Thursday, November 08, 2007

Peeing cats and dogs

It is peeing down with rain as I write this, and watch it cascading down my window in rivulets. It has been threatening all day, which is probably why it was so quiet at the National Trust today. Regular readers will know that I work as a volunteer in their shop each Thursday. It is a good way to put something back into the community and takes me out of the routine of ringing book shops etc for at least one day per week.

Although such shops are open at the weekends and theoretically I could ring them then, as well as during the week, it never seems a good idea somehow. Firstly because I know they will probably be too busy to talk to me anyway, but secondly because I like to have weekends off myself as well. Coran and I work hard all week and I think we deserve this.

He has been having some problems with his arms and wrists lately which is a bit of a worry, as it seems like the onset of the next stage of RSI. Mind you, in some ways this is to be expected, since he has been in the software business for over 30 years now, having worked his way through the ranks at the BBC until his redundancy in 1994 forced him to go freelance. He woke up this morning though having slept on his arm as one often does and several hours later found it had still not woken up. So he made an appointment to see the Doctor and they want him to go to Hopsital for an X-ray tomorrow afternoon, just as a precaution and to rule out anything more sinister. I am amazed that he could get an appointment for the following day myself given the waiting lists that seem to be in the news these days.

I suppose though that RSI is also a by product of the writers life, and I must admit that I do have problems with my right arm and wrist at times. I have tried training myself to type with the left hand, as Coran sometimes does, but so far without success. I hope the worst doesn't happen to me though, as I can't see me spending the rest of my life without being able to write - that's just too depressing to even think about. I could always get one of those things that writes what you tell it to though - I can't remember what you call them now, but I am sure readers will know what I mean!

There is not really that much to report then for the last few days. I have done the usual amount of ringing round and have a few more orders from other branches of Waterstones - Aberdeen Langstane have ordered 4 copies, and Cirencester and Crewe one copy apiece. My local branch has also ordered one. Every little helps.

I get the impression that the Manager at my local branch doesn't like me very much! I am not sure why but she always seems to avoid me. Every time I have tried to ring and get her on the phone it is either her day off or she is in a meeting, and each time I go in and ask for her I am told the same thing! Half the time I know that she is there though because she pops her head round the door after a few minutes while I am still in the shop browsing, blissfully unaware that I know what she looks like !

Thankfully her staff and her Assistant Manager are a little more helpful. I was under the impression that when a book is sold through Waterstones, if this is the only copy in stock then it triggers an order for another one, but this does not seem to be the case. I sold one copy in September after an excellent article in the local paper, and was told by a female staff member that another would be re-ordered to replace it, yet when I asked them yesterday how many I have sold in total they told me that no more had been delivered since that first sale.

I know it is a small store and all that, but I am a local author and a very active one at that, who has proved by selling one copy (and several copies in other local branches) that there is a potential market for this book. I have also managed to secure good local press coverage on an ongoing basis (I am after all the editor of my own community newsletter in one of the outlying villages). I get the distinct impression that this Manager for some reason just does not want to stock my book. Perhaps she thinks I am too pushy? Next time I go in there I have to walk up to her, put on my best smile and change her perceptions.

All in all though this branch is one very small fish in a large pond and not worth worrying over unduly. I have enough other branches now who are stocking the books to be able to make a sizeable impact and also be primed for when those national newspapers print reviews of the books that I sent them the other week ....

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Foyled at last!

If you are wondering why I haven't posted for a few days, it is because Coran and I have just got back from a lovely long weekend in Glastonbury. We tend to get two reactions when we tell people we are going there - either the eyes glaze over, or people ask us if we are going to the music festival - in November - I don't think so!

During the 10 or so years that I have been visiting the town though, I have observed it gradually becoming more and more commercialised. Apart from the book shops, and the Goddess shop - The Goddess and the Green Man, everything seems to be the same. Crystals, new age velvety type clothes, incense, candles, trinket boxes, cards, the same old stuff with nothing really all that new or innovative. Sometimes the new age doesn't then seem so new after all. Even the cafes all tend to do the same old stuff - garlic bread with salad, burger with chips, nut roast with all the trimmings (I suppose it makes a change from a plate of vegetables though, minus the meat).

I had been sort of toying with the idea of going to the annual Questing Conference which was held this year the town's Assembly Rooms - a venue which was far too small for an event of this size and calibre. Normally when it is held in London, the conference attracts up to 50o people, but the Assembly Rooms struggle to accommodate 200. I doubt very much then that I would have been able to get a ticket on the door anyway. One of the ladies who was also staying at the Chalice Well Lodge was called Lynne, and she went along having bought her ticket in advance, and said that as interesting as the talks were, by the end of the first day (it went on from 10am to 8pm) she was flagging. I am not surprised. I feel sorry for the last few speakers of the day, who would not have had much of an audience, especially with all the fireworks going off outside.

Coran and I wandered in on Sunday afternoon, after our nut roast in the Cafe Galatea to have a look at the stalls. I had a stall myself at last years conference near Regents Park for which I paid the princely sum of £90 (they must have seen me coming). I made quite a large loss then on the day. The stalls for this year were cheaper at £50 for the 2 days (10am to 8pm on Saturday and 10am - 4pm on Sunday). Even so, I am still not convinced that I would have covered that cost,
not to mention the cost of accommodation and petrol to get down there.

There was the usual array of stalls though selling books by the various speakers and jewellery etc, but there was also a stall from an extraordinary talented lady Gothic artist named Anne Sudworth. Anne is famed for her Gothic fantasy artwork with moonlit night time scenes of trees and strange creatures. She looks quite fearsome with her black hair entwined with white beads and thick make up - so many layers of mascara and at least four shades of lipstick. What a lovely lady though she is and so different to the outer persona - very softly spoken and almost gentle, yet a strong business woman at the same time. Coran bought a copy of her latest book which she gladly signed and we exchanged business cards as well. If I had had the money and somewhere to hang it, I would have loved to have bought one of her prints - the originals she told us sell for up to £1800. Fantastic work that you have to see for yourself and a very talented and beautiful lady with the most extraordinary energy.

One of the other reasons though for going was of course to visit the book shops in town - Growing Needs are already stocking me I discovered, as I emailed them some time ago. It looks as if the Chalice Well book shop will be ordering as well today, since they do deal with Gardners, and Labyrinth Books will too, as soon as they can open an account. They would have bought direct from me had I been able to offer them the 35 percent discount that they needed - the most I can go to though is 30 percent before it becomes unviable - I would be making less than £2 a copy and could still end up having to pay for return postage if they books didn't sell. Gothic Image were also given information and will be receiving a follow up phone call some time later this week.

A few things seem to have happened then in the book trade these last few days. The big news I suppose is that it looks like this will be Richard and Judy's last season with their morning show. They are though talking about a move to Channel Four instead, so all is not lost. Hopefully the same will be said for Simon Key and Tim West, two ex colleagues from Waterstones in Wood Green, who following the stores closure in August are about to open their own independent book store just up the road, also in Wood Green. They are asking for publishers to get in touch with suggestions for back list titles that they can stock, since they know that this is the largest share of the market - I will have to have a look than at the genres that they are seeking, and if one of them is mine, I will get in touch, and suggest that Richard does the same. It may be a possible venue for the book club that he mentioned at the recent anniversary dinner.

Looking at Grumpy Old Bookman though today, I noticed some comments that he had posted last week (Thursday) which I must have somehow missed, about Foyles, the oldest independent book seller in London. This takes the form of some comments made to the wife of one of his regular readers, who contacted them with some suggestions as to how to improve their website. The reply that she received is breathtaking in its arrogance, and I can't wait to contact their book buyer later on today to follow up that email I sent some time ago .... In particular this lady asked them why they do not encourage bloggers and authors to set up links to Foyles website rather than amazon. They said:

"Many of the links to Amazon do come from small self-published and independent works, and as a small business we often do not have the capacity to process orders for such titles. Many small publishers or self-published authors require payment for multiple copies of books or payment by cheque before they release orders. Amazon can afford to keep reserves of these small titles in their large warehouse if ordering multiples, whereas we do not have this capacity. These are authors who need us, rather than vice versa, and thus offer these links free."

These authors need us more than we need them! Hang on a minute - if it wasn't for us writing our books then they would have nothing to sell in the first place. They act as if they are the only book seller in the country, when they are a comparatively small fish. While it would be nice to be stocked by them, I certainly won't lose sleep if I don't manage it, but they might lose valuable long term back list sales .... I think they are very wrong indeed then to say this.

As for notion that we are awkward as we demand payment for our books up front, well it just shows how little they know about the industry the are working in. For one thing, amazon do not have a warehouse of their own, all their titles are obtained from wholesalers in the same way that book stores get theirs - you do not supply amazon then direct and as usual this person is talking out of the thing that he (only a man would be so stupid as to say this!) sits on! Why the hell though shouldn't we expect to be paid before we release titles to them that we have written. I can just imagine going into one of their stores and saying I will pay you for this book in three months time after I have decided whether I like it, no it wouldn't wash. Yo would be arrested for shop lifting. This just then goes to show just breathtakingly arrogant these people are and exactly what people like me and my friend Tracy Saunders are up against every day.

The comments though speak for themselves, enough said ....