Behind the Sofa, a limited-edition charity book full of celebrities’ reminiscences about Doctor Who, may not now be published following the decision of online payments service PayPal to freeze the account of the project’s organiser.
All profits from the 200-page book were to be given to Alzheimer’s Research UK. But payments for pre-orders – which were to be used by editor Steve Berry to fund the manufacture and distribution of the book – have today been frozen by PayPal.
PayPal had been taking payments directly by credit and debit card, as well as from customers with PayPal accounts. Berry may now have to fund the book himself.
The book was to feature contributions from, among many others: Paul Whitehouse, Michael Grade, Rufus Hound, Stephen Merchant, Charlie Brooker, Hugh Bonneville, Al Murray, Bill Oddie, Chris Chibnall, Jeremy Dyson, Jonathan Ross, Josie Long, Terrance Dicks, Martina Cole, Mitch Benn, Neil Gaiman, Nicholas Parsons, Paul Cornell, Toyah Willcox and Tracy Ann Oberman.
Writing on the book’s website, Berry said: “They are asking me for documentation about my business (I am not a business) and proof of invoices/suppliers, etc (which I cannot give, because I am still in the process of completing the final manuscript of the book with design and layout all being carried out by some excellent volunteers).”
He added: “I have been overwhelmed by the generosity and enthusiasm of all those who have pre-ordered a copy of the book. In fact, I set up this site as an experiment in ‘crowdfunding’ after I couldn’t find a satisfactory solution elsewhere. Had the book failed to generate enough money to fund the book, I was prepared to do so out of my own pocket. It seems that I will now have to do that.”
PayPal told Radio Times that it would not comment on individual accounts “because of customer confidentiality. But we are talking to [Berry].”
Following some negative publicity online, including Al Murray and Charlie Brooker both challenging PayPal to explain their decision, PayPal did indeed contact Berry. Talking to Radio Times, Berry said the situation was “confusing” but that the problem lay in the gap between the acceptance of payment and the publication of the book. He said it was possible that PayPal would release half the funds accrued from pre-orders upon receipt of documentation pertaining to the book being printed, but that in order to reach that point he was facing funding the print run himself.
“What really angers me,” Berry told RT, “is that they wouldn’t talk to me at all about it until I kicked up a stink online – because I know a few [famous] people.”
Berry said he had planned to print extra copies of the book for sale in shops and via online bookstores, in order raise more money for Alzheimer’s UK in the long term – but that this was now in jeopardy.
No monies paid by Doctor Who fans thus far have been lost – PayPal is retaining the project’s funds until the situation is resolved. Berry is currently deciding whether to seek alternative means of taking payments for the book.