makes toys as well as books, picked up on it in the early stages. Since we are distributors, my first reaction was simply not to take on children’s books.

However, a new client approached me with one of the most extraordinary projects I’ve seen in a long time. I couldn’t turn it down. Well, yes I could.

The first thing I asked him is, “Is it CPSIA compliant?” Um, what? he replied. And that’s when he told me that the book files were in Southeast Asia about to print. I had him hold the print run until we could get certification lined up. It’s not inexpensive!

Can you tell us what a publisher has to do to comply with CPSIA?

A publisher must:

  • Place the name of the printer, their city and country and “batch number” (work order number) on the Copyright Page.
  • You must have a lab report (or a statement from the printer in lieu of a lab report) stating that the book contains lead that is not in excess of 300 part per million.
  • The printer or print broker must fill out a Certificate of Conformity (a sample is here: http://www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/faq/elecertfaq.pdf). For Question #2, which asks under what sector of the CPSIA the printer/broker is certifying, the answer seems to be “Section 101” which covers lead content.
  • You must submit the lab results and certification to your distributor (if you use one) or wholesaler when you enter a new children’s book into the book databases.

Wow, that sounds like a lot of complicated requirements. Are they for real?

It seems pretty ridiculous, doesn’t it? There’s a point at which well-intentioned laws go feral, and this is one of those moments. We all know that there have been several incidents of children’s toys imported from Asia that have been tainted. However, books are another matter.

When does all this take effect?

The law was supposed to go into effect August 2009 – and did for children’s toys. For books, the official date has been moved to December 2011.

So, no one is demanding this yet, right?

Unfortunately, the big wholesalers have taken this law very much to heart, and are demanding CPSIA certification NOW for new children’s book titles, even though the law doesn’t officially take effect until December. This makes some sense if you consider that a book being sold now will most likely still be in the system when the law goes into effect.

Is there any chance this will be overturned or delayed?

The Association of American Publishers has been riding herd on this since the beginning. They are hoping they can get Congress to modify the legislation so that it only covers books with toys or trinkets attached. The chances of this Congress doing anything in a timely fashion before the law takes effect in December is vanishingly small.

What do you think the response of the book manufacturers is going to be to this new requirement? Will they provide the materials and testing so individual publishers don’t have to do this all themselves?

I have discovered that American printers are taking on the responsibility of testing their inks, paper, glues and cardboard themselves, for all the materials they use in all books (that way they don’t have to do separate testing for individual books). For instance, Lightning Source International has testing on-file and has a standard letter of compliance. They also print their name, state and batch number on the back of the book.

However, foreign book printers don’t have any such program. I have a client who is being charged $600 to prove his book is in compliance.

I would recommend that people contact printers for their RFQ (request for quote) and require that the lab test be paid for by the printer. What will likely happen is that the price of your books will probably have a hidden testing fee attached.

Where can people find out more?

You can go to the main website http://www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/cpsia.html Pack a lunch. It takes a while to sift through all this.

Can I hire you as a CPSIA consultant?

Jacqueline Simonds Beagle Bay Books self-publishingYes. I’m available for consultation on this, as well as many other questions about publishing. You can e-mail me at jcsimonds@beaglebay.com or call me at 775.827.8654 (please take into account that I am on Pacific time). I’ll quote rates depending on how much work you need.



Jacqueline Simonds is a book shepherd/publishing consultant, publisher, author and book distributor. She is available for consultations and presentations on many aspects of publishing.

Data

Jacqueline Church Simonds
Beagle Bay, Inc.
Books That Enlighten and Inform
http://www.beaglebay.com
Follow Jacqueline on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jcsimonds

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/samfelder/2935075145/

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    { 12 comments… read them below or add one }

    J. Tillman June 28, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Ms Simonds, thanks for this good information. Mr Friedlander, this actually answers a question I asked a little bit ago, about children’s books. So thanks. But I think your headline is unnecessarily negative. I think in a few months almost everyone, including many foreign printers, will be up to date about the requirements and things will proceed smoothly.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander June 28, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    J.Tillman, I hope you’re right, and publishers also need to be prepared for these changes. Thanks for your contribution.

    Reply

    Jacqueline Simonds June 29, 2011 at 9:40 am

    You’re welcome, J. Tillman! I think in the long-run, you’re correct. But savvy publishers need to know what’s happening now. A client of mine just got stuck with a $600 lab bill because he didn’t know a) that he needed certification and b) that he should have pushed the issue before signing up with his printer. Make the deal before the print run!

    Reply

    mark wesley June 29, 2011 at 8:39 am

    We have been fighting this for the last few years. The best we have been able to get the politicians to do is do what they do best—put it off for a few years. I hope we can get this law taken off of the books. The last meeting I was in the representative did not know why the minimum number of phthalates allowed in a children’s book was picked and that most of the requirements were not scientific. Please call your congressman or woman and tell them how this law can and will hurt large and small publishers, bookstores, tradeshows…We must all take action now. Do not wait on someone else to do the lifting. Pickup the phone and make the call.

    Reply

    Rahma Krambo June 29, 2011 at 8:59 am

    This is so crazy.
    I’m getting close to releasing a print book for children ages 9 & up through CreateSpace. I would assume that Amazon has already addressed this issue, but this is the first I’ve heard of it. How are POD printers, Amazon specifically, affected by this and how are they responding?
    As a self-publisher with an imprint, do I need to add extra information to the inside of my book?
    Thanks for bringing this to our attention.
    ~rahma krambo

    Reply

    Jacqueline Simonds June 29, 2011 at 9:43 am

    Hi, Rahma. Yes, you need to talk to a representative of Amazon and get that certification letter. Likely they have the lab results on file, just as LSI does. You ABSOLUTELY need to put the information on the copyright page as I laid it out above. Skipping this hurts the sale and distribution of your book – and I know you don’t want that!

    Reply

    Rahma Krambo June 29, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Jacqueline: Thanks for your quick response. I will follow this up with Amazon. Somehow I don’t think this issue is getting proper attention. I’m so glad I came across this before my book release.

    Reply

    Jacqueline Simonds June 29, 2011 at 10:02 am

    You’re quite welcome. I wrote my initial blog post and agreed to the interview because it occurred to me that there ISN’T a lot of guidance out there. Glad to be of help!

    Reply

    Rahma Krambo June 29, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    I thought I would share the reply I received on CreateSpace’s forum in regard to my question I posed this morning.

    “When a U.S. publisher produces a regular offset print run, the publisher is responsible for federal reporting and compliance (and will generally list compliance details on the copyright page as part of that obligation, as the article noted).

    With print-on-demand books, however, the compliance and reporting burden currently falls on the on-demand printer — and both CreateSpace and Amazon include the date and location of printing on the last page they add to every book. As the link above outlines, it’s my understanding that (at the present time) that’s adequate to confirm/verify/ensure that the book was manufactured in compliance with federal laws — and that a self-publisher who is only producing books via print-on-demand has no federal reporting obligations in this regard.”

    It would that it’s not an issue if one is self-publishing through CreateSpace. Am I correct in assuming that?

    Reply

    Jacqueline Simonds June 29, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Rahma, thanks for sharing this.

    You’re correct that they have got some of it wrong. What they have done is copy LSI’s procedure, which is fine. However, they did not read the rest of the bulletin, which makes available the test data and compliance letter.

    They do have something sorta right, though. If you are distributing your books solely through Amazon, then you don’t need certification, because frankly, it’s not going to go many other places than Amazon (I know they charge for distribution, but I don’t know of anyone who is getting bookstores to stock via Amazon). If such was not the case, and you got orders from Barnes & Noble, Baker & Taylor or Ingram, all demand certification and lab-testing proof.

    If you get the run-around on this (and I’m guessing you will), you might rethink CreateSpace and go with LSI + distribution.

    Reply

    Flossy June 29, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Hi Joel,

    I’ve been reading your blog for the past week. I just want to say how inspiring and informative your information is. I have a lot of work written and I am testing out different options for its publication. I find it very difficult to get it read by publishing houses but have been submitting it anyway… Thanks for sharing, Flossy.

    Reply

    business July 1, 2011 at 7:26 am

    If youve ever read this childhood classic by Judith Viorst with expressive black and white line illustrations by Ray Cruz Atheneum 1972 Im sure you get my literary allusion. And if not heres the first page as a teaser – you have got to read this book which is still completely relevant and delightful 37 years after it was published.

    Reply

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