Debut Author Lessons: Mail and P.O. Boxes

This entry is part 4 of 18 in the series Debut Author Lessons

I had not planned to get a P.O. box.  Truly, I just hadn’t thought about how I wanted to handle folks who wanted to have things signed.

My plan, if I had one, was that if someone needed to mail me things that I would just give them my home address.  Since I’m not comfortable listing my home address on the website, this adds an extra layer of complication to receiving things. Not a big one, granted, but it means that folks needed to email me before they could mail me. It’s silly.

So, I decided to get a P.O. box. Here’s what I’ve learned about them.

  1. A P.O. box is not expensive. The box I got is only $55 for six months. I had thought that the monthly expense would be much higher.
  2. Boxes come in multiple sizes. The #3 is large enough for a magazine to lay down flat and hence can easily hold manuscripts and novels. I’ll let you know if the #3 turns out to be too small, but the Postal worker I talked to seemed to think it would work well based on the other authors that frequent this post office. Who knew there were so many.
  3. There’s a waiting list for P.O. boxes that varies from post office to post office. Mine said their wait was between 2 days to 2 months. I got it about two weeks after I applied.
  4. You can apply online. I applied in person, but golly online is so much easier.
  5. Small downside. This does mean I have to go to the post office on a regular basis to check it. The box is easy walking distance and I pass it on my way to the library so this is a small thing.

Overall, this is going to be something that will vary between individual authors.  If you do decide to get a P.O. box, I’d suggest that you apply well in advance and pick someplace that you will routinely pass.

And finally, my mailing address is:

Mary Robinette Kowal
P.O. Box 221298
Chicago, IL 60622

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11 Responses

  1. Phiala

    Having a PO box for business/fan correspondence is a very good idea.

    The logistics vary by locality. Mine is $44/year, and there was no waiting period. They did screw up my online registration: I ended up with a box, but not the number I was told I was getting.

    I don’t know how common it is, but my PO does something clever: They have larger lockers available, so if you get a package they will stick it in a locker and put the key in your box. No need to come back during desk hours.

  2. Rina Weisman

    We’ve had separate PO boxes for years, and receive no mail at our house. It makes it super easy to receive packages too, since the Post & Parcel where we’re located at will sign for packages; we don’t have to worry about being home when UPS or Fedex deliver. They’ll hold mail for you while you are away at conventions, too. Well worth the money.

  3. Evan Nichols

    Not only could I apply online, I used my account with USPO to pay for it, and all I have to do is pick up the keys. Sweet!

    I had a box, but almost never received anything there. Then I moved, let go of the box, and have had much more mail sent to me by fans (to my home address, actually). I think it’s a good idea to use a PO box, especially for the whois information on one’s website. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Mur

    Excellent post about stuff people don’t often consider!

    If there’s a waiting list at the post office, there are several stores that specialize in packing and shipping. Mine does UPS and USPS and has mail boxes. So instead of “PO Box” I have “PMB” for personal mail box – and they take care of signed books and the like. I love having a personal, safe box.