If you’re selling your art, and shipping it yourself, mail costs can be a big downer. All too frequently, it seems like the cost of shipping goes up, which eats into your profits. Then, someone across the world orders from you, wiping out your profits altogether. This is why USPS’ media mail is such a great option. A low, flat rate for all of your packages. Can art be shipped with media mail though? Does it qualify?
Art cannot be shipped through media mail unless it is strictly educational content. It must also be in the form of a book, CD, DVD, sheet music, films, objective texts, reference charts, or medical binders. Comic books do not apply, nor does anything with advertisements.
The cost benefits of media mail are huge, so it’s obvious why you’d want to take advantage of it. If you’re still unsure if your genre of art qualifies, keep reading and we’ll clear up any confusion.
Even if your art does end up qualifying for media mail, there are important shipping speed considerations you’ll want to keep in mind before you head to the post office with all of your orders.
What is Eligible to Be Sent with Media Mail?
Media mail can be used for educational materials. Things sent through media mail must be under 70lbs and be in one of the following forms:
-Books that are at least 8 pages
-Films narrower than 16mm in width
-Music and test materials
-Educational reference charts
-Medical pages and binders
-Computer readable media
To use media mail, your item must both be educational AND in one of the forms above.
For further clarification, the USPS makes it clear that video games, computer drives, and digital drives don’t apply. You also can’t send advertisements through media mail (source).
Yes, your items need to be educational to qualify for media mail. That said, it’s easy to adopt a broad definition of “educational.” I mean, I learned a lot about divination reading Harry Potter.
With a broad and vague definition of “educational,” we could easily claim that fine art falls into this category. As an artist myself, I gain a lot of educational value by looking at a piece of art and trying to dissect the artist’s technique.
But, when it comes to fine art, the definition of “educational” isn’t why it is so clearly disqualified from media mail.
Paintings, drawings, art prints, and other types of fine art don’t fit into any of the required “forms” listed above. If your art does, you’re in luck. But, make sure you aren’t fudging the rules and trying to claim that your floral print is an educational reference chart.
Strike one for using media mail for art.
How Much Does Media Mail Cost?
At the time of this writing, the cost of media mail starts at $2.80 for a 1lb package. The price increases by about 50 cents with each pound until you reach a max of 70lbs.
The price of media mail is a big deal once you compare it to the price of USPS’ priority mail.
With media mail, a 1lb package will cost you $2.80. With priority mail, a 1lb package can range from $7.50-$14.05 depending on the zone you’re shipping to.
Important note: the price of mail changes frequently. Be sure to check the current prices here so that you’re aware of any updates. No one wants a surprise at the post office!
The lower price of media mail is probably why you’re considering it. The $4.70 difference between $2.80 and $7.50 is a lot of money that you could save for even one package, let alone all of your orders. The prices climb even steeper for larger and heavier pieces of art.
When you run an online store, you’re always looking for ways to cut costs.
That said, if your art doesn’t qualify for media mail, it doesn’t qualify for media mail.
Speaking of items that don’t qualify for media mail, let’s talk about what happens if you’re caught trying to use media mail for ineligible items.
What Happens If You Use Media Mail for Ineligible Items?
All items sent through media mail are subject to inspection by USPS. If your item is found to be ineligible, it will be reassessed at the regular shipping rate. The additional cost will either be charged back to you as the sender, or to your recipient.
It sounds like a nightmare to have a package inspected, found ineligible for media mail, and then to have the additional cost charged to my customer. Eek! What an awful customer experience!
According to USPS, the additional postage fees are your punishment for misusing the media mail system (source). But, I’ve also heard reports of sellers who constantly misuse media mail that end up being subject to extra scrutiny whenever they bring in media mail packages.
In addition, if your customers get stuck with the extra fees too often, you’ll rack up a lot of complaints that could seriously hurt your reputation as a seller.
It’s best to play by the media mail rules and only use it when it’s appropriate.
Strike two for media mail.
Aside from playing by the rules, there’s another very good reason why you would want to avoid media mail – shipping.
How Long Does Shipping Take with Media Mail?
Media mail has a shipping time of 2-8 business days. This is in comparison to Priority and First Class mail that have shipping times between 1-3 business days.
When you choose media mail, you’ll need to be prepared for your packages to take longer to be delivered. Depending on your shipping promises, this could be a problem.
Strike three for media mail.
Of course, your fine art probably doesn’t qualify for media mail anyways but, even if it did, you would have to consider whether you would want to take on the extra shipping time.
Media mail is a great option for educational materials that meet the specific requirements that the USPS specifies. In most cases, art won’t qualify for media mail, so you’ll want to go with the standard shipping options, even if they’re more expensive.