You need a PO Box
Because bacon takes forever to cook I’m writing this entire thing from the kitchen. Make your jokes accordingly.
The number one suggestion I see for people trying to get a following for their newly written book, program, etc is to start a newsletter. Here in the US at least that has some rules that go along with it. Sure, you can start a newsletter with a few dozen folks, send an email each month and not end the world. However, if you want to set up a real email service you’ll need to add something to the very end of it, your address. Legally in the US you have to put both a real working unsubscribe link and a real live address. Mailchimp, Substack, and Tinyletter all have this built in when you set up your profile the address you put in gets added automatically.
You don’t want to put your physical home address on the wilds of the internet. I’m sure someone out there has your credit card info in a txt file along with your real address, but what we’re worried about is the 99.9999% of other folks out there who don’t need extraordinarily easy access to that info. Not everyone has a work office address either.
Is a PO Box expensive? Depends on the size of box. The smallest one at my Post Office is about $6.25 a month, just a dollar over what I pay for my web hosting. Not so bad is it? Typically they charge in blocks of 3, 6 , or 12 months and send you little reminders that your account is about to get charged, no shady business with the USPS. I haven’t bought one of the boxes from UPS or other commercial mail services but I’m sure they are similar.
Did I get a PO Box just for a newsletter? No, I originally got it to connect to my Ham radio information. When I got my license I had planned on buying some cool equipment and connecting to other hams and doing what’s called DXing and swapping QSL postcards after making contact. It’s a super old custom but really cool. Unfortunately I don’t’ have the hardware to do it just yet but maybe someday.
So I kept the PO Box. Luckily I had discovered fountain pens and with fountain pens come the excuse to use them on things like, you guessed it, writing letters. I found a few penpals on a subreddit but like most things there the letters dried up after two or three responses. It’s hard to keep in touch when either recipient gets busy. But it was nice to have a PO Box to let a stranger send me letters as opposed to handing out my real address.
Still, I kept the PO Box. Then I started the newsletter. Every self published book marketing guru on the planet claims that starting a newsletter and growing it to a billion numbers will result in sales for your fantasy/romance/scifi novel. Unfortunately I don’t write for any of those genres and my newsletter grew stagnant after about fifty subscribers. The thing about commercial fiction is that you have to write commercial fiction to use succeed in their marketing tactics.
But hey, I still have the PO Box! But why? Well, I started sending postcards to friends and family. Not to sell them anything but to send thanks for something that would otherwise seem less personal in a text message. I put the PO box as the return address for these cards should someone else see the basically public note.
This is all great for me but what good is a PO Box for other folks? Literally any time you need to ship something to a person you don’t really know you should be using one. If you make 3D prints or printer components you want to use a PO Box to send parts from. If you develop PCB’s for your hobby and need to ship them to folks you’ll want to use one too. Really anything you make that you want to send to people you don’t really know. Stickers, zines, t-shirts, your bands latest album. With the whole selling things in a physical location being in the trash right now you can’t stand on the corner and sling products, you need a PO Box.
I guess this is the section where I put the pros and cons so here we go:
- Public Location Security
- Cheaper than Netflix
- Extra set of keys to feel important
- Support your local post office
- You have to drive to the post office to check the mail
- They do cost money
- You have to keep up with another set of keys
- PO Box can’t be used as an address to register a business
For some people who live out in the boonies, travel for extended periods of the year, or change apartments every 6 months a PO Box is a must have. Folks who have individual mailboxes are prone to easily stolen mail. Those of us with the big mailbox hub in a subdivision already know what it’s like to have mail come in a little locked box. Even those can be compromised as they’re out in the open and typically unlit at night.
I could come up with more reasons but the two packs of bacon are done and the battery on the laptop is about to die. Hope you enjoyed this wall of text. Enjoy your 4th of July weekend!