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Deadstar’s Expo List 2016

2015 flew by and we had a blast meeting you all at expos and conventions around the country. 2016 is already shaping up to by a busy year for us.

January 16th-17th – Comic Con Cymru, Cardiff
Febuary 6th – True Believers Comic Festival, Cheltenham
February 20th – Nerdvana, Camarthen
March 5th-6th – Cardiff Film and Comic Con, Cardiff
April 9th-10th – Optimus: Bristol Comic Con, Bristol (not confirmed)
May 28th – Swansea Comic and Gaming Convention, Swansea
June 25th – Cardiff Independent Comic Expo, Cardiff
August 6th – Bristol Comic Expo, Bristol
September 17th – Dragondaze, Newport
October 29th-30th – Cardiff Film and Comic Con, Cardiff

It’s still early in the year so more dates will be added as we confirm them!

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Website redesign in progress

Working from a small team can be tough at times – critical tasks with impending deadlines get prioritised over everything else… and once in a while you get a break where you sit down and realise, “That thing I meant to do… I meant to do it three years ago.”

We had one of those moments recently in regards to this website. Our website has grown over time, with bits being added as we had time to work on them but it’s never really felt ‘complete’. Looking at the internal files, we’re on version 0.18 of the website since we swapped over from the Wix hosted flash site in 2011 and most of the updates since 2013 have been bugfixes. The site hasn’t really had a proper overhaul in a very long time. As a result, bits have been tinkered with but never fully implemented… and other bits have been broken along the way (like the theme for the blog and shop) – not to mention, some of the information is now long out of date.

While we could recode the site from scratch using skills from within the team that’s not really the best use of our time and resources right now… and it doesn’t play to our strengths either. Instead, we’ve asked a third party to take a look for us and preliminary design work has already started. Some of the improvements we expect to see include reduced page load times, easier ways to update information on different pages (and even the ability to easily add new pages!), as well as a complete overhaul of site content bringing everything up to date and ensuring consistency throughout.

We’re quite excited by all this as it means we’ll be able to give you more access to better information in a clearer fashion and will open the way for us to expand our web presence – this is where your feedback comes in; if there’s something you’d like to see on our site, now’s the time to email us and let us know.

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Dexter’s Half Dozen #9

Yesterday marked the release of the latest issue in Jamie Lambert and Dave Clifford’s highly praised WWII comic with a supernatural slant. It’s available now from our shop and all good retailers.

Dexter's Half Dozen #9 - The Abberrant
Front cover for Jamie Lambert and Dave Clifford’s Dexter’s Half Dozen #9 – out now from Deadstar Publishing,

Over the next few weeks we will link to reviews as we become aware of them. If you want to review the comic yourself, email us with your details and we’ll send you an ebook version. Alternatively, you can sign up for our reviewer programme and be notified in advance when new titles will be released to reviewers.

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Deadstar’s Expo List 2015

We didn’t make it to many expos last year – which was a shame as we love meeting you guys and seeing in person what you think of what we do.

This year we’re trying to get out there again so are lined up for:

Febuary 7th – True Believers Comic Festival, Cheltenham
March 14th – Nerdvana, Camarthen
March 21st-22nd – Cardiff Film and Comic Con, Cardiff
April 18th – Birmingham Comics Festival, Birmingham
May 23rd – Cardiff Mini Con, Cardiff
May 25th – LawGiver MkII, Bristol
June 27th – Cardiff Independent Comics Expo, Cardiff
August 8th-9th – GeekedFest, Newport
August 29th-30th – Melksham Comic Con, Melksham
September 19th – Dragondaze, Newport
September 26th – Valley Con: 15, Pontypridd
October 17th – Bristol Horror Con, Bristol
November 7th-8th – Cardiff Film and Comic Con, Cardiff
November 14th-15th – Thought Bubble, Leeds

There are more that we are debating and costing up and as the list changes we’ll keep this post updated. If there’s somewhere you’d like to see us, get in touch and let us know!

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Upcoming VAT changes – what they mean for YOU

This weekend, when we should have been planning for the new year we were made aware of something that will massively impact how Deadstar does business – and if you’re a small business in the creative field, or a client of one, it will likely affect you too.

Come January 1st 2015 a change to VAT regulations is going to make life very difficult for small businesses. Now, that might not sound like it affects you but it probably will. The change relates to where VAT is due – currently VAT is paid to the country that the seller is in. From now on, it will be due in the country that the purchaser buys in. The intention is to catch large businesses that take advantage of international tax law by basing themselves in nations with low VAT rates – now they will pay VAT at point of purchase, thus paying more VAT. Our prediction is that the long-term effect of these changes are that such businesses are likely to profit more… and small to micro-businesses will be driven out of operation.

That sounds like a bold claim, so I’ll explain: right now businesses in the UK don’t have to register to pay VAT if their turnover is below £82,000. Below this threshold, they can register if they wish but it isn’t mandatory. If you sell goods to another country then you may have to pay VAT to them if your sales in that country exceed that country’s threshold. The lowest of these within the EU is about €30,000 a year – so if you exceed that threshold you are likely already at or near the UK threshold and will be registered to pay VAT in Britain too. Below that, there’s no requirement to pay. As such, many small businesses pay no VAT, which allows them to keep prices low and be competitive.

The impending changes will wreak havoc on that balance. From 1st January 2015 anyone selling digital content automatically through a platform they control (most definitely your own website, but several third-party platforms like Craftsy and Bandcamp suggest that their arrangement with sellers will land sellers in this position as well) will need to comply with new regulations or face “an unlimited fine”.

To comply with the new regulations sellers must:

  • Obtain a minimum of two non-conflicting pieces of location data identifying the buyer’s location.
  • Keep this data for a minimum of ten years following sale on an EU-based server.
  • If you have sold to a buyer within the EU then you have a choice:
    • Register for VAT in the UK and use the Mini-One-Stop-Shop to make appropriate VAT payments to each country where a sale was made four times a year.
    • Register for VAT directly with the tax authority in each country you make a sale to.
  • Depending on the country you may have to send them a VAT invoice as well as their usual receipt.

If this sounds like a headache to you, how do you think it sounds to self-published authors, small presses, musicians, programmers, life coaches etc selling digital products through their own stores? Whereas with physical products there is a minimum threshold below which no VAT is due, if you now sell an ebook or a song to somebody in Germany you must either register for VAT within the UK (giving up 20% of your business income, less any VAT deductible expenses you are able to reclaim and pay 19% of the value of the sale through MOSS to Germany. Alternatively, you can register direct with Germany for VAT and hope you can navigate their financial rules.

The easy alternative is to sell exclusively through third party platforms (Amazon being a prime one) and accept losing up to 70% of revenue on products. There are less-easy alternatives but they all require dramatic changes in operation for most businesses:

  • Cease trading digital goods directly to customers. Continue to use third party sites (with the accompanying significant drop in turnover and net profit due to their sellers’ fees). This incurs no change to small businesses’ VAT reporting practices.
  • Continue trading digital goods directly to customers in addition to using third party sites – but block sales to all EU countries.
    • This is not practical on a technical level as it is not 100% reliable and seller is culpable if buyer masks their location when buying, and seller must still follow the recording process (see above) to prove that they have not sold to any EU locations. HMRC advice issued during a Q&A session on 27th November 2014 suggests that this will comply with VAT legislation but may breach anti-discrimination laws.
  • Do not register for VAT in the UK, but register for VAT in each European nation that a business may trade to.
    • As an addition to this businesses must then record a minimum of two location-identifying pieces of data for every digital transaction, keeping that information (which may require registering with Data Protection Agencies in up to 28 countries) on an EU-based server for a minimum of ten years in order to accurately assess how much VAT is due to each country every three months.
    • During the three monthly VAT return to each applicable country sellers must accurately navigate up to 28 countries’ tax codes to determine how much VAT is due even though their turnover is too low to warrant paying VAT in Britain.
  • Register for VAT in the UK and use the MOSS system to pay VAT owed to other countries.
    • This is the suggested method for compliance – however many small businesses operate on very tight margins already; paying UK VAT rates could effectively force businesses into closure. They would still need to record all location data and navigate appropriate payments through MOSS as well as paying UK VAT on all applicable income.
  • HMRC has stated that it is permissible to give a free digital copy of a physical product alongside the purchase of a physical product, so businesses could legitimately sell ebooks on a CD to be posted to the buyer regardless of their location without being required to record and retain location data.
    • This would fall under the VAT category for distance selling VAT thresholds – but if reached that for any specific country then businesses would almost certainly be operating on a scale where VAT registration was no longer a problem.
    • This also takes the sale of digital products back twenty years to a time before broadband and internet access was widespread – hardly appropriate for a first world nation.
  • HMRC has stated that the new regulations only apply to business to customer sales conducted automatically and that “minimal human intervention” in the sales process stops a transaction from counting for these purposes – so instead of a customer being able to pay for their digital product (ebook) and then being automatically able to download it from a website businesses could send customers a human-typed email at a later point with their purchased digital file attached and this would not require recording and retaining location information or reporting for VAT purposes.
    • We’re still seeking professional advice to confirm this will be a legal act and if so then for the time being this is the approach that we intend to take with Deadstar Publishing. It will mean additional work and ignoring a functional automated system purpose-built for ease of convenience to the consumer but it apparently complies with the law and introduces the least additional work for the business.

The reason this has become such a nightmare is because the EU member states have not agreed a minimum threshold for VAT liability on digital products sold cross-border and delivered automatically. There is currently a petition here: asking Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Vince Cable MP to urgently reassess this situation in light of the damage it will cause to small businesses in terms of massively increased administrative workload and potential for tax burden and for him to implement a minimum threshold similar to that which already exists for physical products sold at a distance before which VAT registration is optional, not mandatory.

If this comes in as intended it is going to cause chaos. Over the past twenty-four hours we’ve spoken with a number of businesses globally that would otherwise be too small to pay VAT based on income and who are now looking at whether it is feasible to even continue trading. The upshot of this is that even if you are not an affected business you a probably a customer of a business that will be affected. With businesses already considering closing digital sales or conducting transactions manually, think about the impact that this will have on you as a consumer as well as the business side of things. Would you be happy to buy an ebook or a music download that you then had to wait to be manually emailed to you?  Please make others aware of this situation as there is still time to show those in power how much of an impact this change will have.

There’s a lot more that could be said about this topic, but for now here are a selection of background links and research materials for you to use. Please share widely. The more people are told about this, the better chance small businesses have of obtaining the exemption to these new rules that are so desperately needed.

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Our secret project revealed: an audiobook!

As of today, Deadstar Publishing has entered the age of the audiobook!

Exclusive audiobook cover for Lynda Nash's Not as Pointless as You Think from In Ear Entertainment
Exclusive audiobook cover for Lynda Nash’s Not as Pointless as You Think from In Ear Entertainment

For the last two years we’ve been working behind the scenes with In Ear Entertainment negotiating rights to bring you audiobooks. The fruits of our labour are starting to appear and last week we announced via our newsletter (what? You don’t subscribe to it? Click here to change that) that Lynda Nash’s Not as Pointless as You Think is now available.

Released in MP3 (plays anywhere, on anything) and bookmarked MP4 (iTunes compatible, and you can skip from story to story) the files are DRM-free and are voiced by BBC1 Sherlock actress Georgie Leonard and veteran of several BBC radio dramas, Ian Baldwin.

As this is our first foray into audiobooks we want to hear your feedback – and don’t forget our reviewer programme, so if you review the audiobook somewhere we’ll give you an ebook as a thank-you.

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Competition winners

A few days ago we ran our Cardiff Comic Con competition with our Mk. II doomsday device. The response was fantastic with guesses ranging from 75 grams to 17 tonnes!

After we sorted and counted the entries, first prize went to Danni Coakley who the Android tablet, our ebooks, a tee shirt and a mug. Second prize went to Michael Voysey (pictured below) and he won a tee shirt, a mug and 5 of our ebooks. Third prize went to Alexander Keattch who won five of our ebooks!

Photo: Well done to our prize winners! First prize went to Danni Coakley! She won the Android tablet, our ebooks, a tee shirt and a mug. Second prize went to Michael Voysey (pictured) and he won a tee shirt, a mug and 5 of our ebooks! Third prize went to Alexander Keattch who won five of our ebooks! Congratulations guys! Your prizes are on the way!

We’re already thinking ahead to our next competition. Keep your eyes peeled!

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Doomsday competition – rules and prizes

Our resident mad genius is at it again. This time he’s built a Doomsday device powered by jelly beans. This ties in nicely with our competition this weekend; If you subscribe to our newsletter then you’ll have known all week that our competition for Cardiff Comic Con this weekend is sponsored by the team over at T101 Computers.

They have donated a 7″ Nexus tablet running on Jelly Bean Android. To be in with a chance of winning:

  • First prize: 7” Jelly Bean Android tablet preloaded with all our digital back catalogue plus T-shirt, mug, and keyring.
  • Second prize: T-shirt, mug, keyring + 5 ebooks from our range
  • Third prize: 5 ebooks from our range

Visit us at the Cardiff Comic Con and make your guess – or, if you can’t make it there in person you can enter here.

Obligatory rules bit:

  1. Nobody working for Deadstar Publishing Ltd, T101 Computers Ltd, or their immediate families is eligible to receive any prize as a result of this competition.
  2. The competition is open from 4am (BST) Saturday 31st August 2013 until 5pm (BST) Sunday 1st September 2013.
  3. The competition is a test of skill with participants guessing the weight in grams of jelly beans being used to ‘power’ our Doomsday Device,
  4. First prize will be awarded to the person with the closest guess to our recorded weight. Second prize will be awarded to the person with the second closest guess. Third prize… you guessed it, will be awarded to the person with the third closest guess. In the case of multiple identical guesses the first person to select that weight will be considered the sole eligible person in case of a win.
  5. To be considered, people must follow the instructions as presented in person or via our online store.
  6. Results will be announced at 5.30pm (BST) at the Cardiff Comic Con and shortly afterwards on this page. Details will also be circulated via the Deadstar Publishing Facebook page and the @DSPublishing Twitter account.
  7. Winners will be contacted to arrange collection/delivery of their prizes within 7 days of the competition closing.

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Minor Tweaks

While we still haven’t been able to fix the misaligned menu at the bottom of the page we have been able to improve our website in other ways:

  • Adding ‘White Walls & Straitjackets’ teaser to the freebie page
  • Linking to the Dexter’s Half Dozen guys’ homepage.
  • Updating our shop’s url settings so you don’t need to speak machine to understand how to find our cool stuff.
  • Starting our ebooks/ecomics release schedule rolling.

That’s it for the time being – but we’ve got more improvements planned. Keep checking back for more info… or if you haven’t already done so, subscribe to our newsletter for early access sneak peaks!


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What’s that to the left? Must be a site update.

It may not look like much – just the addition of a scrolling icon bar to the left of the screen, but last night we rolled out probably the biggest site update since September 2011! Behind the scenes a significant portion of the web gobbledegook that makes everything work has been rewritten. There’s still a lot that could be done to further improve the code this site runs on, but now for the first time ever we can make sweeping updates with just a few keystrokes. Gone are the days of having to update every page separately!

Of course, a few gremlins have crept in along the way. We’re aware of them and they shouldn’t affect your experience browsing the site. We’ll be squashing them over the coming weeks.

That’s all from us for now – we’d better get back to finishing touches before tomorrow’s expo!