Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Dark Days of Christmas

It's approaching the Dead Time of Year. That time when all those companies we self-employed folk rely on for work shut down for Christmas. There is no holiday pay for the self-employed.

Therefore I have to get as much money-earning stuff done as possible before the whole of Capitalism closes down for a month. January starts with meetings and discussions, actual work might start again around February or March and income will begin sometime after that. It's a lean time of year at the end of an already-lean year.

The new business, writing, might not follow the same pattern. I don't know for sure because it's my first year of taking it seriously. One thing that has occurred to me is that lots of people will get Kindles and Nooks and the equivalent Kobo gadget for Christmas so it's a good time to get their attention before the novelty wears off.

The dystopia isn't likely to be ready by Christmas. It's a departure from my usual themes and novels take time even when I'm fully conversant with the subject. I am concentrating on some short stories for the Christmas period but whether they'll be in print in time, I don't know. That's going to be a close call. The electronic versions are easy, they can be online in a matter of hours although distribution to the whole range of retailers will take a while longer. One big advantage of those eBooks is that Christmas post times are irrelevant. You can even buy them on Christmas morning and get them in minutes.

Well, you can if they are available. Mine will be available if I knuckle down and write them and with this knackered wrist, typing time is limited. Typo-fixing time is also increased. I don't yet have enough Christmas tales for a full collection although I could intersperse it with commentary by my evil twin if necessary (that's the even-more-evil twin as opposed to the slightly-less-evil twin. Note that the most uncompromisingly evil of my online personas is the only one that doesn't smoke. It's not an accident).

I was visiting Neal Asher's place and noticed he had a good idea. An idea so good I felt duty bound to steal it. So I have.

I'm not with the big league publishers yet. The one that took Jessica's Trap concentrates on eBooks because with little to no physical inventory, overheads are minimal. They do make print copies available through Barnes and Noble and through Amazon but they aren't cheap. Discounts are minimal, but then discounts are good for readers but bad for authors.

The publisher has fixed costs - editors, cover artists, marketing etc - which they pay for. If you're asked to pay for these things then you're not dealing with a proper publisher. In fact, if you pay for these things, you might as well self-publish and keep all subsequent profits yourself.

Then there is printing. Someone once asked me how many copies of Jessica's Trap were in the first print run. The answer was 'none, but as many as you want'. In the old days, a printer had to pay someone to sit with a big box of metal letters and assemble the whole novel in reverse. Later it was automated but those metal letters still had to be paid for. Self-publishing was only for the rich because no printer is going to set that up unless they are printing several hundred copies. Buying one copy was as expensive as paying someone to write it all out by hand. Now, someone calls up a print file and presses 'print' and you can have one copy at a reasonable cost.

Next, the bookseller's cut. You can't buy and sell anything without profit. It just doesn't work.

Those fixed costs can't be reduced. The only part of the price that can be reduced is the author's cut. That's the part the discount comes out of.

Anyway, back to the point. The author's cut looks really generous but whenever there's a discount, that's where it goes. There is another side to this. It means I can buy copies of Jessica's Trap at a good discount because all of my apparent cut is taken off.

Self-published is different. I still have to pay Lulu for postage so if I do order copies I wait until I need a batch. Postage isn't so bad if you buy ten or more at once.

The upshot of all this is that I have books for sale. No, don't turn away now. It's too late. Auntie Wainwright has locked the door and sneaked up behind you.

I don't get hardbacks delivered from the publisher, mine go straight to paperback. I can make hardback versions of the self-published ones but the cost is insane. So we can ignore those.

If you have a hankering to see the illegible scrawl of a drunken leg-iron (I could have been a doctor, you know. Oh wait, I am one) mangling the message of your choice in the front of a paperback book, or if you know someone who would be duly impressed by a 'signed by the author' book this Christmas even if they don't read it, then listen up.

I have a few copies of Jessica's Trap in paperback and some of Dark Thoughts and Demons. I have only two of Fears of the Old and the New and no spare copies of the ghosthunting books. I can order in if there is interest but let me know soon because they take a week to get here and the Christmas random postal deliveries are upon us.

I can't guarantee overseas delivery in time for Christmas unless you want airmail. The last two packets I sent surface mail to the USA were quoted delivery times of over a month. Pigeons would be faster.

The prices look, shall we say, inverted. Amazon charge around £10 for Jessica's Trap but that includes postage. Lulu prices look cheaper but their postage costs for single books are nasty. Anyway, here's what Santa wants to ram in your stockings:

Without postage charges:

Jessica's Trap   £8.50
Fears of the Old and the New   £6.00
Dark Thoughts and Demons    £5.50

And from my slightly less evil twin, for those of a paranormal bent:

Ghosthunting for the Sensible Investigator, second edition   £5.50

There is a first edition but Lulu's print costs make small books overpriced so if you want to see that one it's best picked up as an eBook. At 32 pages it's not so hard to read on screen.

Postage depends on how many you want and where you want them sent. I'll look it up if you tell me what you want and if it's diabolical I won't blame you if you then decline.

What are these books about? Well, you can get a blurb on them at my embryonic writing site which I decided to test out on my day-job site and buggered both up in the process. They are being fixed. This test site is peppered with ads (none earn me any money so ignore them) and I'm told that sometimes they can set off antivirus software. I use NoScript in Firefox so I don't see the ads.

Here are the links for H K Hillman books and for Romulus Crowe. The free stuff remains free, naturally. Those sites will eventually be separated once I've finished meddling and handed them to a friend who can do them properly.

Oh, and if you're buying Kindles or similar gadgets for anyone this Christmas, do let me know and I'll send you some free advertising ;) I know, they don't actually need a bookmark, but it's free.

And now, back to our usual programming.


Neal Asher said...

Stick a couple of quid on what you work out the postage charge to be - it's always more. And make sure they're wrapped nicely to protect the corners.

Neal Asher said...

Incidentally, I get to read your blog for free and enjoy it so I will probably enjoy one of your books. Moreover, because of the free reading here I feel beholden to buy one!

Angry Squaddie said...

How much for a bulk deal? One signed physical copy of each?


Leg-iron said...

Neal - there's a tip jar at the side if you find yourself weighed down with small change ;)

Angry Squaddie - email me an offer. If you're in the UK the postage won;t be too deadly.

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